Monday, June 23, 2014

Self-selecting thinking

A person I know recently suggested that providing food for the poor was akin to feeding animals in federal parks and leads to a cycle of dependency where the "animals" do not learn to take care of themselves.

I submit the following in reply:

First and foremost, not providing food to the starving is inhumane and unchristian. Shall we therefore terminate all such programs worldwide lest we create... entire nations of dependent "animals." I wonder how many of our fellow men, women and children will perish while we, their betters, teach these "animals" to fend for themselves?

Second and more importantly, animals have a bit lower set of interests than most humans, food being primary, procreation being another. Humans, with our wonderful opposable thumbs, learned to think a bit more deeply. Most humans desire just a wee bit more than a free meal. In truth, the vast majority of those who are poor are out of poverty within 2 years, they are not "dependent" on society. Only 12% aren't out of poverty within 5 years. This idea, that of an underclass dependent upon society and "happy" to be that way, infantilizes those who are in fact long term poor. Many of those long-term poor are mentally challenged or physically handicapped or are retired. To suggest that they prefer this state is to suggest they have no aspirations, and instead prefer to live like animals, or prefer to be handicapped or mentally ill or old. Is that what this lessen is trying to say? If so, it's an ignorant lesson and the writer should go interview a few hundred of the long-term poor to see how THEY look at life rather than comparing them to animals. Submitted with all due respect to my acquaintance, but very little to Paul Ryan or those who want to suggest "negros" prefer to be dependent (like Cliven Bundy).
To expound on this in a bit more deep way. Animals in parks are able to fend for themselves. Most of the poor work, but they face a society which offers terrible opportunities for recent émigrés, those recently graduated, and older workers.  Consequently,  those poor have little chance of securing good jobs. We've moved our society toward paying the wealthiest the most possible, while refusing to pay those who aren't owners of a major industry anything more at all despite having increased productivity by 50% over the last 30 years. The argument from my acquaintance is a false equivalency argument which unfortunately dove-tails with the racist arguments of the likes of Mr. Bundy. Most of us are happy to work and to advance our lives IF the compensation is fair and the prospects are valid. 

Perhaps those who so vehemently decry the "takers" should fight just as hard for a fairer split of profits and see how much that helps rather than advocating for condescending "tough love" and watching people suffer. It's also funny that there is little complaint from these same folks about how much corporations are drinking from the federal spigot, including companies which create transference of wealth from the wider public to private entities (like the LA Clippers).  They don't much complain when we build them sports complexes or offer tax free zones, price subsidies, or needlessly buy military hardware (like the F35) which is no longer relevant in today's low-intensity clandestine technological battlefield. One wonders at the deafening silence. 

Last and funniest if it weren't so sad, is that they are likewise CONVINCED that the root of their own problems, in fact they lay the "over-taxation: they suffer to pay for the poor, the mentally ill, and the like.  They blame the poor and the powerless and the safety-nets we've erected to help them, as being the reason these Christians aren't as rich as they'd like to be.  It is an irony of the first order, not the cheap and shallow one to which my acquaintance referred, but instead a real one, a tragic one, a shameful one.

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