Conservatives truly do care about the needy. Except they only care about the "truly" needy, so not all those lazy poor people who work more than forty hours a week and still cannot make ends meet. Okay, so they do not really care about the needy. The heartless, irrational hatred conservatives have for poor people is truly disgusting, and it is especially disturbing when it comes from people who themselves could be considered poor. They have essentially created a "no true poor person" fallacy, which says anyone who is poor can blame only themselves or the evil government which is trying to take everyone's money by taxing the top one percent a little bit more.
I shared a post by Occupy Democrats on my Facebook page (see the image). It basically details how difficult it is to escape a cycle of poverty, while privileged conservatives demonize those stuck in this cycle, laying all the blame on them and none on the systematic economic oppression they face; poor people are damned if they do, damned if they do not.
In response to this post, an offended Republican said that Occupy Democrats' post does not represent Republicans, while he at the same time reinforced the point the post was making by rambling on about how lazy poor people are and how hard work equals success, as if poor people working two jobs are not working hard enough.
He said that "if you want to make it in life you have to work your ass off for it." True enough, depending on what it means. First of all, there is the implication that people who do not make enough money are not working hard enough, which is a complete falsehood. Second, there is the implication that hard work equals success, which is obviously a conservative myth: Poverty is an evil cycle that perpetually repeats itself without help from the outside or a change to the system, such as an increased minimum wage or tuition-free education; this is especially true for ethnic minorities and women, who face more discrimination than most in the job market. Finally, there is the implication that the current system is fair and that wages are determined in a fair way, which is also a conservative myth.
Any fulltime job, whatever it may be, deserves at the bare minimum a wage with which one can afford the basic necessities of modern life. Currently in America, many jobs do not pay enough and thus the employer is quite literally stealing labor from the workers, who are not properly compensated. In addition, the wealth distribution does not adequately represent how hard people work. Do manual laborers not deserve enough money with which to make ends meet? Do CEOs deserve compensation hundreds, if not thousands of times larger than the laborers whose work keeps the company going, as if CEOs work that much harder?
It is true that wages are, in part, determined by supply and demand, but there are two things to consider: 1) wages are not entirely determined by supply and demand, but also by the intervention of the greedy few at the top; wages are as such, in part, arbitrary, which means it is our duty to make sure they are fair; 2) if wages were in a sense "naturally" decided by the market, what we have created is essentially a social Darwinist society in which we are effectively murdering a large portion of the population with economic oppression; it is our duty to regulate the market and change our society to improve the standard of living for as many people as possible while creating a sustainable society; right-wing policies achieve neither as they demoralize and break down large parts of the work force.
Very few people argue that wages should be completely uniform. And yet, conservatives use this as the straw-man version of social democracy (also known as democratic socialism), so they can argue against it. It seems those who are criticial of social democracy, or socialism as people tend to call it, do not actually know anything about it. Nor do they know anything about economics, like the fact that the circulation of money is vital to a healthy society; money does not circulate when the majority of people get less and less and a minority get more and more, which cannot be good for the economy or society as a whole.
If you work harder and have a higher education, of course you deserve a higher pay. However, everyone deserves at least a living wage. The compensation workers receive for their services is often unreasonably low, which is the result of a market which is not properly structured or regulated. Conservatives think unregulated capitalism will somehow create a fair utopia (while those who are religious extremists also argue that evolution cannot be true or there would be social Darwinism), when in truth it will not. Conservatives think if there are inequalities, the fault lies entirely with the individual and such inequalities are "natural", but capitalism is a human invention. Indeed, capitalism even has many nuanced versions, and those which are furthest to the right breed inequality and poverty, which one would think is undesirable as it is bad for the collective (in other words, most individuals) as well as the economy. Unions can be quite effective in regulating some aspects of the market, but they must be big enough to be able to make an impact. Regulation by the government can work when unions are not available or where unions cannot be effective. Capitalism without socialism is broken and corruptible.
The offended Republican went on to say that food stamps are meant for people who cannot afford to feed themselves, not "lazy people" (like those annoying poor people who cannot afford to feed themselves). This conservative basically pretended to care about the truly needy so that he could, like all conservatives, disregard the needy. One can say that only the truly needy deserve food stamps, but that is empty rhetoric when one at the same time demonizes those who need food stamps by saying they are not truly deserving because they supposedly are lazy "leeches". Basically, food stamps are meant for those who need them, but those who need them are supposedly lazy people who do not really need them, even though they work their asses off for what is essentially a starvation wage.
The irony is that this Republican conceded the point that there are needy people, which is to say that "laziness" is not the only factor in creating poverty. But at the same time, he regurgitated the right-wing dogma that hard work equals success and poor people are just lazy. Because if there are people who are not lazy and still need financial aid, then surely the current system is not working. And what is the point of dogmatically assuming poor people are lazy if one has already conceded that poverty is a real problem in America? If one agrees it is a problem, why not propose any solutions and why spread lies about the solutions that have been proposed?
A progressive tax system in which the rich are taxed more than the poor is not unreasonable; we all have to contribute to the society of which we are all part. Fair pay for any and all work is not unreasonable; there is no reason a person working fulltime should live in poverty. Creating a financially stable population which has spending power is not unreasonable; it is necessary for a healthy society and a strong economy. At any rate, I would like to leave all of you with two points which are important for a healthy society:
- A fair wage: One should NOT have to "work one's ass off" to make a LIVING WAGE. Forty hours should be more than enough (I even support reducing the work week to thirty hours). One should not require more than one fulltime job to earn a living wage; if one does, then one is not properly compensated for one's services. If one is not properly compensated, the person to whom one has sold one's services has stolen. It really is that simple. Furthermore, one must find a balance between productivity and the wellbeing of the workforce; fortunately, a healthy and happy worker is also a much more productive worker. Improve working conditions and you may just find that productivity will go up rather than down.
- Equal opportunities: Not everyone can afford higher education, because it requires time and money one may not have if one must work overtime in order to barely make ends meet. Thus, education must be made available to everyone, which would be positive for the economy as well as the collective (and thus also most individuals, except those who are so well off they do not need it). A well-educated and financially stable population is good for the economy, which conservatives do not seem to understand. Radically disproportioned wealth distribution is detrimental to society. Economically limiting the opportunities available to the masses can only have detrimental effects on society as a whole: A society is only as strong as its people, and an economy is only as strong as its workers and consumers.
When an individual has several jobs, works overtime, and still does not earn enough to make ends meet and thus cannot afford to feed themselves, conservatives still call them "lazy leeches" because there is no one who is truly needy in the mind of a conservative; this is the "no true poor person" fallacy. The dogmatic thinking of apologists defending the status quo is destructive, not only to the underprivileged masses, but also to society as a whole and the economy. After all, what makes the economy work is when money is in circulation, and the privileged few do not circulate nearly as much money as the working and middle classes, the former of which struggles to keep its head above the water and the latter of which is sinking.