By Robert Mann
How did poverty, once an unfortunate economic circumstance, become a moral failing? Among conservative leaders — many who claim to be Christians — it’s often portrayed as a transgression against God and society.
The Bible may be full of admonitions to regard the poor as people who enjoy God’s favor and should spur our compassion, but the Christian cabal that runs today’s Republican Party regards wealth as the true test of godliness and virtue.
Being poor is a serious sin. Poverty is the new pedophilia!
Do these leaders really embrace this perverted theology — or is something else at work?
If you wonder why Republicans treat poverty as the root of all evil, just examine their policies: Pass massive tax cuts for the rich. Let corporations write our laws. Cut programs that help the poor.
That’s all they offer. And since most Republicans in Congress have many more middle-income constituents than millionaires, they need a distraction so rank-and-file voters won’t grow wise to how they’re being conned.
That’s why attacking the poor is so useful. If the GOP can pit the middle class against those in poverty, many middle-class voters won’t notice wealthy taxpayers and big corporations picking their pockets.
Among the latest practitioner of this cynical strategy is U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, who champions a massive tax cut for the rich as he promotes legislation to vilify poor families by imposing needless work requirements on those receiving help from the federal-state Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Two other Louisiana Republicans, Reps. Mike Johnson and Clay Higgins, are co-sponsors of his bill.
Graves bases his work requirements on the false assumption that most people who receive food stamps cheat the system by refusing to work. If treating those down on their luck like criminals is what you want, then Graves’ bill is for you.
Graves also slanders poor people as lazy. “There are talented people across our country who aren’t pursuing the full potential of their capabilities largely because government incentives make it more profitable in some cases to stay home and collect welfare than to pursue personal growth and responsibility through work,” Graves said in a press release about the bill.
That is false and an ugly slur. Most poor people work more hours at their jobs than does Graves. Moreover, there are precious few examples of low-income assistance programs that discourage work. A wealth of research proves that a job is almost always more profitable than government help.
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