There was a very interesting article in the New York Times yesterday that focussed on a particularly hard-hit county in Minnesota to discuss the socio-economic paradox in which the people who rely the most on the government for assistance during economically difficult times are also the most vocally opposed to that very same government assistance. Aye-aye-aye! (It also discusses the slow transition over the course of the past three decades of the federally funded safety net from helping the very poor to helping the middle class. It’s a really good article. You should read this article.) You can almost understand what these people are upset about. There is a lot of pride wrapped up in accepting “charity” of any kind, but especially Barack Obama’s charity, so to speak. Most of the people interviewed in the article were receiving some kind of assistance, which they resented, and all of them had some cloudy, poorly thought through ideas about how they and the government could spend their resources more wisely while at the same time admitting that they have no idea how they will manage if they’re forced to either pay more taxes and/or give up some of the benefits they’ve come to depend on. It’s a mess. Everyone in the article seems very concerned with the national deficit, which is funny because the national deficit is measured in sums of money that I’m pretty sure the human mind cannot even comprehend. It’s just such a gigantic and abstract thing that is completely dependent on the interconnected global economy. Our elected officials should be concerned with it, but some dude running a flailing t-shirt printing company that used to be a jewelry store probably doesn’t need to lose any sleep over it. That’s not how we fix it. (Speaking of not how we fix it, we don’t fix it by cutting out subsidized lunches for needy schoolchildren. We fix it by not constantly fighting three wars at the same time, some of which may or may not be legal or morally defensible.) But, so, read the article! It’s one of the more interesting portraits of contemporary America, as well as a smart and confounding analysis of the current state of the American psyche as it relates to our shared economic troubles. One imagines that a lot of the people interviewed would agree whole-heartedly with this new clip of Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich complaining about unemployment benefits for people who just “sit around” and “do nothing”:
You know, this kind of an argument would hold a lot more water if we weren’t currently in one of the worst economic crises in three generations with record high unemployment levels. The idea that people who are receiving unemployment benefits are simply riding around in their limos sipping champagne is so fucking ’80s. I’m not sure who it was that created this straw man concept of the poor person as economic vampire who was happily lying around in abject leisure while the rest of us humps had to slave over hot coals in order to pay for their free sneakers or whatever, but uh, that is such bullshit, and thank God there is finally this blog post to rid the world of that misconception. (Speaking of poor people, did you read THIS article about subsidized housing for homeless families? The point is: read the newspaper, guys.) Are there abuses in the system? I’m sure there are. But there are abuses in any system attempting to fulfill the needs of 300 MILLION PEOPLE. And telling everyone who is trying to find work in order to pay to feed their children that they should just go out and get an associate’s degree is some RILL condescending shit. (If Newt Gingrich had been on that plane, there would have been a lot more associates degrees in that first class cabin.) If you want to start getting into imagining all of the ways in which the world would be a better place if every single person simply lived an idealized life of perseverance and unlimited success, as if every baby who was almost aborted will turn into a millionaire like Nick Cannon, or as if every associate’s degree is even worth the incredible investment of time and money in an economic climate where there simply isn’t work for lots of people regardless of how many associates degrees they have the end, we can follow that dream thread until we end up in Saito’s Purgatory, but it still won’t change the fact that we should help people who need help and not be fucking assholes about it.
I’m not saying that my mind is completely made up, but I doubt that I will be voting for Newt Gingrich at this point. (Via ChristianNightmares.)