Inequality in the US: (2) The Moochers

Let’s begin our discussion of inequality by separating out the least sympathetic citizens, the lazy moochers, so that we can clarify a few things about them and move on to more important matters.

The ongoing Republican conservative claim is that most poverty in the US is the result of the natural inferiority of a large population of urban African-Americans, who are assumed to be lazy, unmarried and irresponsible teen mothers, uneducated drop-outs, drug-dealing gang members, etc., who want only to collect welfare checks forever without actually working. This is repeated endlessly by numerous Republican politicians, and it is absolutely false. It is one of those zombie beliefs that will not die no matter how many times the facts disprove it. That’s because it is based on faith and racism, not evidence.

The large cohort of
lazy inner city blacks
that is a central belief of Republicans
does not exist.

Poverty is not the result of a large population of lazy inner city black people. In fact, no such cohort exists. This will be disappointing to conservative Republicans because it means they have no convenient scapegoat for their racist, anti-democratic, intolerant, anti-compassionate, anti-Christian beliefs. The poor are found among every culture in the country, city and rural, with no regard for race. Unfortunately, Republicans will not accept this truth because it is not what they believe, and they are rarely convinced by the facts or by reality.

But there is a small cohort of people, usually poor, who are unlikely to elicit much sympathy from most of us. These are the various bums and addicts who have somehow managed to make all the wrong choices and pretty much ruin their own lives. These people do exist and are all too easily seen in cities, but they are nothing new. They come from all cultural groups, every race, urban or rural, male and female, young and old. They cost us exorbitant amounts of money. Still, no matter what else, they are all human, and therefore deserve at least that elemental level of respect. As for government resources, we must provide basic support even for these people, because not to do so is more expensive for us, as well as immoral.

Failure to provide support
for undesirable people
is more expensive for us.

A good example of the importance of necessary egalitarian treatment is an alcoholic who has TB, which is not uncommon among such addicts. The chances are good that unless this person is cured, he will infect at least one other person, maybe more, which could lead to a costly epidemic that we would have no choice but to address. Worse, if this addict has multiple-drug-resistant TB, he will need an expensive all-out attack on the disease, and the failure to cure it could have serious consequences for the community. Russia has been battling this exact condition in their prisons for years. The same danger is true of any communicable disease, and there are many. Failure to treat the case and arrest the disease before it becomes epidemic creates high costs for society as a whole.

This cohort of the least liked is real and small, but expensive, visible, and irritating to us all. It’s hard to feel sympathy for such people. In addition to the bums and addicts there are the mentally ill, who are often found in the same places as these undesirables, and are not getting nearly enough medical attention. They can be equally upsetting. 

But these are not the poor. The poor we are concerned with are a different group, the group that is most affected by rising inequality.

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