One of the underlying threads of conservative thought is that the rich are inherently hard working and “earn” their good fortune, and the poor almost always are poor due to some sort of moral lacking. It’s the Horatio Alger, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality run a muck — the idea that with enough effort and a pure heart, every person will eventually be successful, and if you are not, it must be a sign of weakness of character.
This is the assumption that makes the right believe that most people on welfare, on unemployment, using food stamps or other government aid must be lazy, or lacking in courage, determination or pride. No one “needs” government assistance because they should be able to care for themselves, and a “handout” just makes them try even less.
It’s usually not discussed publicly in so many words, even though that’s what many believe. But David French of the National Review Online doesn’t have any qualms about coming right out and voicing it himself.
It is simply a fact that our social problems are increasingly connected to the depravity of the poor. If an American works hard, completes their education, gets married, and stays married, then they will rarely — very rarely — be poor. At the same time, poverty is the handmaiden of illegitimacy, divorce, ignorance, and addiction. As we have poured money into welfare, we’ve done nothing to address the behaviors that lead to poverty while doing all we can to make that poverty more comfortable and sustainable.
So there are almost no “educated poor”? Rarely any “married poor”? And if the poor always fall into one of these categories of “depravity” that need to be addressed, why are conservatives so anxious to cut the means of addressing them, such as public education, access to affordable colleges, an ability to obtain birth control so that marriage can be saved for those who really are committed to being lifelong partners and not just people who happened to accidentally get pregnant?
Does “depravity” lead to poverty, or is it more often lack of livable wage jobs? Instead of fighting to cut off the programs that allegedly sustain poverty and make it comfortable, how about focusing on increasing minimum wage and employee rights in the workplace?
The only depravity I’ve been seeing lately hasn’t been coming from the poor. It’s the callousness of man to his fellow man.
Photo credit: Matthew Woitunski via wikimedia
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