Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Being Poor

Cross-posted to Senator Edwards' guest blog at TPM Cafe. (Yay! -- So far it seems great!)

Senator Edwards, you are a) my hero, and b) spot-on, but still nibbling around the edges. I was raised upper-middle class, briefly had an upper-middle class lifestyle, then faced real poverty and financial need for several years before crawling back to lower-class.
While the ridiculous costs imposed on poor people solely because they are poor are an important part of the problem, the deeper evil is in society's current mindset that the poor deserve to be poor. As Denzel Washington's character in Cry Freedom, Steven Biko, explained about the grinding-down of apartheid, the genius of the belief system is in convincing poor people themselves that it is their own fault.
Far too many poor people get the idea that they don't deserve better than they've got. Government seems to have exited the business of helping poor people and gone into the business of humiliating them. Everything the government does is heavily dosed with the idea tha you have failed and need remedial life help. Plus, if we help you too much, you won't have learned your lesson about just how horribly you have failed.
Here's a newsflash: the poor New Yorkers I've met are not any smarter or dumber, harder-working or lazier, taller or shorter, than the rich New Yorkers I once worked with. Like Americans generally, they are people of infinite variety, strength and weakness.
When Ronald Reagan asked, "are you better now than you were four years ago," he started us on a path of "me-ism" which has wrecked our Great Society. Our society shouldn't be "every-man-for-himself," nor should it be about which government programs can be shown to be the most efficacious; rather, our society should reflect our Judeo-Christian-Islamo heritage and be premised on the belief that until we are all doing well, none of us are doing well enough.
Senator Edwards, let me know what I can do to help you in 08! Can't wait to see you as a blogger!

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