A Bit 'o Random Musings on Politics, Religion, and Anything Else That Passes Through My Crazy Head

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Grinding the Faces of the Poor, and Other American Political Bloodsports

What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the 
faces of the poor? saith the Lord God of Hosts. (Isaiah 3:15)

Nothing makes me angrier than politicians who disparage poor people. It's an easy target, because poor people don't often vote, protest, or communicate with their elected officials. It's a simple way to show you are using government funds sparingly - making sure "undeserving" poor aren't using welfare funds to buy lobster or go a cruise.

The latest example is Kansas, which has recently enacted a law limiting the amount of cash which welfare recipients can withdraw from ATMs and forbidding welfare recipients from spending money on "exotic" entertainment, swimming pools, tattoos, or movies. Even more states are moving to drug test welfare recipients, even though the evidence shows these groups are not more likely to abuse drugs than the population at large. Similarly, government assistance with housing costs disproportionately goes to the mortgage interest deduction for the upper/middle class instead of housing vouchers for those in a lower socioeconomic status.

So, here are my reasons why we need to stop abusing the poor for using government benefits:
1) People using government benefits don't actually spend a large portion of their money on extravagances. Their spending habits aren't actually all that different from the rich or the middle class.
2) There's a myth that the poor are sponging off the rest of us taxpayers, but the truth is that poor people pay taxes too - in some cases more taxes than the rich. Further, government benefits do not allow you to live the high life, as reading this article will show you, people receiving welfare are hardly rich, and often only need temporary assistance to get through the lean times. They're you and me, not some "second class" of citizens who we can mock and disparage.
3) We all receive government benefits, and that doesn't give the government the right to tell us how to live our lives. Should the hedge fund manager be required to stop visiting a strip joint because he claims the mortgage interest deduction on his tax return? (In some cases for both his primary residence and vacation home?) What about the student who receives a low interest loan yet gets a tattoo? These are government benefits, just like food stamps, yet apparently it's okay for Kansas to tell welfare recipients how to spend their money, or for states to invade these people's privacy through requiring drug testing, but the government makes no similar provisions for the other benefactors of government largess.

Isaiah uses strong imagery to condemn those who trample the poor - they "grind their faces" - can you imagine if someone literally did that?  That's assault! Yet it's okay for politicians to condemn these people and figuratively grind their faces into the dust. This is political bloodsport, and IT IS WRONG. It makes me so very sad to think that this is acceptable behavior by politicians, who should be seeking to help these people lift themselves out of poverty, instead of stereotyping them and making life more difficult for them.