I’ve never been “poor” or “impoverished”. I have been broke, though. So broke that at one point my entire collection of kitchenware consisted of one fork, one spoon and one plate. I skipped the knife, because it seemed like an unnecessary expenditure, and who needs a glass when you can chug straight from the carton. But I wasn’t poor. I knew that I had a safety net in the form of my family, that was capable of helping me if I needed it. That my paychecks would cover my rent. That I never had to worry about the basic necessities, like shelter, food or clothing. No, my undeniably out of date, poorly fitting wardrobe is not due to my inability to afford clothing. It’s because I just happen to lack any sense of style whatsoever. If style were a spectrum from Steve Bannon to The Duchess of Cambridge, I’m definitely only a couple of statistical points away from “Full Bannon”. But the point here is, I don’t have to be. Despite my crippling student debt, I am still slowly, climbing upwards. And, when I say “slowly” think turtle, covered in molasses.
However, I can say with the utmost surety that if I hadn’t had a safety net, there are times I would have gone down in flames faster than Trump can kill a bucket of KFC. Crashed and burned straight into poverty. And it’s not because I didn’t work. It’s not because I was foolish with my money, as pointed out above. It was because trickle down economics (or what I like to call the Ronald Reagan Pee Tape) killed the middle class. A place where my parents, and their parents before them, comfortably resided. The place that allowed for that safety net and prevented that crash. So I know how it feels to try and move forward while you struggle, work, study, pay your bills and then come to realize you’re stagnate. I do NOT, however, know how it feels to do those things and move backward. Or to live under a set of predetermined circumstances that do not allow for even an attempt to move forward. That’s the difference between “poverty” and “broke”.
Poverty is a cycle. A set of factors that once set into motion, will inevitably continue without some sort of intervention. This is why, of all the A-1, top level, blue chip fuckery that comes from the Republican platform, the demonization of impoverished people gets my panties into the most colossal of wads. It is a myth, that all one needs to do to make it in America is work hard and pull themselves up by their boot straps. That sentiment should be filed right next to “Everything Trump Has Ever Said”, in the library of bullshit. And what angers me the most, is that the people who say that and believe it, have conspired to steal all the goddamn boot straps. I am sick unto death of hearing, “Well everything I have, I worked for”. No. No you didn’t. You didn’t work for your white skin. You didn’t work for the income level of your parents. You didn’t work for your grandparent’s opportunities to join unions, attend affordable colleges and be paid living wages. Those circumstances played a much larger role in where you ended up, than did any nine to five HR job you once worked. (No shade to HR professionals, but I had to pick something and no one really ENJOYS HR, just saying). But anyway, the point is… You do NOT get to bat from third base, and then celebrate hitting a “home run”.
This is called winning the “Birth Lottery” and it runs counter-clockwise to the cycle of poverty. It applies to every generation and it’s not a meritocracy. It’s a merit-Oh-My-Fucking-God-If-You-Buy-That-You’re-Crazy. Big difference. I have no problem with a true meritocracy. The belief that effort will bring you success, is what motivates people. However, you can’t have a true meritocracy in a capitalist society built upon racism, especially while simultaneously stoking willful ignorance of socialism. Racism gives a head start to ALL white people and capitalism ensures that everyone is starting from where their parents finished (i.e. different places). For those born into upper and middle classes, this confers the same level of “merit” as LeBron James dunking a basketball on me. Namely none, and everyone would call him crazy if he ran around touting that as some sort of accomplishment. Then Laura Ingraham would tell him to, “Shut up and dribble” and under those circumstances she would (maybe) have a point. But what I’m trying to get at here, is that within the context of American History and sociology, if you want a TRUE meritocracy one MUST advocate for social programs. The best way to do so, is by starting a campaign to myth-bust the GOP stance on social assistance programs such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and TANF (Temporary Assistance for Families in Need). Because “socialism” isn’t what most people in the U.S.A. think it is. Inigo Montoya put it best, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means”.
President Johnson once said, “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.” Reagan was clearly paying attention when he used this sentiment to perfection while campaigning in 1976. The concept that the majority of “food stamp” recipients are people of color is FALSE. But it plays really well to the egos of lower class, white people, and tada we have the birth of the “Welfare Queen”. This, is how it actually breaks down by race…
So even if you add the entire 12.8% of unknown racial origins to the second highest racial demographic, white people would STILL be collecting the most in SNAP. And that’s OKAY, because we need SNAP. What’s NOT okay, is demonizing the use of this program and then falsely claiming black people are the number one recipients. That’s Grade-A shitty and A++ racist.
Then we have the idea that people who receive assistance don’t work. In fact, they do. 73% of them, actually. The issue here belongs to wage stagnation. From 1979 to 2013, wages for American workers only rose by 5%, while the cost of living sky-rocketed. The only thing more stagnate than wages, is Mike Pence’s sex life. He and “mother” take dull and flat to a whole new level. In fact, the only thing that probably revs his engine is talking about how screwed poor people are. Just don’t use the word “screw”, it’s too salacious for him.
And I know we’ve all heard, “Well government spending is out of control”. However, only 9% of spending is directed towards safety net programs. I especially love when Evangelicals complain about this, then go on to state that charitable giving should be done through private avenues. What’s the difference, I ask them? Why does it matter HOW the money or food gets to those in need? They inevitably try to make the argument for fraud and abuse of these programs, but that’s patently false and has been since their inception. First of all, the average amount paid out in SNAP is $133.00 per month. Really living high on the hog, there (my eyes just rolled all the way into my occipital lobe just typing that). TANF is limited to five years of eligibility per person, per lifetime. And, oh really, you’re concerned about fraud and abuse of these programs and you trust CHURCHES? Because this really makes me question where the money you donate is going to…
As does this…
Paint him golden and call him calf, if you want my advice. But maybe I’m wrong and Jesus actually said, “Fuck the poor children, build your kids a hedge maze instead”???
Now setting the debunked myths aside, let’s focus on the fact that social programs work. The only reason they’re not more effective, isn’t because of fraud or abuse, but because they don’t go far enough. All one needs to do is look to the quality of life and income disparity of comparable countries to see that. Why do you think Finland heckled us, when Trump suggested Finns immigrate to the U.S.A.? It wasn’t just because Trump is the human equivalent of an authoritarian “shart” in a hot shipping container that is full of dehydrated cheese dust. (And just in case you don’t know, a shart is when you think you’re simply farting, but end up shitting your pants.) It’s because they know that socialism works. They know what Inigo Montoya does. That this word, does not mean what we think it means.
So now we have Trump, a man who has really never had to labor a day in his life and when he has deigned to work he’s sucked at LITERALLY everything, signing an executive order to crack down on safety net programs. And, as like most things Trump related, they’re lying about the evidence used to justify this. And although it will rob money from all races, lower and middle class white people will lap it up. Because Johnson hit the nail on the fucking head… And the poor will stay poor while the rich get richer… And everyone on Fox News will hail capitalism… And Finland will keep laughing at us… And OH GOD WE’RE SO FUCKING STUPID WHEN IT COMES TO THIS TOPIC. Consider my panties fully wadded. Trying to break the cycle of poverty while cutting social programs in a country up to its neck in racism and income disparity, will be as effective as a three legged dog trying to bury a turd on an iced over pond. In other words, not at all.
I’ll leave you with this. “There but for the grace of God go I”. I do not know, where I would have ended up without my personal safety net. If I had been born under less fortunate circumstances, or of a different race. I’ll never really know, although statistics and research tell me, I probably would not have made it as far as I have. But I DO know, how I would want to be treated. With respect, dignity and grace. Unless you’re a psychopath with tiny orange hands and an even smaller heart, why would one wish to make the circumstances for disadvantaged people harder? How does attacking the humanity of marginalized people enrich one’s spirit? I mean, unless you’re trying to win the “Blue Ribbon” for douchebaggery, but spoiler alert Paul Ryan already has that hanging in his office. That’s true. It’s hanging right next to a signed copy of “Atlas Shrugged” and a framed picture of himself. This is factual.
There is NO WAY, this dude hasn’t already won every douchebag contest since the dawn of douchebaggery. He has got that shit on lock.