Congressperson Peter King:
This week, you admonished house republicans for being really mean to people in need.
That's right. The people currently underwater and in need of assistance deserve exactly what they're getting. These people failed to take responsibility for themselves and their families. They failed to build the proper structures to protect their homes from water damage. More importantly, they made the choice to live on the coast without the means to protect themselves from the risks of living on the coast.
What's that you say? These people didn't have the money to reinforce their homes in a way that would have kept the wind, water, and fire from destroying everything they've ever known? They should have worked harder to make more money and saved more diligently for these exact instances. They should have taken personal responsibility instead of burdening the rest of us with their mess.
Does that sound stupid, unconscionable, cold-hearted, mean-spirited, short-sighted, and downright ugly? Of course it does. And that's exactly how it sounds every single day when you and your party refuse to recognize that uncontrollable circumstances sometimes knock people down.
You can recognize the bad luck implicated in a hurricane, but you can't recognize the bad luck of a bankruptcy brought on by an uninsured man's medical emergency. You can recognize the difficulty that hurricane victims have in pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, but you fail to recognize just how hard it is for an inner city kid who has lost his father and is surrounded by everything except hope.
You seem fully aware of the life-altering effect of pure circumstance when the constituents are knocked over by strong winds, but you and your party have pinned your entire political ideology on the idea that a person's socio-economic stripes are entirely his own doing. Using one theory or another, you and your party have been demonizing the poor and disenfranchised for decades. And your own human ego precludes you from admitting that all too often, a person's economic status is determined by factors outside of his control. Just as those hurricane victims had little control over their current state, the young man born to a crack-addicted mother in an area with bad schools has only marginal control over his current state.
I'm wrong, Peter King. The victims of Hurricane Sandy do not deserve it. They did not bring natural disaster on themselves. But it is time for you and your party to learn a lesson from this. A community exists to pick people up when their circumstances leave them unable to pick themselves up. A community exists to ensure that people are not hung out to dry when the sperm lottery, bad health, or some other disaster leaves them without the hope and opportunity that drives success. Sure, admitting that some people are unsuccessful by chance opens the door to the idea that some people have it good by chance. But that's just honesty. It is long past time for economically successful people to drop the fear that by admitting into evidence the powerful effects of luck, their precious status will somehow erode into the sea. And in doing so, they might find that many people living in poverty have experienced the life-altering cruelty of bad circumstance that is currently manifesting in the most devastating way on the shores of New York and New Jersey.