You can be mean and still sound rational

A recent article published here on Occasional Planet stated that the Republican debates last Thursday night were not as much of a clown car as expected. A friend of mine watched the Republican debates and had a similar take on how the Republicans sounded.

However, the realities of the world in which we live came home to roost for him the following day. Conversations with, and requests from, several people repeatedly burst the bubble of the mean-spirited economic policies that all of the GOP candidates share.

No sooner had his alarm clock gone off at 7:30, when a twenty-four year old friend of his called and reluctantly asked if he could have $350, because his children’s clothes had been destroyed in a fire at their mother’s house. And since he was going to take the boys, two and four years old, into his own new apartment, he needed money for a bunk bed and a microwave. This was hardly the first call my friend had received from the twenty-four year-old. The young man was now working one full-time job and another part-time, but since the paychecks were erratic, he had needed money for a monthly bus pass. A few days earlier, he needed help paying his cell phone bill; he had to stay in touch with his employers, his children and day-care, as he was juggling the responsibilities of essentially being a single parent. Prior to this, my friend had been helping the young man pay off fines from a myriad of North St. Louis County jurisdictions, where he had been found guilty of what we now call “poverty crimes.”

My friend couldn’t help but wonder how different things would have been for his friend if he was living in a European democracy or Canada. In these industrialized countries with a large measure metal_bunk_bedof socialism in their economic policies, there is an awareness that for all of us, there are times in our lives when “shit happens,” and an economic safety net is necessary in order to seamlessly help people through difficult times.

According to the “Republican Seventeen,” when rough times occur in the U.S., people should either declare bankruptcy or pull themselves up by their boot-straps. What these Republicans fail to recognize is that if you’re poor, you really can’t declare bankruptcy. And as for pulling yourself up by your boot-straps, well that only works if you have boot straps. The twenty-four year old friend of my friend is working his butt off, well over twelve hours a day, but still has not been able to catch up basic expenses, much less to begin saving.

Later that day, my friend received a call from another of his friends. She’s sixty-five years old and not in good health. Her Social Security can get her through two, perhaps, three weeks of the month. Now she was calling my friend because she had four  prescriptions waiting for her at Walgreen’s. She did not have money for the co-pays. My friend helped her out with those co-pays. This happened while the Republicans were urging cutbacks in Social Security.

This friend of mine has repeatedly helped others and rarely complains.

But I am outraged by how callous our society can be, with that meanness mainly fueled by Republicans. Because so many in our society see charity as an adequate substitute for social justice, those in need are repeatedly placed in positions where they have to go into “asking” mode. “Asking” can easily become begging. Republicans repeatedly fail to do the math; charity can provide only 3 to 5 percent of the costs of an adequate safety net.

In so many sectors of our society, the power elite seems to think that begging should be a normal part of the human experience. It can be those citizens among us who do not have the economic wherewithal to adequately support themselves; it can be college students who can only secure their education if they assume long-term burdening debts; and it can be our political leaders, who bombard us continuously with dire requests for money in support of their campaigns.

Yes, most of those Republicans sounded articulate. The media was quick to pick that up. What the mainstream press continuously refuses to do is to say that the basic tenet of the modern Republican Party is meanness. No matter how well they phrase their words, they are still mean.