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Hard Right

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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.