Punish the poor

Why is it that conservatives are so intent on punishment? Why are they so obsessed with making life more and more complex and difficult for the underprivileged and so much easier for the wealthy, the powerful, the Lords of Business? Why do they pick on people that have the least, that  are the most vulnerable to the vagaries of Mr Market? Are they driven by a natural sadism, or do they believe that bullies should be rewarded rather than punished? Where is the America that stood up for the oppressed, and the defenseless?

I wonder sometimes whether that America ever existed, or whether it was a figment of our collective imaginations. Perhaps it was the great debt that the free world believes they owe to an America without whom the Nazi’s would probably still control Europe.

But, punish they do, with great panache, attempting to strip away the protections given to the poorer classes by Roosevelt’s New Deal and Johnson’s Great Society. No Republican president has ever created programs that benefit the middle classes in the same all-inclusive way that Democrats have. The most successful programs in history, Medicare and Social Security protect millions of Americans from deprivation.

Social Security keeps 40% of Americans over 65 out of poverty. Without it, many of the elderly would be homeless and destitute. Republicans want to privatize it and leave millions at the mercy of rapacious investment banks and portfolio managers. From their point of view it would be the largest give away to the wealthy in history and turn the program from one protecting Americans into one enriching the already wealthy.

Medicare is an astonishingly successful program, exceptionally well run and guaranteeing a decent quality of life to millions of Americans. Rather than deny people claims, which is what for-profit insurance scams do, it provides care across the board, defending the needy from depravity. Medicare does not deny claims while people whither and die of curable diseases.

If it were left up to the market, the human suffering without social programs would be catastrophic.


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