Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Friday, November 01, 2013

Behind the GOP War on the Poor

Scrooge lives in our minds as a morally crippled miser who begrudges aid for the unfortunate because of his own shriveled soul. Dickens, never the most subtle novelist, enlightens him through miraculous visions.

What would it take to convert today’s GOP from its “Bah, humbug” campaign against the poor? What could change politicians willing to let food-stamp help for households of four with children, the aged and disabled shrink from a maximum of $668 a month to $432 over a year, leaving them an average of $1.40 per meal or 35 cents each?

Callous is not enough to explain it. Republican governor John Kasich of Ohio declares, “I’m concerned about the fact there seems to be a war on the poor. That, if you’re poor, somehow you’re shiftless and lazy.”

The answer, suggests Paul Krugman, involves more than the credo of Paul Ryan’s former idol Ayn Rand, decrying the underprivileged as “looters and moochers” who sap the rewards of those who make money and are, by definition, worthy of all they can get.

Krugman cites research showing Republicans “’very conscious of being white in a country that is increasingly minority’--and seeing the social safety net both as something that helps Those People, not people like themselves, and binds the rising nonwhite population to the Democratic Party. And, yes, the Medicaid expansion many states are rejecting would disproportionately have helped poor blacks.”

Adding racial fears to Baby Boomer sense of over-entitlement begins to fill out the picture of those who, as in Dickens’ Victorian days, would pass “Poor Laws” requiring those displaced by the Industrial Revolution to work on treadmills as punishment for receiving welfare.

As Ryan and his Tea Party cohort work hard to decimate food stamps for America’s Tiny Tims and their families, Dickens must be up in pop heaven plotting a sequel to “A Christmas Carol” in which a handful of American Scrooges outdo his greatest creation in stupidity and meanness.

If only they could be struck by a vision of their Christmas Future...

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