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If you missed this segment on 60 Minutes last night, I highly recommend it. It will remind you of John Steinbeck or Upton Sinclair's depiction of poverty and economic need, except this is really happening in this country right this minute.
Children living in cars with their parents after their parents have lost everything -- employment, their homes, their possessions -- everything. Rick Scott should be ashamed, since both of the families featured live in Florida. He should be ashamed not only because of the cuts and hacks to jobs and Florida's economy, but because at least one of these families was afraid to go and get help from the state government for fear of having their children taken away.
Poverty is not neglect; it is not a failure of the parents. There is no justification for breaking up families because they've fallen on hard times. But we live in a time where there is nothing for them. Nothing.
While conservatives paint these people as ne'er-do-wells who want to sponge off the government resources, the truth is something else again. I recently spoke to an acquaintance who has been unemployed for two years. He is in the construction business. When we spoke in October, he was putting his things in storage because he expected to be evicted after not being able to pay his rent. He couldn't pay his rent because his bank account had been garnished by the state for income taxes he didn't owe -- he didn't make enough to file a tax return (not realizing he was eligible for refunds if he had).
The bank had foreclosed on his house but didn't change the title on the loan, and the second trust deed holder was making payments to save their investment. They reported the interest paid on the loan to the state and the state assumed he had at least enough income to pay the house payments even though he had been foreclosed on in 2008. He filed his tax returns to correct the state issues, but not in time to get the lien lifted to pay his November rent. I haven't heard the end to this story, but it wouldn't surprise me a bit to hear that he's living in his car too.
These are people just like the neighbors down the street, or the people you run into at the grocery store. Yet here is what our conservative overlords want us to think of them.
Rand Paul: We shouldn't borrow from China for unemployment benefit extensions to pay people not to work.
Republican Presidential frontrunner Newt Gingrich: Deny single mothers any benefits at all. Make them work and if they can't find a job or can't work, well, too bad. Let them starve. From his white paper on how to dismantle the social safety net:
No automatic benefits would be handed out any longer for bearing a child out of wedlock. If the mother has a child without a husband, then the mother must go to work to support the child.
Each one of these statements reflects the attitude of conservatives toward those who are suffering in our society. It's fairly simple: If you are impoverished, you are at the mercy of those who control the pursestrings. Newt, for example, advocates repeal of the capital gains tax, Dodd-Frank, the Affordable Care Act, and privatizing Social Security and Medicare. Nothing says compassion like handing the whole cake to the Wall Streeters so they can gamble it away yet again, right?
This 60 Minutes report highlights the depth of systemic failure in this country. There is no excuse for a country with the wealth this one has to tolerate seeing families live out of their cars as their final option. There is no excuse for flying the middle finger in the face of people who have fallen on hard times. There is no excuse for anyone to fear losing their children because they cannot find a job and are having difficulty providing. These people are human beings, deserving of dignity and opportunity, which they will not find in the austere hallways of corporate and conservative overlords.
Here's a bonus link from PoliticusUSA: Collateral Damage: The GOP’s Obama Hate Pushes 100 Million Towards Poverty