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6 Ways the Rich Are Waging a Class War Against the American People

Denying the very existence of an entire class of citizens? That's waging some very real warfare against them.

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Perhaps my favorite example of the genre is the claim, accurate but divorced from context, that our poor have it good because they don't necessarily live in shoe-boxes. As the Wall Street Journal was happy to point out, “The average living space for poor American households is 1,200 square feet. In Europe, the average space for all households, not just the poor, is 1,000 square feet.” Case closed! American-style capitalism for the win!

Well, not really. This is a simple matter of population density: in the EU-15, there are 120 people per square kilometer; in the United States, we only have 29 people per kilometer. And that average obviously includes people living in sparsely populated rural expanses. I live in a tightly packed U.S. city, and given that most middle-class people here can’t even dream of affording 1,200 square feet, I don’t think our poor folks can either.

4. Food-Stamps: 'A Fossil That Repeats All the Errors of the War on Poverty'

Sometimes what passes for an “argument” is just stating a simple reality in an ominous tone. Consider this string of English words, offered by the Heritage Foundation's Robert Rector:

"Some people like to camouflage this by calling it a nutrition program, but it's really not different from cash welfare," said Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, whose views have a following among conservatives on Capitol Hill. "Food stamps is quasi money."

There are strict limits on what can be purchased with food stamps, which isn't true of money, but, yes, they do contribute to a household's financial health in the same way that cash does. That doesn't negate the fact that it is, indeed, a nutrition program. But Rector wasn't done – it gets better:

Arguing that aid discourages work and marriage, Mr. Rector said food stamps should contain work requirements as strict as those placed on cash assistance. "The food stamp program is a fossil that repeats all the errors of the war on poverty," he said.

Perhaps this works in the same magical way that gay marriage “discourages marriage” – I don't know. But what is clear is that, in the words of one anti-hunger activist, "Without food stamps, we'd have starvation." According to the USDA, “14.5 percent of households were food insecure at least some time during” the past year, and “5.4 percent of households experienced food insecurity in the more severe range, described as very low food security.” It's also the case that about a third of those who are eligible to receive nutritional assistance don't, in part because of the stigma that people like Robert Rector has worked so hard to encourage.

These are real people experiencing very real problems making ends meet, yet Rector and his ilk would make it more difficult to get assistance because they've embraced the fact-free idea that the poor are plagued with a “culture of dependency.” That's some serious class warfare.

5. 'The Main Causes of Child Poverty Are Low Levels of Parental Work and the Absence of Fathers.'

On Wednesday, the New York Yankees clinched the American League East title. On Thursday, it rained in New York. There is a correlation here, but only a fool would suggest that the Yanks' victory caused it to rain the following day.

Yet, the Heritage Foundation (it happens to be Robert Rector again) sees a lot of poor, single-parent households, and would have you believe that “the main causes of child poverty are low levels of parental work and the absence of fathers.”

This gets the causal relationship wrong. The number of single-parent households exploded between the 1970s and the 1990s – more than doubling -- yet the poverty rate remained relatively constant. In fact, before the crash of 2008, the poverty rate was lower than it had been in the 1970s. So, as the rate of single-parent households skyrocketed, poverty declined a little bit. Saying single-parent homes create poverty is therefore like claiming that the Yankees victory caused the sun to shine the next day.

 
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