Posted by Bob Lord
Just a few posts down the page, our own BlueMeanie has a post, The Poverty Blame Game, on the demonization of the poor by compassionless conservatives, or "red meanies" if you will. Where else but Blog For Arizona can you get the BlueMeanie taking on the red meanies? Seriously, it's important to understand what really drives the red meanies' lack of compassion.
BlueMeanie notes the viciousness with which the red meanies attack the poor for the sloth and their gaming of our safety net system. His quote from Crooks and Liars sums it up well:
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Every since FDR implemented the New Deal, this is the kind of demonization we have seen coming from conservatives and it's as sickening as it has always has been.
But why is this demonization so persistent? Why has it returned with such a vengeance just a few years after conservative policies resulted in a financial meltdown that destroyed millions of jobs, including jobs held by some of those same poor people that are the target of the red meanies' ire? For my take on what this demonization is all about, follow me after the jump.
For starters, let's separate the red meanies into two groups, which I'll call red meanie speakers and red meanie warriors. Red meanie speakers are the Bill O'Reillys, Sean Hannitys, and Steve Kings of the conservative / tea party movement. Red meanie warriors are the gun-toting "patriots," who show up at rallies with teabags dangling from their hats. The red meanie warriors are the true believers. They're either angry about their lot in life and need someone to blame or racked with fear that their comfortable existence could be ruined by government largesse.
Red meanie speakers, by contrast, are not the least bit angry, although they may feign anger when it serves their purposes. Red meanie speakers act as representatives of the moneyed elite. Their objectives in demonizing the poor and, more importantly, motivating the red meanie warriors to do so, are purely economic.
Are the red meanie warriors and their moneyed patrons as lacking in compassion as they appear to be? Probably not. The direct cost of lifting all Americans out of poverty would be relatively modest. Are the red meanie speakers really obsessed with the fraction of safety net beneficiaries who are gaming the system? That's doubtful as well. They know that the losses attributable to such gaming are miniscule. They also understand the futility of trying to divine the motivation of each safety net beneficiary and evaluating whether he or she really is disabled or, if not disabled, making every conceivable effort to find work.
The reality is that America has reached a level of wealth and income that it can afford comfortably to lift all its citizens out of poverty. But red meanie speakers don't want this to happen, and demonizing poor people as lazy, shiftless takers is the way to prevent it.
Why? Consider what would happen if we expanded the safety net to ensure that no American lived in poverty. Americans still would be hard working, because very few would be content to live a nickel above the poverty line. But workers would have something they've lost over the years: bargaining power. They could negotiate for better pay and working conditions, without the threat of starvation if they lost their jobs. The indirect effect of eliminating poverty in America would be to drive wages up across the board.
As wages rose, the gap between rich and poor would shrink dramatically. The movement of income from labor to capital over the last several decades would be reversed. The poor and the middle class would do far better. The rich would still be rich, but not obscenely rich.
And going from obscenely rich to merely rich is something the red meanie speakers and the elite for whom they speak just won't accept. So they demonize poor people to prevent it from happening.