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A nice catch by my friend Gina Cornia, of Utahns Against Hunger.

A recent article from New Orleans included a photo of a boy living in the projects who happened to own an iPad.  As you can imagine, all hell broke loose.

One less than cruel response:

Readers called and emailed reporter Katy Reckdahl to express their anger. One less caustic correspondent was clearly worried at what the reporter might think of him for raising the issue: "Not to rush to comment. I hope this is nothing more than someone gave him the iPad as a gift and he is using it for educational means or just playing games ... I hope I am not over thinking this. I am not prejudice (sic) -- this just did not look right."

A more cruel response:

It might help to think of poor people as being as fully human as everybody else and as no more or less flawed. But if we are to believe a voicemail left for Reckdahl, they're lazy and litigious, just bad people through and through: "I think you missed the point ... that in the Iberville projects, the able-bodied welfare recipients that infest that place are waiting in line for (personal injury attorney) Morris Bart and this implosion to go hit the taxpayer once again, so you watch and see what happens, and of course you'll see I'm right.

"They need somebody to come in there and pick 'em up by limousine and take 'em to the Windsor Court or something like that. And they're still gonna sue anyway. Cuz that's what they do."

Note the use of the verb "infest." Some folks don't even think of the poor as people. They think of them as bugs.

Attitudes toward the poor, especially those on welfare or otherwise receiving government aid, are particularly punitive.  Some years ago, a friend of mine was on disability and receiving food stamps.  After several months, she figured out a way to extend her food stamp money longer.  She used coupons and took advantage of sales.  Well, one month, she heard of a particularly attractive sale at a grocery store.  Since she didn't have a car, and it was later in the evening and she couldn't take public transit, she asked if I'd drive her.  I said sure.

At the time, I was driving a company car - a top of line Cadillac.  As the bagger helped us out with her groceries, he made a comment about " People on welfare driving Cadillacs."  I stopped him and said, "I drive the Cadillac. I have a job.  My friend here is on disability, doesn't have a car, and doesn't have a job."  He was nonplussed and silently walked away.  

The idea that if you're poor and if you're on any kind of assistance you should be practically a Dickensian street urchin in dirty clothes and slowly starving to death is present in so many places in our culture.  Ever since Ronald Reagan invented the mythical welfare queen, getting rich on welfare and foodstamps and endlessly mooching off the worthy working man, Americans have publicly embraced punitive, cruel attitudes toward the poor.

Being poor is hard enough without being judged and told you are lazy and no good as well.

Originally posted to glendenb on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 09:57 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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