Saturday, January 11, 2014

Poverty in political discourse

There's been a lot of talk about poverty in America this week. The impetus for all the talk was, of course, the fiftieth anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson's declaration of a War on Poverty.

A lot of the talk has been scoffing at the whole idea of a War on Poverty and of the various programs that were first implemented in the '60s to try to help the poor. There is a segment of our population and of our political thought that believes that any attempt to help the poor to pull themselves out of the downward spiral of poverty is doomed to failure. Indeed, any such efforts will just make the poor lazy and rob them of the desire to better their lives.

On the contrary, the people who subscribe to this line of thought believe that government should aggressively institute policies that will benefit the rich and make them even richer because this is obviously good for society! This is the kind of thought that has dominated a large part of our politics for many years. It is how our country came to have the greatest income inequality in the industrialized world.

This political philosophy was summed up by Jon Stewart on one his Daily Shows this week. As usual, he got it just about right.

Jon Stewart.thedailyshow.com..With the 2008 election, Stewart is increasing his influence exponentially this year. And a big part of the reason why is the Web. After some messy quarrels with YouTube over illegal copies running on the video service, Comedy"I think I'm beginning to get it: if it's a policy that benefits the rich, then it doesn’t have to be paid for, should last forever, and is good for America. But if it benefits the poor? We can't afford it, we should end it as soon as possible, and it will destroy our nation from within. Because when you give money to people who don’t have it, it corrupts them. But people who are already rich have a 'money immunity' built up already. Handouts don’t hurt them." (My emphasis.)

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