“The Moocher Class” revealed

So I was catching up on The Daily Show last night and this segment came on. First of all, I would like to say that I admire the way The Daily Show is able to point out that what in the mainstream news is supposed to be seen as intelligent, serious debate is actually ludicrous and laughable.* I also am fully aware that it is not an official news source, but these days, what is? I appreciate that the show brings some really serious flaws with our current political structure, and the thinking of those who find themselves broadcasting about that political structure, to light. With that being said, here is my response to the information that is presented in the video:

It pains me to think that I live in a country where people believe that the poor are the “moocher class.” While I am not disputing whether or not there are people that abuse the system (I am sure that there are) it is unjust and egregious to assume that every person that is poor is so because he/she doesn’t want to work and is content being an economic parasite. Those who assume such things act as if they’ve never paid attention to the news**, the economic status of the country in which they reside, or have ever come in contact with anyone who has made less than $100,000 a year.

In what ways are these people who are supposed to be broadcasting the news exhibiting that they really know nothing about current events? Well it is no secret that unemployment has been high, and underemployment even higher. And I’m sure even a simpleton knows that many blue-collar jobs have been sent overseas which has led to greater profit for those who are running the company and the demise of many of those who were seen merely as “dispensable” employees. Jobs that were once seen as secure no longer are and that has created a growing poor class in America along with the greater need for government assistance (a necessary evil in many cases.) Somehow, these political pundits and politicians seem blissfully unaware that in fact these numbers are affecting actual humans and have hit the poor FIRST. What do they need to worry about though, really? They are just phantom numbers, rendered arbitrary in their lives. I mean they still have jobs… for now.

The video made me think of another, more serious video (film, technically) I saw recently called, A Place at the Table and how I wished those saying that the poor are nothing but a moocher class would sit down and watch what is happening to their own country. Here is the trailer for that, but know that it does not do justice to the heart-break that one receives when watching the full film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArI_ZHc-n5A.***

If you ask anyone in this second film if they take pleasure from getting government assistance, from feeding their children food that is in many cases handicapping them both temporarily and permanently due to lack of sufficient nutrition, I guarantee that they would say “absolutely not.” But as one woman in the film who is working a low-paying job along with going to school says: “you can’t tell your kids that they’ll eat in two years.” The government assistance which -ahem- ISN’T MUCH and means that they can primarily afford food-like substances such as soda, is what is keeping them alive. I believe that is what sickens me most about the juxtaposition of these two videos -the parts about the soda. In The Daily Show video, one person claims that if we tax soda, it is only hurting the poor. Yes, because all poor need soda to survive (insert eye roll here)… well let me amend that: calorically, yes, in a way they do, nutritionally, no, it is killing them. It is one of the few foods that they can afford, true, but why? More importantly, who would the tax on soft drinks actually be hurting? The poor or the producers of the soft drinks?

“Mooching for life” takes on a whole new meaning here… many of the poor in America are forced to humiliate themselves by essentially begging for food and then receiving food that is basically poison. With that, at least the politicians can rest assured that the “mooching for life” that the poor are doing won’t be for too long because they will die sooner than those who do not need to subsist on nutritionally inert foods paid for by government hand-outs.****

I shall finish this post where The Daily Show video begins: with the quote from the man lamenting that there are “people who are perfectly content to live at the expense of others.” Honestly I couldn’t agree more with this statement. It is abhorrent that we have a group of people in this country who are willing to compromise others’ health, security, and even lives for their own fortunes. Maybe the poor wouldn’t mooch if the greedy class didn’t take so much from them to begin with.

*Well, perhaps tears of a clown describes it better.

**which they are somehow in charge of broadcasting

***It is important to note that this film does not tell the whole welfare story in this country and shows only those with heart-wrenching stories for a reason. It is just as biased as those who claim that the poor is a moocher class (or just as biased as I am, for that matter), but together it is easier to get a glimpse at what is actually going on.

****What are subsidies but glorified government hand-outs anyway?

Hint of What’s to Come: A Look at Poverty and Economic Inequality

Map of the UN’s human development index report. The darker the blue, the more developed the country. Image found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:2011_UN_Human_Development_Report_Quartiles.svg

I am currently working on a large project (a prezi, to be exact) on poverty and economic inequality. (Yes, this is what I do for fun.) I will be posting it when I have finished it, but until then, I will give a teaser (or two).

When researching poverty facts I came across this quote that I found to be quite poignant and combines a lot of different ideas that I am learning in my post-grad study of economics, work, human development, etc.

“Human development is about much more than the rise or fall of national incomes. It is about creating an environment in which people can develop their full potential and lead productive, creative lives in accord with their needs and interests. People are the real wealth of nations. Development is thus about expanding the choices people have to lead lives that they value. And it is thus about much more than economic growth, which is only a means—if a very important one—of enlarging people’s choices.” —Human Development Reports, United Nations Development Program (found here: http://www.globalissues.org/article/4/poverty-around-the-world)

By this definition it can be argued that even some countries traditionally seen as developed are actually under-developed. Take the US for example. Has the country really done what the second sentence of the quote says? With underemployment near 20% and people holding on to their jobs regardless of whether is matches their skill-set, interests, and needs, the answer is no. People in the US are not reaching their full potential in the working world.

Meanwhile, economic disparity is at an all-time high and the richest 1% of the population is still getting richer. This is contrary to means of development, however, and economic inequality that high is actually something that is found in many developing countries. In fact, according to an NPR article, the US’s economic inequality rivals that of the Sub-Saharan African countries of Cameroon and the Ivory Coast. These countries according to the 2011 UN Human Development index rank 150th and 170th respectively on the development scale. This raises an important set of questions: is it possible for a country to move backward on this scale and is that the future for the US? With all the talk of “racing to the bottom” that is creeping up in economic conversations, it is getting harder to answer those questions with a “no.”

International Human Development Indicators – UNDP.