Thursday, February 2, 2012

Romney's "not concerned about the very poor"

And now----and now we have Mitt Romney. He said in an interview on CNN that he wasn't "concerned about the very poor" because they have a safety net. He's only concerned about the middle class.

Don't middle class people have the same safety net the very poor have? If things go really bad for them, can't people from the middle class go to the same soup kitchens as the very poor? Aren't the same homeless shelters there for them?

Of course, Romney also says he wants to cut Medicaid and cut food stamps, and he wants poor people to pay income tax. I don't know what kind of religion he has.

Romney meant what he said. He didn't misspeak. He considers the poor and the middle class to be different human categories. His idea is a "safety net" for the poor is to stave off starvation (or at least death by starvation) while a "safety net" for the middle class is to keep them permanently middle class.

Theory in action

I had a friend who was living in New York City. A man dressed in a business suit carrying a briefcase rushed up to him.

"My wife's having a baby! I need five dollars for a taxi! Quick!"

"What? Oh my God! Do you want to come in and use my phone?" (This was before cell phones were everywhere.)

"No, no..." The man looked annoyed and walked away.

A few weeks later, the man rushed up to my friend again.

"My wife's having a baby! I need five dollars for a taxi! Quick!" he said.

"Wha--uh---didn't she have a baby a couple weeks ago?"

The man walked away annoyed.

It's a fairly common ploy, pretending to be middle class while panhandling.

Once I came out of the subway. A man was standing there in a suit. He had some change in his hand.

"I just need thirty more cents to get to work! Just thirty more cents!"

I was a bit naive. I stopped and took the change he had in his hand and gave him a subway token.

"Oh, uh. Thanks," he said, disappointed.

As I walked away, I realized that that wasn't what he wanted. I felt guilty.

It seems to be a common enough thing. A lot of people have more sympathy for the suffering of the petit bourgeoisie than for the poor. After the earthquake in San Francisco, people were only given emergency shelter if they could prove that they had a home before the earthquake. Public housing gave preference to people rendered homeless by the earthquake over people who were already waiting for help.

When a high tech company opened here, they got tax breaks from the local government on the condition that they hired displaced workers from the declining timber industry rather than people who had never had a good-paying job at all.

Why is downward social mobility considered more tragic that lifelong poverty?

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