As Heather wrote earlier this week, John Stossel did an hour-long special on poverty to prove that our social safety nets are just encouraging slackers. In Stossel-like fashion, he went to a food line and surveyed people waiting for food assistance to see if they owned refrigerators, cell phones and TVs.
Evidently in Stossel-land, you're not truly poor unless you're eating off the sidewalk with no roof over your head, no telephone, no refrigerator, and especially no car, which is an exceptionally cynical view to take. Without a car and without a phone, there will be no jobs. Without a refrigerator, there can be no food. Televisions are cheap.
Poverty should not be defined by electronic device ownership, but Stossel intimates that somehow it's bad and wrong for someone who is standing in line at a food bank to own a cell phone or a car. Anyone with half a brain watching this special has to conclude that what Stossel is really doing is simply trying to reinforce the right wing trope that people of color are lazy moochers who will suck whatever resources they can from the government. To anyone actually familiar with the challenges of poverty, Stossel's report strikes all the wrong notes about what does and does not define poverty.
Which is, apparently, what John Stossel intended. During his appearance with Billo Tuesday night, Stossel admitted the whole report was just a TV stunt.
O'REILLY: What did you learn about poverty that surprised you in this whole big thing?
STOSSEL: Nothing. It's just a TV stunt. I'd done the research.
So, folks living in poverty, how do you feel about John Stossel using a bunch of one-line interviews for a "TV stunt?" How do you feel about being shamed for having tools that are essential to communicate, to try and lift yourselves out of poverty?
Here's what annoys me most about this whole "report" of John Stossel's. It focuses on material items as a measure of poverty. Lives can't be measured on the basis of what people have. Why not ask those people how many family members they've lost to street crime? Ask them what opportunities they believe exist for better jobs. Ask them about why their neighborhood schools lack the same educational quality and opportunity as the schools on the other side of town. Those factors are far larger measures of poverty than whether someone has a DVD player or a cell phone.
But then, as Stossel admits, it's all a gimmick to push the idea that we could all prosper if we'd just let the oligarchs have most of the wealth in this country. A contemptible but wholly predictable premise for Fox News to pimp.
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