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I've been pissed off for days now. On Sunday, Laura had a piece up about Yawn Hannity claiming poor people aren't hungry because they can eat beans and rice.

I wasn't bugged so much by the backhand diss of beans and rice ("fit for poor people"), a dish that, in the right hands, is ambrosia. No, it was the whole rehashing of the "poor people got it good, the lazy freeloaders" bit.

"If you look at some of the poorest people in the country—I went through these stats last week—most people have refrigerators and freezers and air conditioners and televisions and DVRs or, I'm sorry, DVDs or something, and stereos and cars. They just don't have the best and the latest and they don't live in the nicest neighborhoods."
Yeah, yeah. I've looked through the stats, too. For thirty years. Same source as you, Yawn.

See, there's this guy, Robert Rector. Got a hard on for poor people and has been proudly waving it around since the Paleoreagan Era in the usual places. Heritage. National Review. Et cetera.

Rector's big beef seems to be that the poor complain about things like substandard housing and little, no or lousy food and people sometimes help them. It really gets his goat that poor people get a sympathetic ear now and then, people who, in his view, aren't really hungry and hell, can't even be considered actually poor.

Because they've got shit. They watch cable TV and play video games. Back in the 80s, he published essentially the same paper that set people off last year, only then the riches of Midas that Rector pointed to were VCRs. And refrigerators.

So Rector, an "expert on poverty in America" (so reads his Heritage bio and his strikingly similar wikipedia entry), concludes there really isn't poverty in America because poor people have shit.

Having just moved a 90-year-old woman on a fixed income into a smaller apartment, I can confirm Mr. Rector's observation about the shit. They've got tons of it.

And not shit as George Carlin described it--

--but, lots of times, just crap. Sure they've got TVs, ancient, never-the-same-color nightmareovisions with add-on digital converters. They indeed have other amenities like microwave ovens, usually of similar vintage.

Like most everyone, they have phones and music players and the assorted tools of our perpetual voluntary self-distraction.

They have tchotchkes and gimcracks and doodads found in church rummage sales and bound for same, patinaed in the dust of decades, mixed often with fine pieces of furniture or servingware, prized reminders of families or lives long past. Or cool scores at the rummage sales.

You know what these people don't have, Mis-ter Rec-tor? Mis-ter Han-nit-tee? Mis-ter Rom-ney?


See, I make beans and rice nearly every Monday. Old New Orleans tradition, don't you know. My red beans are known far and wide for their spicy, rich flavor and smooth, creamy texture. People come from everywhere to eat my beans.

'Cause they want to.

Most poor people I know don't eat what they eat 'cause they want to. They eat what they can. When they can. They live where they can. How they can.

And they are so pathetically house-proud and car-proud and TV-proud and shit-proud because, despite all the odds stacked against 'em, they were able, praise Jesus, to buy the grandbabies a f'ing XBox for Christmas.

Which means, of course, that they aren't really poor and everyone should just shut up and stop annoying you with their stories.

Well, fine. Truth be told, I'm more comfortable talking with them, anyway.

Because the TVs and microwaves and Last Supper prints and rummage sale tchotchkes and all the other shit squeezed between their too-narrow walls is a lot prettier than the shit y'all have got stacked up between your ears.

Makes you wonder if Rector's actually got a point. I mean, who's really poor in this picture?

Originally posted to Crashing Vor on Tue May 01, 2012 at 06:04 PM PDT.

Also republished by Income Inequality Kos.

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