Skip to main content

Three days ago, I sent the following to a few friends who follow more conservative media than they probably should:

In the last few days, primarily in response to the recent op-ed on high-end taxes by Warren Buffet and the harsh rhetoric on the right in response, the Daily Show did one of the more poignant shows I've seen them do in years:
The Daily Show: World of Class Warfare 1
The Daily Show: World of Class Warfare 2

Several weeks ago, much of this content (specifically, the study of the living condition of the poor that was released by the Heritage Foundation last month) was addressed equally poignantly by the Colbert Report:
Stephen Colbert: Poor In America

Both clips are well worth watching, and pretty funny as well.  I felt that they deserve a little follow-up.

It's bad enough that a well-known think tank is giving ideological and rhetorical cover to conservatives in government to heap regressive cuts and policies on the already-struggling poor, but the feigned victimization and claims of "class warfare" thrown about by conservative elites, as well as the push to blame the poor apparently for being freeloaders and not doing their share is disgusting and just plain mean.  The following editorials make the case in particular against the Heritage Foundation's misleading and ideologically slanted brief better than I could hope to:
Center for American Progress: What You Need When You're Poor
Poverty and Policy: How Many Poor People in America? Heritage Foundation Says Damn Few
Matt Yglesias: Poor People Own Appliances Because They're Cheap

The main points of these pieces: The cost of the appliances that the poor own is very low these days, and is no longer the driving cost in their budgets; food, rent, education and medical care are the driving costs, and to the extent that shortages of housing, food, etc. are not as bad as they COULD be, it is because of the welfare programs that the Heritage Foundation implicitly supports slashing.  The Heritage Foundation's contention that far fewer people live in conditions of poverty than the numbers reported by government is misleading at best, flat-out false at worst.

And when the conservative Christian leader, pastor Rick Warren, tweeted some fairly ignorant words last month:

HALF of America pays NO taxes. Zero. So they're happy for tax rates to be raised on the other half that DOES pay taxes.

he was rightly taken to task:
Slacktivist: The Purpose-Driven Lie

The important conclusion that the Slacktivist arrives at is the following:

He was bearing false witness.  ... But more importantly, it was malicious false witness. ... This is a lie aimed at poor people like a weapon.  This is a hurtful and harmful lie.  It's the sort of lie that doesn't just violate several of the Ten Commandments, but back in Bible days it would have earned you an unpleasant visit from Nathan or Elijah or Amos.

Claims like those of the pastor are wrong.  They're sinful.  And they're not wrong because they're sinful; they're sinful because they're WRONG.

I'll add my own point to these: it's intellectually dishonest to have a discussion over the fairness of the tax code and welfare programs without FIRST addressing the inherent inequality of our labor markets, capital markets, access to education, access to the judicial system, access to infrastructure, and intellectual property laws.  Fundamentally, if a business leader makes his profits from paying his employees minimum wage at $7.50/hour in an area where a decent livable wage is $15/hour, but where workers have little negotiating leverage and few other options, then it is RIGHT to expect government to tax the business/owner at a high percentage and the workers at a low percentage, and to use tax funds to provide the under-compensated workers with housing and food assistance, as well as other forms of aid.  In that scenario, the scenario in which most of our country operates (accounting also for middle-class wage-earners that are under-paid), it is disturbingly unfair to demand that "equality" be applied only at the tax code (even moreso that it only be leveled at the income tax, specifically), as if wealth is earned solely in proportion to some fantastical Randian ideal of personal worth and NOT heavily influenced by real-world power dynamics.

Aside from their generally beneficial impacts on society at large, our progressive tax code, our public services, and our welfare system, all provided by government, are the main means we have to ensure fairness in a society whose benefits would otherwise consistently accrue to those with the most power entering the game.  The obvious alternative would be to empower workers more and more to organize and negotiate collectively so that they can receive fair compensation, but until we reverse the long decline in unionization in a big way (AND organize workers worldwide), major progressive government policies are a necessity, in good times and especially in bad times.

We should be yelling loud and clear that there's nothing "fair" about a system that operates on a clean slate only after one side has had every opportunity to take advantage of the other.

Before signing off, I'll leave you all with a related quote from the book Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich:

When someone works for less pay than she can live on ... she has made a great sacrifice for you ... The "working poor" ... are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone.

Those who think the poor and the low-income working class are not giving enough could use a few years walking in other people's shoes.  Short of that, it can't be said often enough that their views are hateful, destructive, and wrong.

Thanks for reading,
-Ari

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site