Attitudes

I read this comment on a YouTube video talking about austerity. The video is actually irrelevant, but the comment really struck me.

“The obvious solution is to stop being poor. Go get a job and make some money. Live below your means so you can save up and become rich! And get an education so you can be successful.

That’s what America was founded on, and the option has always been there…for those ambitious enough to try. For the others, suckling on the government teat has become so ingrained in their life that they’ve given up trying. Why reward them for their laziness and ineptitude? Grow up, don’t punish success.”

That seems to be the entire attitude behind the tea partiers, and to varying extents, at least most of the Republican party.

There are many problems with this. The first and biggest one is that it’s no simple thing for anyone to simply “stop being poor” and it’s absolutely not as simple as getting a job and making some money. To get anything but the barest minimum wage job, you have to have education. You have to have some education to even get the barest minimum wage jobs. Yet who has the least education and the least means to get any? The poor. And living below means? When living “above” those means entails actually eating more than once or twice per week, having a roof over your head (even a rat- and roach-infested one…) and having clothes on your back and transportation to that lovely job that barely pays you enough to get that much? And often working two or three of those jobs if you happen to be supporting or helping to support more than just yourself? When does that leave any time for anything but sleep, and less sleep than is needed at that? Where’s the time, much less the money, for any kind of education?

“Go get a job and make some money. Live below your means so you can save up and become rich! And get an education so you can be successful.” sounds so simple, doesn’t it. You try being just the latest in a string of generations that don’t even have the hope of getting more than the basics, if even all of those.

The problem is the attitude that says this lack of education, lack of opportunity, lack of so much as a glimmer of hope, is seen as “laziness and ineptitude.” Because “I made it” or “my ancestor(s) made it” or “so-and-so made it and they were the worst off of the worst!” and the exceptions become the rule. Not so. They are decidedly the exceptions. If you say “I made it” you’re probably one of the people that started out with college-educated parents, a house where you shared your room with a maximum of two siblings (instead of your whole family, parents included), and schools where if you tried at all, you got at least a half-way decent education. You may have even been bullied at school. Try being bullied, or even threatened with you or one of your family being shot for you even going to school.

The problem is that some of those who have (and most of those who have the most) are trying so damned hard to keep what they feel they’ve “earned” that they aren’t willing to let those who have the least have even a tiny bit more, then call the lack “laziness and ineptitude” and punish failure by crying that having the government do anything, said government is “punishing success.”

Now, if you’ve read any entries here at all, it’s pretty clear that I’m definitely not one of the poor. I have college-educated parents, a pretty decent over-all education, including a year of college myself, and generally most of the advantages that come with being fairly firmly middle class, including a mortgage now. I’m just not blind to the fact that those are advantages. Even the mortgage! Because my husband and I can pay it without both of us working three jobs each, and it means we have our own home.

You know what? I’m happy to be taxed. It means I’m helping my government run and to help out those who need the help in ways far more effective than what I can do. Yes, I also give to charities that are more effective than anything I can do on my own. I have the advantage of being able to. I also have the advantage of enough compassion to realize that doesn’t give me the right to call those who are the recipients of government programs and charities “lazy and inept.”

Tell me about it...