Sunday, January 11, 2009

But For the Grace Of God, Go I

Last night, while monitoring the Neal Boortz radio show, he went off on a tear about one of his favorite topics: the notion that poor people who accept any sort of government assistance for basic living expenses are nothing but "parasites" who "take money away from honest, hardworking people". He is of the opinion that people are poor always simply because of stupid choices they have made in life and, conversely, rich people always deserve to be rich; that every one of them became so because of their own efforts alone, that all hard working people will be prosperous, and that workaholism is a virtue (In an earlier post of mine, I tell about how he once called people who work only 40 hours a week, "losers".)

His focus in his latest rant was Section 8 housing. He resents any of his tax dollars going to help the poor in any way, whining, "Why should I pay the rent of people who don't want to work?" Despite the news all over about our economic woes, he still clings to the fiction that everyone can have a decent job that pays well, if they'll only get off their asses and work for it. Never mind that companies are going bankrupt right and left, downsizing all over and laying people off in droves.

A man called in to the show to calmly disagree with him. He used the situation of his daughter as an example: She is a divorced Navy vet with a child, who is working two jobs while putting herself through college. Unable to find affordable non-subsidized housing, she turned to Section 8 to help get her through until she finished school and could get on her feet.

Boortz was unimpressed. He saw her as no different from the other "parasites"; crack addicts, 'welfare queens' with 8 kids, etc, who "expect hardworking people to pay their rent for them because they've screwed up and made stupid choices in life". He then told the man that he needed to be supporting her because she was his responsibility and not the government's.

Never mind that the woman was an adult and never mind that she'd already served her country and her government by serving in the Navy. As far as Boortz was concerned she'd made a "stupid choice" and thus deserved to be punished for it.

Her stupid choice? She didn't stay married; she got a divorce. Thus, her "sin" is being a single parent.

Never mind that being married is no guarantee of financial solvency or self-sufficiency. Her husband could well have been a deadbeat, which would have made him simply another mouth to feed with too little money, he could have been a drug addict, he could have been abusive, and so on.

And, of course, Boortz conveniently forgets that he's been divorced himself. I'm guessing that as long as you've got money your so-called "screwups" are your own business not to be judged by anyone else. It's only poor people who must be absolutely perfect to avoid being judged, which is impossible to Boortz, because being poor is by definition a proof of having screwed up.

Boortz brushes away the real question in such a situation -- why is affordable housing in the private sector unavailable to a hardworking person with two jobs?

He also refuses to acknowledge that this woman is the type of person for whom such assistance programs were originally created for -- hardworking people who are working to improve their situations, but who temporarily need a helping hand to make future prosperity possible. That is to help people who are working to help themselves.

Boortz sees workaholism, rugged individualism, and properity as moral virtues. While work properly balanced with rest and leisure, self-sufficiency, and prosperity are surely nothing to be ashamed of, greed and lack of compassion are.

The virtuous rich have a sense of noblesse oblige; that to whom much is given, much is expected. To help such a woman as mentioned above is an investment, not a handout, as she will surely give back to the community once she finishes school and continues to be a productive citizen.

And for those who, for whatever reason, will not become productive citizens, to ensure a basic level of living is just plain human decency and are the hallmark of a civilized society. I'm not a Christian, but I was brought up to believe in the idea "But for the grace of God, go I". That is, those of us born healthy to loving parents who could afford to give us a decent, safe upbringing and education should be grateful for it and realize that but for the luck of the draw we could have been born with bad health, to abusive parents, into generational poverty, without families at all and so on. And that given today's economy, we could easily have all we take for granted taken away from us suddenly and be in a position to need government assistance ourselves one day.

Boortz sees no value in government programs to assist the poor. But do we really want a country than simply turns all these poor people out to fend for themselves as in third world countries? Is the picture below what we really want for the United States, just so the rich can get richer?

1 comment:

Roger Bell said...

Very good and thoughtful article, Libertine. I gave up listening to Boortz years ago because I found him both offensive and amoral. I suspect Boortz is an Objectivist. I once worked with such a person.

Objectivists are usually atheists who have no moral code and no sense of altruism. (Many atheists do have moral codes and are altruistic.) Such was the case with my co-worker and seemingly with Boortz.

Boortz is merely a radio "entertainer." However, he and people like him have coarsened American civil discourse and politics. In other words, he harms America society my making light of people who are in dire straights, no matter how they got there.

I assume you have a reason to follow his program. I personally don't care to hear what he has to say. My view is "crap in, crap out." If I listen to him, it only harms me. However, thanks for your post and insight into the mind of this idiot.