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It's just astonishing to us how long this campaign has gone on with no discussion of what's happening to poor people. Official Washington continues to see poverty with tunnel vision - "out of sight, out of mind."
So begins this post by Bill Moyers, whose title is included in the title of this post.

Too often poor people are forgotten in our politics.

It is appropriate to read the words of Moyers on this topic on this day, which would be the 104th birthday of his mentor, Prsident Lyndon Baines Johnson, vastly underrated as a President, whose Great Society programs did as much to alleviate poverty and discrimination in this country as did any other President, being matched only by the New Deal of FDR (which unfortunately did not address discrimination).

Moyers makes clear this is not just an issue for Mitt Romney and the Republicans - he reminds us of a President who said in his first book about why he went to Harvard Law after serving as a community organizer in Chicago

"I would learn power's currency in all its intricacy and detail" and "bring it back like Promethean fire."
  And yet,
Oddly, though, for all his rhetorical skills, Obama hasn't made a single speech devoted to poverty since he moved into the White House.
Please keep reading.

Perhaps it is because I have had glimpses of what poverty means, not merely in urban neighborhoods in our great and once-great cities, but in rural areas, the latter as a result of my volunteering in free medical-dental fairs in the Appalachian Mountains of Southwest Virginia.  I know that the needs and hurts of poverty are not issues just for people of color - there are more poor whites than there are poor blacks and far more than there are poor Native Americans (whose treatment in our nation remains a shame and a blot on our national honor).  

We recently learned that the number of Americans living at or below 125% of poverty will reach 66 million this year.  Moyers reminds us of the importance of that 125% figure:  it

is the income limit to qualify for legal aid, but although that family may qualify for help, budgets for legal services have been slashed, too, and pro bono work at the big law firms has fallen victim to downsizing. So it's not surprising, the AP goes on to say, that there's a crisis in America's civil courts because people slammed by the financial meltdown - overwhelmed by foreclosure, debt collection and bankruptcy cases - can't afford legal representation and have to represent themselves, creating gridlock in our justice system - and one more hammer blow for the poor.
While I was still in public schools I saw the increasing number of children arriving at school unfed, even our middle class neighborhood.  I know the demands for supplemental nutrition assistance programs (SNAP is the replacement for food stamps) and Free and Reduced Lunches has skyrocketed at a time when the resources for such programs and for private foodbanks has shrunk.  I know that ALL of the difference in US performance on international comparisons of public schools cna be explained by our high degree of childhood poverty, that in schools with less than 10% poor children - a rate twice that of high scoring Findland - our academic performance is better than that of ANY other country in the world.

And yet we ignore the issue of the poor.  It is not a campaign issue.  One party and its presidential candidate apparently wants us to believe that services for the poor are provided only to "others" - yes, that is a racist dog whistle, even though as I noted there are more poor whites, often invisible.  Perhaps many of them do not avail themselves of government support because they have been culturally conditioned not to, that such programs are a sign of weakness, that only those "others" use them.   And the suffering continues.

But if Democrats will not stand up for ALL Americans, including the poor - regardless of the color of their skins - then we are betraying our heritage and we have not right to claim that we should be in charge of the instruments of our government and our society.

No Americans should be invisible.  The needs of all Americans should be part of our political discourse.

Or as Moyers puts it in his final paragraph:  

We know, we know: It is written that, "The poor will always be with us." But when it comes to our "out of sight, out of mind" population of the poor, you have to think we can help reduce their number, ease the suffering, and speak out, with whatever means at hand, on their behalf and against those who would prefer they remain invisible. Speak out: that means you and me, and yes, Mr. President, you, too. You once told the big bankers on Wall Street that you were all that stood between them and the pitchforks of an angry public. How about telling the poor you will make sure our government stands between them and the cliff?

Originally posted to teacherken on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 03:58 AM PDT.

Also republished by Promote the General Welfare and Income Inequality Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  350,000 Ph. D. on food stamps (41+ / 0-)

    from Chronicle of Higher Education

    The economy is in a depression.

    John Atlas in his almost 5 year long effort to chronicle ACORN (published in his book "Seeds of Change") points out that the Democratic party walked away from the issue of poverty by 1980.

    And the Republicans are out to punish the poor and drive them ever more down.

    I recently heard the superintendent of Atlanta schools who said that education is the only field that they blame the workers, the teachers. In the USA, the Republicans have pulled off the trick of blaming the poor for the economic problems.

    The only bigger scam has been the banksters who were able to blame the poor for the housing collapse rather than the whole cast of characters: Wall Street, ratings agencies, regulators, bankers and regulators.

  •  Thank you for this (23+ / 0-)

    I am so tired of hearing ONLY about the middle class. Many in the middle class have fallen into poverty. While trying to keep more from falling is important, it is also important to help those who are already there.

    But that's not good politics, I guess.

    When Obama wins re-election, I would really like to see him step up to the plate and offer solutions for all of us, not just some of us. I'm sick and tired of being invisible.

    The meme is that poor people don't vote. Maybe they would if they thought someone gave a damn about them, too.

    Re-elect Senator Debbie Stabenow (MI). Screw Pete Hoekstra.

    by BitterEnvy on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 05:12:57 AM PDT

  •  It won't change until we change the politics of (15+ / 0-)

    economics.  Huh?  We view the unemployed as-if they have done sometihng wrong and can't find jobs.  It isn't true, but it is what we like to tell ourselves and what we convince poor people to accept.  So out of humility and shame they play along and either tune out of politics and/or even continue to vote republican and for the same economics that is all-but guaranteed to put people on the street.
       The problem is immediately apparent when you switch the dialog on unemployment from "people can't find jobs"  (i.e. it is their fault) to "there is nothing to do".  Crazy as it sounds, most work is unnecessary right now.  We can sweatshop out anything and everything to the third world.  We can fly planes to mexico for routine maintenance, and it is often cheaper to go to mexico or india for certain medical procedures than do them here.   Software - overseas.  Manufacturing - overseas.  Lawn maintenance - cheap immigrant labor.  You name it, it does not need to be done (by you or me or anyone here).  The situation is little different than as-if someone had invented robots to perform all manual labor and most technical labor.

    Until we face up to this, nothing will change.  After all, how can you find a job when there is no need for work?

    Note:  Don't get me wrong - there is alot that does need to be done - infrastructure, green energy, etc..  But alot of it can be sweatshopped out.  If this isn't addressed head-on, nothing will change.....

    and their contempt for the Latin schools was applauded by Theodoric himself, who gratified their prejudices, or his own, by declaring that the child who had trembled at a rod would never dare to look upon a sword.

    by ban48 on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 05:23:52 AM PDT

    •  The Cost To Feed The Housing Vultures (5+ / 0-)

      What's the biggest expenditure for any new family?  Housing, period.  The fucking banking and real estate parasites drove up the cost of housing so high and so quickly that any American salary, hourly or yearly, needed to accommodate the fact that people can't just live on the street or pile 3 generations into a 6 floor rat infested walkup.  For my son to buy an entry level house in the town he grew up in, he needs $15,000 cash and a salary of over $90,000 a year to qualify for an old school mortgage.  It's nothing more than intergenerational theft.  And yet when something as completely logical and inevitable as a housing price adjustment occurs, everyone goes ballistic.

      •  Shuttered Businesses and High Prices (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JG in MD, Ginny in CO

        Sorry to post to my own comments, gjohnsit and bobswern have said this more eloquently than me also, but real estate is a pet peeve I've had for a while, especially seeing the exact same house in my neighborhood on the market for the third time in 12 years, knowing buyer/seller paid a realtor at least $15,000 each and every flip reselling the same pile of sticks that's been sitting there for 100 years.  I'm not attacking realtors per se, but when you make 5% on a sale, why would you care about sounding an alarm that things are getting out of control when the price doubles?  You just got a 100% raise!   Why not assume no end in sight?

        Why does a brake job using Chinese/Mexican parts cost $1000?  Because your mechanic needs $1300 a month for basic housing for his family.  A roof job costing $12,000?  Roofers, plumbers, electricians have to eat and have somewhere to sleep too.

        Why did that hard working (I can't even imagine) baker who had the delicious muffins at 6:45 AM near the train station have to close his shop?  Or that downtown bicycle shop... Or any number of small businesses?  Because their rents were raised through the roof and it's tough to cough up $3000 + a month rent on baked bread and bicycle repairs.  Same property that's been on that spot for anywhere from 120 years ago to 30 years ago, yet churned and wrung out for ever increasing wealth.

  •  Thanks for his teacherken. (30+ / 0-)

    It really sticks in my craw that the democratic party has abandoned the poor. This really says it all about what has happened to our society. Only those who can generate obscene wealth for the 1% are valued, everyone else can ESAD. I'd like to think a day of reckoning is coming - but I'm not sure if I should be that optimistic.

  •  The Repubs always talk like Gawd is on THEIR side (6+ / 0-)

    yet they also talk like they wish the poor would just stop belly aching and go away. Hey, that's what Jesus would do , right?? And it's funny how all the bible thumpin' voters go along with it.

    "It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth." - Morpheus

    by CitizenOfEarth on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 05:57:37 AM PDT

  •  Talking about the poor is like talking about (9+ / 0-)

    the victims of rape.  Talk does neither of them any good.
    Sexual abusers have to be stopped and legal thieves have to be stopped.  We can only do that, if we have the right criminal statutes on the books and that depends on LEGISLATORS.  
    When we have legislators parsing rape and when it is appropriate to decree "there shall be no free lunch," then lady justice herself is being abused and the law, like money, has been reduced to a tool of subjugation.

    Never mind referring to some legislators as punitive.  That designation already implies that meting out punishment is appropriate to the legislative role. It's not.  Mostly legislators are supposed to allocate public resources and assets for the public welfare.  But, doing good is not a source of power and too many of our legislators have sought out public office because they are either scofflaws or crooks looking to perpetrate legal theft.

    Willard's forte = "catch 'n' cage". He's not into "catch and release."

    by hannah on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 06:47:00 AM PDT

  •  Meh, Moyers can keep his speeches. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I like action:

    1. Jobs Bills
    2. American auto company investments
    3. affordable healthcare act

    Why hasn't Obama done any of those kind of things?

  •  The unofficial state song of the United States: (4+ / 0-)

    Fuck the Poor:

    I would be a liar if I pretended to admire,
    The redlight windscreen cleaning empire that you've built,
    But my heart is good, it's not a thing of stone or wood,
    I'll give you $0.50 to take away my guilt.

    I give money to folk that just don't have enough,
    To try to justify the future purchases of stuff,
    That I don't need, I know that one less vodka cranberry tonight,
    And I could feed some foreign family for a fortnight,
    But I might just have one more,
    After all, what is vodka for?
    Apart from making you want to shag your best mate's wife,
    And dampening the guilt you feel about your perfect life;

    Fuck the poor, What is all this hoo-hah for?
    There's only one reason that I'll phone 1800-0340-34,
    It's the force that drove Teresea, and that school that Opera built,
    I'll give you $50 to take away my guilt.

    Fuck the poor, I'm not pretending anymore,
    That I really give two shits about some kids in Bagalor,
    I'm more interested in footie, than seeing the Solomons rebuilt,
    But I'll give you $50 to take away my guilt,
    I'll give you $50 to take away my guii-lll-tt.

    Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear. ~William E. Gladstone, 1866

    by absdoggy on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 06:55:35 AM PDT

  •  thanks (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Don midwest, marina

    The radical Republican party is the party of oppression, fear, loathing and above all more money and power for the people who robbed us.

    by a2nite on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 07:06:26 AM PDT

  •  Poverty is an INSTITTUTION, not a "choice"! (4+ / 0-)

    Until Americans admit that poverty is an institution we will never begin to address and change any issues to end poverty. Even though they may damage a lot of people, insitutions remain in place because they benefit someone, in this case the upper classes, especially the rich.  

    This institutions is kept in place with low wage employment, tax shelters from "donations" (that is reality are not "donations" if they are tax shelters), employment for the upper classes in order to "fix" the poor person as an excuse not to address this insitutiton, these are just a few reasons that the Povery Insitutions remain in place.  

    Poverty is Big Business.  Large non-proftis bring in on the average of $56-67,000 but only give the average of $2000 in direct services.  These large nons collect $Millions in government funding in additions to those "donations".  Nobody ever asks where the other $54,000-65,000 goes. Well first of all some "major donor" often employ their relatives and bored wives in 6 figure "jobs" as  "Executive Directors" along with the the middle class in "social services".  The poorest paid employees do not even make enough to pay the rent.  

    In private business, do you know that they are getting government funds to "employ" women in virtual slave labor who are working off their welfare grants at less than $1.00 an hour? Why hire any paid employee when you can get one for free?   Are labor unions intetrested in this even though these people are bringing down wages for them?  No.  

    In every single state the poor pay the highest rate of taxes on incomes that before taxes are not livable. We need to acknowledge that whenever the Feds cut taxes, they "trickle down"to the states who raise their to make up for the loss of fudning from the U.S. legislature.  The next time anyone says the poor "do not pay taxes", send them here: and check out your state and you will see this is true.

    The truth is the upper classes (including the middle class) depend on the poor for their own benefit for less taxes for themselves, for cheap labor, and for tax deductions. Would they give any of this up to ensure better conditions for those in poverty?  I will believe it when I see it.  I have been an activist for low income families for over 20 years and even to get my "allies" to understand the conditions that perpetuate the institution of poverty, is a major feat.  

    Cat in Seattle, board member of People Organizing for Welfare and Economic Rights (acronym "POWER" for about the moast powerless people there are):  

    First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they hurt you, then you win ~ Mahatma Gandhi

    by mntleo2 on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 08:05:22 AM PDT

  •  Why are they invisible? They don't vote. (0+ / 0-)

    I agree with this diary, and I love Bill Moyers, but the poor and young people have been excused for not voting, now they're having their voting rights stripped at the most critical moment.

    That has helped bring this situation about.

    You can't make this stuff up.

    by David54 on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 08:59:23 AM PDT

    •  they didn't vote in 1960s either (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Don midwest, PSzymeczek

      when Johnson went full bore for Great Society, which oh by the way ADDED a large number of voters, many poor, through the Voting Rights Act in 1965

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 09:02:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's true, but the cynic in me must remind you (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Don midwest

        that we were having riots, we were in a war and still had the draft, and we were still in the cold war, which was undecided at that time.

        I don't want to see us have to return to the rioting 60's when we can do so much just by having strong voter turnout. Strong voter turnout forces the pols to be responsive to the voter more and the lobbyist less.

        I do remember doing a high school paper on Nixon's dismantling of the war on poverty. I remember an article in the U.S. News and World Report which detailed how the Great Society programs had actually reduced poverty
         and dependence on welfare and on how Nixon's efforts were increasing welfare rolls.
        And this was before Reagan, even.
        There is just one small part of the clean energy equation that could make a great deal of difference: rooftop solar. We're poised for a dramatic expansion of solar power and that would mean lots of unexportable, sustainable jobs, in the urban areas as well as elsewhere.
        Utility costs are a "regressive tax" which brutalize the poor, esp when they find themselves unemployed or sick, and if they could get a break on things like utility costs, we will see more of the poor able to keep their heads above water, which of course reduces the strain on the social safety net for those who just do not have the means or the youth to rise.
        All of these problems are interrelated: too big to fail, wars for oil, climate change, lack of jobs, the war on the poor., etc. There's one central answer to all of them.
        We must get the gop out of the way.

        You can't make this stuff up.

        by David54 on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 10:02:49 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  voting rights act was in 1965 (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          the major disruptions were only just beginning.  Thus Johnson got it through at a time when the issues you address had not yet arisen.

          "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

          by teacherken on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 11:24:39 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well, I checked wikipedia to refresh my memory. (0+ / 0-)

            There were riots prior to 65, and 64 was a big year for riots.
            There was also increasing nonviolent mass action as well.
            We had also lost a President to assassination.
            All I'm saying is that "the Great Society" movement didn't happen in a vacuum.

            Also, it was a different age when tv didn't have the power it does now, and when lobbyists and Wall Street weren't so entrenched in government as they are now.
            Back then, the "media" would actually show the plight of the poor to the American people. Today, the media virtually never shines a light on poverty. Except for "Cops". It's just not a "sexy" topic.
            For a number of reasons it's dangerous to compare then to now.

            I don't mean to sound like I'm blaming the poor for not voting, (Dems and progressives should not have allowed the railroading and destruction of Acorn, for one thing. )
            although I do think there's a lot of non-voters out there who have been brainwashed into an infantile level of passivity.

            What I do think is that now that we see the gop assault on democracy (voter suppression) we have an excellent motivating tool to get people to value their voting rights and take voting more seriously.
            The fate of the poor is tied to the fate of the middle class. We have to have a robust, growing middle class in order to have a space in the "economic continuum" for the poor to move out of. That's why you hear more from the President about the middle class and less about the poor.
            They've attacked him with the "welfare" ads for giving them something they wanted.
            Imagine how they would be spinning it if he talked about "the poor". It would be "He wants handouts for people that won't work." etc.

            An analogy would be his spare comments on the opposition movement in Iran. If he'd shot his mouth off a bunch about the movement, it would have reinforced and legitimized the hardliners' crackdown.

            This means we need the "climate change/energy/21st century infrastructure " bill that failed to pass the house in 2010 after they finally finished up financial reform.
            This is also necessary for a sustainable form of capitalism.
            This will start to fix our deficit problem, if we stay out of future wars. It will reduce the strain on the social safety net.
            For the past 4 years, the gop has been obstructing progress. We need to get them out of the way. We must vote them out. We need everyone to vote.
            Then the poor won't be invisible.

            I regard you and Bill Moyers highly. I do think we should be discussing poverty more. I think it's a subject that has finally been working its way back into view since OWS managed to break the media juju about "income inequality" and the "class warfare" of the rich against the rest of us.

            You can't make this stuff up.

            by David54 on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 12:29:42 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Moral Failure (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Don midwest, SuWho

    Although the Republicans avoid saying it explicitly, their discussion of welfare and the poor and/or unemployed makes it clear that they truly believe that the poor deserve their fate because of their supposed moral failures.

    However, the Republicans' obtuse and selfish view of the causes of poverty and the state of the economy reveal even more clearly that the real moral failure lies in the hearts of the Republicans.

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