The Right’s attack on America’s poor
“What you do to the least among us you do to me.”
“You shall set aside a tenth of your produce for the alien, the orphan and the widow and the poor.”
“Cursed be the one who subverts the rights of the poor, the stranger, the orphan, and the widow.”
By JONATHAN WOLFMAN
Every fiber of our common ethical tradition assumes that the poor do have inalienable economic rights, . that intergenerational poverty is an absolute evil and that law must prevent it.
And yet –
As is well documented, ours was a political and not an economic revolt; class relationships were not altered in 1776 nor in 1989. As extraordinary as our Constitution and its Bill of Rights are, they did not then and rarely now speak to class division nor to systemic exploitation of the poor except in their deafening indifference to them.
So while in my best/worst moments I imagine myself able to throw out states and their vicious leaders who ruthlessly violate the proper ethical commitments we all must have to one another, I know that the invidious behavior toward the poor that we have seen over the past several years is not only not new, but is endemic enough to American history that I cherish those moments and eras when we rise above.
And we must find a way to rise above now.
At this moment numbers of governors are poised to reject enormous amounts of federal Medicaid money for their poorest because they opposed the Affordable Care Act; their nullification is as irrational as it is venal. In the first three years the federal government will carry 100% of the costs and, in out-years, 80%.
Among the consequences are these:
. More than a million of Texas’ poorest children will remain uninsured, needlessly burdening their families and public emergency rooms. Many will die.
. Nearly 2,000,000 under- and unemployed additional Texans will remain without care, compromising lives and the economy.
. In my home-state, Pennsylvania, the governor told the disabled poor they will soon lose their monthly $200 assistance.
. The Ohio governor, despite a budget surplus of $225 million, has slashed state-wide public school class-size project funds.
. Maine’s governor in addition, recently, to comparing the Affordable Care Act to the Holocaust, refused the federal money; over 21,000 of that state’s poorest will without question suffer.
. The governors of Florida, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Iowa and Louisiana have taken similar positions with almost certain similar results in the offing.
And Louisiana’s governor, Bobby Jindal, is said to be just now at the top of the Right’s sock puppet’s list for the vice-presidental nomination.
Would I like to give the boot to these men (and the woman in Carolina)? Sure. I cannot do that.
And I harbor no hope for a thoroughgoing sea-change in economic class-relations here; it was never in the offing.
I hold no hope that these governors and their ilk will ever understand let alone embrace the decency and, frankly, truth, in the ethical cultural injunctions that lead this piece. I do, at the same time, harbor hope that we will again, as a political culture, rediscover our decency and I believe the Right’s vicious overreach will hasten that day.
So, I write.
Jonathan Wolfman blogs at http://open.salon.com/blog/jlw1.
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