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Op-ed: We need to show consideration for the poor

This news story was published on February 26, 2012.
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MCT FORUM, By Alvaro Huerta –

The poor get no respect in this country. As someone who experienced abject poverty in America’s barrios, I know a thing or two about being disrespected due to my family’s reliance on government aid for a temporary period.

When I was growing up, we received welfare, food stamps, Medicaid and public housing. Although my Mexican immigrant parents never committed any crimes, I felt a deep sense of shame, thanks to the slurs of many elected officials, public figures and media outlets.

Recently, Republicans have taken a leadership role in bashing the poor. GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney said that he doesn’t care too much for them. Newt Gingrich, another presidential aspirant, wants to do away with child labor laws, since inner-city kids “ought to learn how to go to work.” Gingrich also has referred to President Obama, on more than one occasion, as the “food stamp president.”

Democratic leaders have failed to respond sufficiently by defending food stamps and other important safety net programs for those in need — especially during the terrible economic times we’ve been in.

It’s no secret why the poor receive little attention from both Republicans and Democrats during election seasons. Poor people lack the financial resources to make political contributions to political candidates and, now, the all-powerful Super PACs.

Disrespecting the poor is not new in America. Prior to the Great Depression, many politicians and national leaders also treated the poor with disdain. In the early 1900s, the powerful and rich commonly used words like “lazy” and “freeloaders” to describe the poor, placing the full burden of their bleak plight solely on their shoulders. It wasn’t until the market crashed in 1929 and the middle class and some members of the upper class directly suffered when many Americans came to the harsh realization that structural factors affect individual behavior and outcomes.

If there’s a silver lining in this country’s economic calamities, it is that many Americans understand that financial markets periodically create uncertainty for the majority, while a privileged minority remains insulated.

Republican presidential candidates can rail all they want against food stamps, but for millions of Americans who, at no fault of their own, have had to rely on them to feed themselves and their families, the simple reality is this: The private sector left them stranded; only government assistance has kept them fed.

Making food stamps a campaign issue is a loser for Republicans. Too many Americans now recognize how vital the program is.

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13 Responses to Op-ed: We need to show consideration for the poor

  1. Larry Reply Report comment

    February 27, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    Katie-I agree with some of what you are saying but there are other reason’s other than being lazy or having a lack of ambition. One of which is a lack of intelligence that is not their fault. I happen to be one of those who do not have a high school education, although I have a G.E.D. and about 3 1/2 years of college that I went after to improve myself. I went from a machinist trainee to General Manager of a gas fireplace manufacturer and did it with hard work and listening to other people. I honestly don’t think those opportunity’s are there for people anymore. I have just seen to many who are down and out and will never recover in this world. They just don’t have the willpower.

  2. Larry Reply Report comment

    February 27, 2012 at 9:55 am

    Everyone says the poor can work cleaning streets and doing public jobs. The only problem with that is the unions raise hel that they are taking their jobs when ever it is tried. Most of the poor I know would love to have any kind of work if it was available. Our society is at fault and keeps them down. Most are uneducated and can’t get a job because the requirements for almost all jobs is at least a G.E.D. and in a lot of cases college. What are they to do?? They are stuck where they are with very little recourse. Then of course you have the individual who has made a mistake and now has a misdemeaner or feloney on his record. He has no chance of getting a job at over 90% of businesses. So as you see, society is it’s own worst enemy and has to pay the price. They would all much rather work. They are just people trying to get by.

    • Katie Reply Report comment

      February 27, 2012 at 11:36 am

      Larry, why are these poor people uneducated? Were they not offered a free high school education here in this country? Why didn’t they take advantage of that? They made poor choices when they were young and still do. There are programs that offer free education to adults, but they choose not to be bothered to pursue that. They still lack ambition. They would rather be the working uneducated poor without having to be educated or skilled at anything. We don’t have many of those jobs in this society any more. We are no longer an agrarian society where poor, uneducated people can bale hay or milk cows by hand for a living. We have become a technical society where people will never succeed unless they actually WORK at becoming educated and learn a useful skill. There are people who are mentally challenged who need our help, but the people who just dropped out need to go back to school, really learn reading, writing, and arithmetic, get that GED, and start movin’ on up. One of the biggest handouts in this country is a free high school education. People who don’t take full and complete advantage of it have NOTHING to bitch about.

      I know rich people who were born poor who don’t have high school diplomas. The difference is that they had a lot of ambition and educated themselves in the ways of business.

      What is the difference between these 2 scenarios? The size of the pity party?

    • Observer Reply Report comment

      February 27, 2012 at 1:48 pm

      Larry you said this so very well. I am constantly reminded that our Constitution instructed to “provide for the general welfare”. Before others launch, I know full well what both the Founders meant by it, and it’s legal interpretations, expecially the Hamiltonian view as demonstrated by SCOTUS in 1937, a far wider view.

      General welfare is not to be taken in literal terms, but in it’s instruction to Congress regarding taxation and spending.

  3. sijr Reply Report comment

    February 27, 2012 at 9:30 am

    We started life in the 1930s in Chicago, living in a dry docked houseboat. We had an outhouse for plumbing and an outside well. Dad worked for Sears for $25 a week.

    Unlike today, no TV, internet, telephone, etc., etc. He eventually saved enough to buy a used car, Ford coupe, so he didn’t have to walk five miles to work…and eventually was transfered to a middlewest town where it was only 8 blocks to work. He didn’t bring the car as it wasn’t that dependable.

    No one, including the government, offered help…which of course they did not seek. We lived a good life. Didn’t have what a lot of the kids of our day had…but Dad taught us early in life his philosophy of when he saw someone with something that he might like to have, i.e. a Cadillac, he’d say, “I wish I had that car and he had a better one!” And, with the caution, that the wish would only come true through hard work.

    Work cures poverty. Living within your means cures the rest. There is a place for aid to the impoverished…but they better be unable to work, etc. because of illness, etc. rather than being fat, lazy and so on.

  4. sis Reply Report comment

    February 27, 2012 at 8:51 am

    I quit reading after the first few lines; here is the difference, sir, between you and me: My family was very poor in the 50s and 60s. Our house was so cold and the wind would blow the carpet up from the floor. My father went to work everyday to put food on the table. We lived in a tennant house on a farm, no running water and an outhouse. I was tickled to get hand me downs from relatives, until the other kids made fun of me. But you know what? The government didn’t give us handouts, and we were pulled out of poverty by my parents hard work. Getting something for nothing never ended my father’s mind, a WW2 vet that had it just as hard as everyone else. We did not expect government to take care of us, and the entitlement society we have today will someday be to expensive to maintain, someday very soon.

  5. Observer Reply Report comment

    February 27, 2012 at 1:17 am

    “…it is more than
    usually desirable that we should make some slight
    provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer
    greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in
    want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands
    are in want of common comforts, sir.”


    “Are there no prisons?

    And the Union workhouses? They are still in operation?

    The Treadmill and Poor Law are in full vigor are they not?”

    “Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first,
    that something had occurred to stop them in their
    useful course, I’m very glad to
    hear it.”

    “Since you
    ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer.
    I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t
    afford to make idle people merry. I help to support
    the establishments I have mentioned–they cost
    enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”

    “Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”

    “If they would rather die they had
    better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”


    Indeed read on: “Man,” said the Ghost, “if man you be in heart, not
    adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered
    What the surplus is, and Where it is. Will you decide what
    men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the
    sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live
    than millions like this poor man’s child. Oh God! to hear
    the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life
    among his hungry brothers in the dust!”


    So, is that what you wish? Is that your lot in life? Damn the leaching poor? Look inside your soul before you say who is not deserving.

  6. Ollie Reply Report comment

    February 26, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    Poor people leach off society. Cut the aid to them and the will have to go to work.

    • Observer Reply Report comment

      February 27, 2012 at 12:55 am

      I beg your pardon. That kind of glittering generality is inappropriate and baseless.

    • msgordy Reply Report comment

      February 27, 2012 at 5:55 pm

      I agree. I worked for everything I have always did always will. Don’t even give me the line about no jobs available. I always found one. Get off your ass and find SOMETHING… The poor are NOT starving.. Just look at some of the huge welfare pigs out there….I have no problem with foodstamps. But they should be getting Beans-rice-cheese-meat-veggies-fruits.. They shouldn’t be able to get junk food. Get fat-get sick-go to doctor-we pay more…

  7. Bobby.G Reply Report comment

    February 26, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    Maybe you should consider moving to California. There looking for Mexicans. And even give you free college. In the mean time enjoy those $40.000 thousand dollar vehicles you drive around.

  8. Jim Reply Report comment

    February 26, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    the people on welfare could work cleaning our parks and city streets for their gifts.

    • Mark H. Reply Report comment

      February 26, 2012 at 9:37 pm

      Agreed, they could be given jobs doing menial tasks to make some dollars.