Marie Antoinette may or may not have said “Let them eat cake,” but this is definitely the dismissive attitude towards the poor evidenced by Rep. Paul Ryan in his budget and its surrounding rhetoric, which is supported by all the Republican Presidential candidates.
His budget proposal cuts $1.9 trillion from programs like food stamps, welfare, federal employees pensions and support for farmers. It cuts another $770 billion from Medicaid healthcare for the poor. Plus swinging cuts of $205 billion from Medicare for older people.
His budget is full of tax cuts and programs to make the rich richer. How much does he think the aristocracy needs? Marie Antoinette Ryan gives his buddies a whopping $4.3 TRILLION in tax cuts. Why? Writes Dana Milbank in a column for The Washington Post:
Ryan’s justification was straight out of Dickens. He wants to improve the moral fiber of the poor. There is, he told the audience at the conservative American Enterprise Institute later Tuesday, an “insidious moral tipping point, and I think the president is accelerating this.” Too many Americans, he said, are receiving more from the government than they pay in taxes.
After recalling his family’s immigration from Ireland generations ago, and his belief in the virtue of people who “pull themselves up by the bootstraps,” Ryan warned that a generous safety net “lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency, which drains them of their very will and incentive to make the most of their lives. It’s demeaning.”
How very kind: To protect poor Americans from being demeaned, Ryan is cutting their anti-poverty programs and using the proceeds to give the wealthiest Americans a six-figure tax cut.
Ryan is a Catholic, and one of his constituents, Thomas Kelly, a priest, has blasted Ryan and his plan on religious grounds, as an “immoral disaster.”
“Ryan is Catholic, and he knows that justice for the poor and economic fairness are core elements of our church’s social teaching. It’s shameful that he disregarded these principles in his budget,” said Kelly.
But Ryan is also an admirer of Ayn Rand, atheist philosopher and “patron saint of selfishness,” according to the American Values Network. They say:
In an attempt to hold together the disparate constituencies of social conservative Christians and libertarian Tea Partiers, Paul Ryan and other Republican leaders have attempted to create an unholy trinity of Ayn Rand, Jesus Christ, and the GOP. But, as the classic children’s song goes, “One of these things is not like the other. One of these things does not belong.” Nothing about the philosophy of Ayn Rand and the teaching of Jesus Christ is like the other. So the GOP must decide – who doesn’t belong? They can’t have both.
There are plenty of other Republican figures, no doubt mostly ‘Christians,’ who simply deny that poverty actually exists in America.
Last month the BBC ran a 30 minute investigation of the reality of poverty in America (watch it below).
They spoke with a poor kid in Las Vegas forced to eat rat and school workers noticing other kids living off ketchup soup made from quietly stolen small packets.
Reporter Hilary Andersson interviewed a group of children at Whitney Elementary School who were all going to bed hungry and worrying about their families. The report pivots to the school after she speaks with a conservative lobbyist in Washington, Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, who tells her that poverty does not exist in America and there are no hungry children.
In Ann Arbor, Michigan, she found working people so low paid that they were living in tents in the woods. Local homeless shelters are so full that they refer people there, and they get referrals from local police and a hospital too.
In Kentucky, she attends a free medical event run by Remote Area Medical where poor people queue up overnight for some treatment. There she meets a man who may die of an infection and needs urgent surgery:
“But if I go to the emergency room, they’re going to send me a bill…”
His wife in tears: “I mean what are they gonna do to us if we can’t pay the bill, you know? They can’t come eat us. They can’t kill us and eat us. They can’t come take our home away because we owe a hospital bill…right?”
The man goes home after being told by the hospital billing department that saving his leg from gangrene would cost $20,000.
47 million Americans now live below the poverty line — the most in half a century — yet Romney is ‘not worried about them’ and Ryan says they have “lives of complacency and dependency.”
For shame. Watch the BBC report which proves that hunger does indeed stalk America (30 minutes):
Photo from marimoon via flickr