MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
If you've been following forecasts of the next step in the continuing right wing arc of austerity -- including the recently passed budget in which the Democrats considered it a victory that they held off Republicans from establishing charnel houses for starving Americans to die in (an embellishment, but not far from the metaphoric truth) -- the forces of putting the poor on pitchforks and roasting them alive for being parasites are marching on.
In a December 19th New York Times op-ed, Timothy Egan takes note of the fire and brimstone hatred of the less fortunate in society by the rabid right:
As the year ends, this argument is playing out in two of the most meanspirited actions left on the table by the least-productive Congress in modern history. The House, refuge of the shrunken-heart caucus, has passed a measure to eliminate food aid for four million Americans, starting next year. Many who would remain on the old food stamp program may have to pass a drug test to get their groceries. At the same time, Congress has let unemployment benefits expire for 1.3 million people, beginning just a few days after Christmas.
Rand Paul and the Tea Party crew make Scrooge look like generosity incarnate. Of course, Egan notes of execrable attitudes toward most of the people on the earth who haven't been able to partake of the good fortune of most of those in Congress, "Should I also mention that the median net worth for new members of the current Congress is exactly $1 million more than that of the typical American household — and that that may influence their view?"
So more people will be tossed off food stamps -- which BuzzFlash at Truthout has often pointed out actually add as much as $1.80 to economic and agricultural acitivity for each dollar spent -- and more of those who still qualify will have to take drug tests to receive about $1.40 a meal. (Not to mention that one of the chief advocates for drug testing food stamp recipients was Republican Congressman Trey Radel of Florida, who was recently convicted of cocaine possession.)
Egan notes that the desire to punish the poor that is all the fashion among the heartless caucus in Congress has a lot to do with perspective -- the kind of perspective that getting big subsidies from the government provides. As Egan recalls,
I met a wheat farmer not long ago in Montana whose family operation was getting nearly $300,000 a year in federal subsidies. With his crop in, this wealthy farmer was looking forward to spending a month in Hawaii. No one suggested that he pass a drug test to continue receiving his sizable handout, or that he be cut off cold, and encouraged to grow something that taxpayers wouldn’t have to subsidize.
There's nothing like Christmas to evoke Dickens, and -- as Egan points out -- Michael Bloomberg did just that, although in his remarks he could have indeed been Scrooge reincarnated:
This week, Mayor Mike Bloomberg tried not to sound like a plutocrat out of Dickens when asked about the homeless girl, Dasani, at the center of Andrea Elliott’s extraordinary series in The New York Times — a Dickensian tale for the modern age.
“The kid was dealt a bad hand,” Bloomberg said. “I don’t know why. That’s just the way God works. Sometimes some of us are lucky, and some of us are not.”
To the Bloombergs and the Pauls of our elite political class, being poor is like being a leech on society. It is a condition that a person has somehow deserved by the mere act of being born into the world.
As Egan concludes, "Virtue cannot prevent a 'bad hand' from being dealt. And making the poor out to be lazy, or dependent, or stupid, does not make them less poor. It only makes the person saying such a thing feel superior."
But denying human beings food is not just a way of feeling that one is more entitled and privileged, it is a way of ignominiously brandishing the power of who shall live and who shall die.