Again, I hoist one of these columns from the Flagpole archives and I’m aghast at how
little nothing has changed:
Like corporate green advertising, our policies against the poor get lost in a shuffle of righteous sounding reforms, intended to move people from “welfare to work” in order to usher in a new era of “personal responsibility.” The two strategies have much in common as we whitewash our consciences with high morals and the appearance of genuine, public-spirited problem solving. But there’s a dark side to this shell game every bit as dastardly as Exxon-Mobile working to build your energy future: Where do the poor go once they leave a statistical column?
In the land of perverse incentives, Georgia happens to be the shining city on a hill. A nice, depending on your orientation, compendium of our state of affairs appeared in the January/February 2009 issue of Mother Jones magazine. The experience of several young mothers on welfare is profiled for all and sundry and it’s not a pretty sight. What we do to ourselves in regard to getting people off of welfare rolls is nothing less than a full abrogation of human, economic and civil rights. We lie, mislead and otherwise confuse those among us who need help the most. The connections to other, similar atrocities to which we subject ourselves and our environment bear no further case to be made; if we can do this to the so-called least of our brethren here, there are no limits to what we might do to people, earth and sky we nominally care about and depend upon.
The whole thing, plus a few more columns. 2009, people.
Image: by Walker Evans, from Let us Now Praise fampus men, by James Agee and Walker Evans