Hard Right

Home Work

Dear Reader:

Following is a snippet of conversation I had on a social networking site. I was commenting on the following quote which had been posted as a photo from something called Suzie’s Daily Quotes.

“It is wrong to tax a working person almost to the breaking point and then give it to someone who is able to work but refuses to.”

Twenty people had already “thumbed-up” their approval of the statement with no question, no mention of nuances, nothing. Being me, I rose to the bait. In that respect, I guess I got what I deserved. Read on.

Shelley : I agree, too, except.. it is hard to get a job in this economy, especially if you are maybe not above average in smarts, didn’t get a chance to go to college, and used to work in a paper mill or shoe factory or textile shop. What do we do about people who want to work but there is no work because we’ve shipped all the blue-collar jobs to sweatshops in third-world countries?

Dorcas Hardliner (name has been changed): To Shelley: Why can’t you take a job, such as McDonalds, or is it because they don’t pay what you used to get at your old job? I’m sick and tired of hearing that there are no jobs, when the paper has them everyday! So quit bitching and go find a job! If I can take a lower paying job than what I was used to, than you can or anyone can!

The conservative political right. They may have some decent, worthy ideas. They may be good, hardworking, nice people in general. But boy, oh boy, do some of them have a problem with communication.

This is the topic of today’s ruminations, my dear readers. The comment above exemplifies everything I despise about the voice of the political right in this country. Its vitriol. Its condescension. Its resentment. Its hate.

I was shocked by the absolute venom spewing forth from “Dorcas” aimed at a person she a)never met b)knows absolutely nothing about and c)said she partly agreed with her. And on a Facebook wall, to boot!

(Not to mention the fact that “Dorcas” so quickly assumed I was a welfare recipient who wasn’t even trying to find a job. I’m not, by the way. Interesting how people read so much into a little Outside the Box thinking? Or maybe it’s just “thinking” that throws them? Hmmm…)

Read it again and ask yourself, is it any wonder that some of us have a hard time separating the right’s IDEAS from its ATTITUDE?

There’s nothing wrong with sharing political statements/satire/photo commentary on a social networking site. This one was simply one of hundreds, maybe thousands, of facile quips that validate certain personal prejudices and political beliefs. Here we have one that is politically conservative, but as such it is no different from the silly little leftist sentiments that get thrown around regularly on the sites.

Ironically, I also happen to agree with the statement–but only if it is taken literally.

It IS wrong to take money from a hardworking person and to then give it to someone who CHOOSES not to work but instead to live off state and federal welfare. (Apparently 20 others did as well, as they all signaled their approval in the usual thumbs-up fashion.)

However, there is something insidious about the statement. There is hidden between the facile lines an implication that welfare is wrong. We hear a sly whisper that anyone who takes welfare is lazy and could get a job if he or she really wanted to. There is an attitude of “I’m better than you are simply because I work and you don’t.” It implies that all taxes are going to worthless bums, conveniently ignoring the reality that taxes also go toward defense (a pretty large chunk, in fact), Social Security, Medicare, education, the arts, medical research, etc.

In fact, I recently read in Harper’s magazine about the number of families in poverty receiving federal cash assistance. Back in 1996, 68 out of 100 families with children living in poverty received help. In 2010 the number was 27 out of 100. (July 2012, “Harper’s Index”, pg 9.)

According to the pg 54 Index Sources, this info came from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Click HERE to read a report on poverty put out by the CBPP. The gist of the report? We are sinking further into poverty every day of this recession.

Thumbs-up on that anybody?

I wrote back to Dorcas with the following:

Like I said, I agree in general. I worked as a cashier at Shop n Save while putting myself thru college and was not too excited to see people on food stamps eating steak while I made do with hamburger helper. That being said: Dorcas, I’m glad I’m not in that position, I’m grateful that I made good choices, and I’m super grateful I didn’t have some tragedy happen to me and I really, really hope nothing tragic happens to you so that you have to listen to someone say this sort of thing to you. ps: I’ve never been on welfare, but I do practice compassion.

I just can’t believe the incredible ill-will and vitriol spewing forth… there are people who use the system and there are people who are truly in a scary situation. And I’ve always said this about government: Government steps in only when people fail to act. If compassion and charity had been adequate from the private sector (churches included), then the government wouldn’t have had to step in in the first place. Soo, if we don’t want government taking our money and distributing it, then maybe we should start giving it to those in need who we feel truly need it. Just a thought.

And…wow…I wasn’t even talking about me (I’m quite comfortable financially, thank you for your concern). It was a generalized point about the loss of good American jobs because we like our cheap stuff at WalMart made in Chinese sweatshops. You know who benefited from the off-shoring of our jobs? CEO’s and big-time investors in the stock market. We want people to work? Buy American. Buy local. Hire someone local to sew our clothes instead of schlepping down to Wamart or Target. Until we start buying local and stop shopping at those places, we have nothing to complain about. But that’s just my opinion.

Not too surprisingly, “Dorcas” hasn’t written back. A few others did chime in with more thoughtful, helpful, insightful, rational commentary–so the right isn’t completely wacky, I guess. Still, there seemed to be a general resentment out there that people less fortunate somehow were “taking” from them, even “killing” them. Really?

Look, people. Many folks out there are in tragic circumstances. Some people make bad choices as young adults (and haven’t we all? and aren’t we kinda’ lucky those bad choices didn’t end up defining us?) and have a hard time pulling themselves out of the mucky mess they are in. Bad things DO happen to good people–sickness, injury, car accidents, death, divorce. There aren’t alot of good-paying jobs out there. Unemployment is high. We can’t all work at McDonalds.

(And what about those awesome McDonald’s and Walmart jobs? If anyone is interested on how easy it is to live on Walmart wages, read NICKEL AND DIMED, please!)

Yes, there are chronic welfare abusers. Yes, there are generations of families who have lived off the hard work of good, decent, honest people and have done nothing but pop out litters of kids. Yes, I think that the MOST money a welfare-recipient receives should be LESS than the lowest-paid employed taxpayer earns. Yes, job training programs are better than simple handouts. Yes, food-stamps should have stricter limits on what people can buy. Yes, the government is really not that adept at ferreting out the abusers from those who need a hand up. Yes, yes, yes. I agree.

I’ll tell you what, though. Telling someone on Facebook to “quit bitching and go find a job!” isn’t going to strengthen this country, and it isn’t going to solve the problem.

In my opinion, the best way to solve the problem is to a)support local businesses b)buy locally-grown food and products c)support local charities who know the needs of the community.

The best way is to make big government unnecessary by taking care of our own.

And that’s MY hard line. . . Outside the Box.

12 responses to “Hard Right

  1. Dear Shelly,
    I have come to some what the same conclusions about improving the economy and we do practice bying locally, hiring local people, supporting the thriftshop/food pantry here in town, and bying USA made. I grew up so “dirt poor” that I can no longer imagine how bad it was BUT…
    Some time we need a face to face conversation about a young woman I tutored for a while last year. As a result of my conversations with her (and seeing how she and her mother worked the system) I began to realize there is a “culture” there and just improving the economy isn’t going to change society. I don’t know what to do, but I do thank you for your thoughtful and compassionate blog today. Aunt Donalie

    • Hi Aunt Donalie: Thanks for reading and yes, there is certainly a culture of dependence and shrift out there . . . which is why I advocate local control of charity vs. state and federal. Also, I like the idea of “centers” to hand out nutritious government food vs giving someone a “credit card” food-stamp voucher to spend on whatever processed garbage they chose to pick up at the multinational food chain or Walmart superstore the next town over. Another thought I had was…pay people to NOT have babies. Say to the brand-new welfare mom, “Look, here is some free birth control. If you do not have another baby in the next five years, we will give you more welfare money so that you can put your resources toward raising one child well. If you go another ten years, we’ll give you another raise.” Hey, it’s probably cheaper than feeding, clothing, educating, medicating three or four more children, right? And maybe, just maybe, that one child will have a better chance of breaking the cycle. Just a couple of thoughts. See you at family reunion. Looking forward, sorta’, to hearing the story.

  2. If there was a “LOVE” button, I’d be hitting that. This is extremely well thought out and perfectly voiced, with kindness, compassion and empathy as well as good insight into the problem AND possible alternative solutions. I agree wholeheartedly. Thank you for so eloquently giving voice to another side of a stormy issue. “Nickle and Dimed” was well-written, funny (in a not-too-funny way) and informative. Thank you, Shelley!

    • Thanks you, Cindy. I was feeling quite impassioned. There are no easy answers to our problems, but the first step is to at least speak politely to each other, I think. And practicing the kind of thinking I try to show on this blog, thinking around problems in a different sort of way. Forgetting what “side” I’m “supposed” to be one, etc. Outside the Box solutions. Again, thanks for following along…I always enjoy your posts, as well:D

  3. I’m with you Shelley on many of your points. Poverty is ugly and evil and it is either situational or generational and children can’t help either case. Many times adults can’t help it either and sometimes it is just a random series of small misfortunes that cascades people into poverty.
    Americans do have a love of cheap sh*t – especially food. The % we spend on it versus other countries is really too bad but again if we are truly hungry with a dollar in our pockets, a big mac or a 3-pack of tacos fits the budget.

    My only disagreement (if you call it that) is that I see flamebait happening on both sides of the aisle. This week I was at an event where a very liberal medical-marijuana advocate was slamming the conservative opposite position holders. I jumped in and said, “wait, let’s start from something we agree on and understand the reasons where we don’t agree.” I think it was quite remarkable when they discovered their common points.

    At any rate, bless you for defending the poor. You’re building good karma.

  4. So well said. A wonderful, caring, insightful retort to an impulsive, knee-jerk comment.

  5. The right wing hyperbole is intended to be “sow discord”, it’s based on greed, bigotry, misogyny, and hate!

    It is intended intended to stir anger and resentment against those at the bottom while diverting attention from those at the top who are hijacking our government, our economy, our security, our sovereignty, and selling out to the highest bidder!

    …Proverbs 6:16
    These six things does the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
    A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked imaginations, feet that are swift in running to evil,
    … A false witness that speaks lies, and he that sows discord among brethren.

    • As long as we realize that not all conservatives are bad people and that some liberals are also as cynical in their own way. All I’m asking for is some non-spin, civilized discussion of the issues. Probably too much to ask of politics.

  6. Lot of interesting thoughts here. As someone who has fervently tried to get a job for the better part of a year, I find myself starting to frown and growl a bit when I read such senseless statements from random people looking to bicker online.

    It’s not just the folks who didn’t get a chance to go to college who are having trouble, though. The biggest slap in the face that I’ve received was when I was told that I was “over-qualified.” Whatever that really means (I would think it would mean I am the most qualified?…). I’ve done nothing but seek to better myself, and now I’m being told that that makes me undesirable? Please. It’s my impression that employers up here are intimidated by my degrees, and don’t want anything to do with me. Just one of many forms of discrimination I’ve come across, sadly.

    • Hi Emma: I’ve heard of other people running into this same problem…”overqualified.” Humphhh!! I’m friends with someone who worked in an office as part of a hiring committee. The overall feeling about this sort of situation was, “If they are too qualified, they are using this job as a stop-gap or stepping stone just until something better comes along. We will waste our time and money training this person.” So maybe that explains your experiences? Many, many people are struggling to find work, as you say not just people without college education. Which is why I found the entire “conversation” troubling. If we don’t support one another, we are part of the problem. Thanks for stopping in…and keep on blogging!

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