Monday, May 29, 2017
Week of 05/29/2017
Ben Carson And The Poverty Fallacy
There is not a week that does not go by without someone from the Cult of Donald Trump doing something stupid. If there was a counter for the number of days that those in the Cult of Trump do not do something stupid or say something stupid, it would remain either in the low single digits or stay at zero. For those of you in the Cult of Trump, just a little hint: that is not a good thing.
And while this past week’s moments of stupid were clearly off-the-charts, there was one that was rather innocuous in comparison that, I think, has as much potential to cause damage to our nation as, say, physically assaulting a reporter.
Dr. Ben Carson is reportedly a good neurosurgeon. However that does not translate into being good at other things. He certainly could not translate that into a successful run for the White House in 2016. Hell, he had a hard time staying awake, and so did his supporters. But loyalty is rewarded, and Carson’s loyalties to now-President Donald Trump translated into him being appointed Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. In other words, he’s in charge of helping poor people.
You would think that this would be a good fit, since Dr. Carson supposedly came up from poverty to make a name for himself. He supposedly knows how to get out of that kind of situation, right?
Except our new HUD secretary thinks that his department – and, by extension, the federal government in general - should only “help” those who help themselves.
In a radio interview last week (as of this column’s posting date), Dr. Carson said that poverty is “a state of mind”. He says that there are some people that can have nothing and become successful, and those that could have everything and still end up with nothing.
In other words, he believes that success, wealth, being able to support and sustain ourselves and our families is all in our heads. We are poor because we supposedly “choose” to be poor.
His words bolster those from Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney, who plans on gutting social programs like a marlin over the next ten years, including viciously slashing money for food stamps and disability insurance.
"If you're on food stamps,” career politician Mulvaney said, “and you're able-bodied, we need you to go to work. If you're on disability insurance and you're not supposed to be — if you're not truly disabled, we need you to go back to work.”
In other words, all you poor people are just lazy according to pampered career politician Mulvaney. And Dr. Carson says that it’s all in your heads! You just have to try harder! You know, like how Texas got out of their drought by “praying harder”.
Now I know that bit of news has some of you pissed off at both of these gentlemen. It’s sort of expected that pampered career politician Mulvaney would say something like that. He’s a stereotypical white male GOP politician from the South who knows just what to say to pander to his conservative and neo-conservative base. But Dr. Carson? He must have snoozed through his past just like he snoozed through his failed presidential bid.
And yet what pampered career politician Mulvaney and Dr. Carson espouse about poverty is really nothing new or shocking. This has been the standard mindset of both the GOP and of conservatives in general at least since the days of Ronald Reagan. They truly believe that poor people are just lazy and they “choose” to be poor.
This delusion of poverty being a “state of mind” is rooted in a few fallacies regarding the poor. The first is the delusion that work brings wealth. It’s based on a certain mindset from our old religious extremists, the Puritans.
You remember the Puritans, right? The ones that couldn’t take care of themselves when they arrived in America and needed help... you know, welfare... from those “savage” Native Americans, and thus they created the first Thanksgiving celebration to remember that. The sadomasochists that actually outlawed Christmas because it was “too secular” and tortured and killed people based on rumors from teenaged girls and killed cats simply because. Yeah, those Puritans.
The Puritans believed that work in and of itself was a virtue. “Idle hands are the Devil’s playground,” according to the old saying. Thus brings the fallacy that hard work would be “rewarded”, and while the original intent was for a reward in the “spiritual sense”, it’s not too much of a stretch for certain people (i.e. rich people) to translate that into physical “rewards”. This led to the shortened idea that “work equals wealth”. If you supposedly “worked hard”, you would be successful and wealthy.
There have been several books over the years that embrace this very fallacy. “Rich Dad Poor Dad” quickly comes to mind. They spread the message that “rich” people are so because they supposedly do “rich” things. They don’t “think like poor people”. They supposedly “make sacrifices” and don’t “waste money”. They “work hard” and supposedly don’t take vacations or sick days and they don’t “clock out and go home” like other people.
All of these, I can tell you from personal experience, are a lie.
There are untold millions of Americans over the years that have worked long hours doing grueling tasks. A lot of people work two or even three or four jobs per week just trying to make ends meet. Remember the “Uniquely American” divorced mother from 2005 that was working three jobs and President George W. Bush joked if she got any sleep? If “work equals wealth”, as the fallacy goes, then there should be an extremely large number of wealthy people in America. In fact, that supposed “Uniquely American” divorced mother shouldn’t even have to work more than just that one job if she put everything she had into it, if the fallacy were true.
But it is *not* true. It is, by its very nature, a lie, a delusion, a falsehood designed to wrongly convince the masses that someone’s success came from something other than a combination of nepotism, social connections, opportunity, and a lot of blind stinking doo-dah luck. Oh, and maybe a little bit of fraud here and there. Just ask Bernie Madoff if you don’t know what I mean.
That’s not to say there isn’t a mindset at play regarding wealth and poverty. Only it’s not coming from the poor and huddled masses. Rather, it’s coming from the “top” of the economic pyramid down. It’s the mindset of obligation and consumption.
It’s the message that people “have” to get an education, and they “have” to get married, and they “have” to make babies, and they “have” to work so they can buy that new car and get that new house that they “have” to have. They “have” to buy that new wardrobe, and they “have” to buy that new bedroom set, and they “have” to buy that new HDTV with the 4K display and the curved screen, and they “have” to buy that new iPhone and that new 5G cellphone service and that new gigabit Internet service. And they “have” to go on vacations too. They “have” to go on that cruise on ships owned by other nations, and fly on those abusive airlines that treat you worse than cattle.
They “have” to do these things in order to keep the economy going. Because that’s on our heads too, don’t you know?
And if they can’t afford to do these things, don’t worry; there are plenty of institutions that will be more than happy to “help” people get these things that they “have” to get. And by “help” they really mean put you in debt so you’ll have to work even harder and work even more hours at the expense of sanity and sleep and any sense of self.
And who are telling you these things? Who is saying that we “have” to do all these things? Why it is the very wealthy and the very powerful in society. The ones already on top. The ones that profit from all of this consumption and obligation. And if they aren’t saying it directly, then they’re saying it through advertising messages in the mass media and through proxies in government. Go ahead, take the week off. Where will you be going on your time off? You should be going somewhere! We have a few suggestions for you. How’s that car of yours? When will you get a new one?
Let’s not forget the “trickle-down” mindset. As in you give the wealthy and powerful everything they want so they can be even more wealthy and more powerful and maybe they’ll trickle some of that success down to the little people. Maybe. At some point in the future. Just not right now. And don’t quote us on it or ask for a timeline when these things will happen. These things are tricky. Who knew these things could be so tricky?
Let’s get brutally honest here… when you have Wal-Mart managers instructing their hard-working employees on how to apply for food stamps just so their shareholders will enjoy bigger profit margins, and McDonald’s executives churning up fairy-tale “instructions” on how you can supposedly budget in pet grooming on minimum wage, it’s pretty damn clear that the “poverty mindset” is not coming from the poor and struggling masses. It’s coming from the friends of Doctor Ben Carson and pampered career politician Mick Mulvaney.
If these gentlemen, and I use the term in the generic sense, were truly and genuinely concerned about the number of people on social and economic assistance and are still struggling to make ends meet, then they have no business chastising and preaching lies and falsehoods to those same struggling people. They would, instead, be turning their attention to the big corporations and to the big financial institutions, the ones that created the economic problems in the first place, and tell them to clean up their act. To stop putting profits ahead of their own employees, never mind ahead of people in general. To actually pay their own employees a wage that would keep them off of economic assistance. To build houses and homes for people of all incomes, not just the one-percenters and the people they can scam into risky mortgages.
Then again, that’s not what got them to where they are today, is it? No, they don’t bite the hand that feeds them and puts them in positions of power and authority. They don’t lecture *to* Corporate America… they lecture *on behalf of* them.
This is the truth of the Cult of President Trump. More than just a gang of thuggish self-important people throwing their weight around and calling it “winning”, it’s an old elitist mindset that says: “We deserve to be where we are and it’s really your own fault that we made you where you are and you just have to work harder at staying there and not complain about it.”
Because if you’re spending every waking day and every waking moment of your life working just to make ends meet and to keep other people happy, then you really don’t have the time to complain about it, do you?