This is a question that should be asked of any person who is running for a national office. We don’t mean how many poor people one sees on the streets as one drives by in an automobile, not just those who show up at the soup kitchen with whom a photo opportunity is in progress. We mean the people who live constantly at or slightly above the poverty line, constantly worrying as they juggle their meager budget to try to prioritize and keep their heads above the fiscal disaster that lurks everywhere, who work even when they’re ailing because they cannot feed the family without that paycheck and “doctors cost money.”
Pediatricians are becoming alarmed because more women are foregoing prenatal medical care and even having their babies without medical assistance of any kind due to lack of money to pay. Without free breakfasts and lunches at school many children would be going all day with an empty stomach when Daddy’s or Mommy’s money runs out before the next payday.
Do you know any of these people? Have you visited them just because you value their company and are interested in their opinions? Have you asked them to your home for an evening? If you answer in the negative, something is lacking, not only in your knowledge base but in your religious education. If you did know them, you would know of how offended they would be if you offered to give them money, but how willing they would be to find the time to do a job for you if you were to need some temporary chores. However, they would happily do the same chore for you without pay should you give ask them.
You see, these people are not the scum of society as so many politicians would term them. Your familial antecedents would have called them “the salt of the earth.” They are the same kind of people who would sell themselves into bondage for the opportunity to take their families and their poor possessions aboard a frail ship to reach a far-off land where they could work hard to build a better life for their children and for generations to come. They would serve out their bondage, gather their belongings again, and set out, bag and baggage, for lands unknown in order to fell trees for a shelter so they could till the soil and create a home.
But now we live in a settled land where everything belongs to somebody else; there is no virgin land there for the taking, there are no more frontiers to settle and there is no choice but for mankind to learn to live with one another. We are all in the same boat. The problem is that too many want to stand in the bow and captain the journey while those who man the oars are taken for granted. As the boat starts to sink from having the weight unevenly distributed by too many captains, those captains think the answer is to scuttle the oarsmen! Thus, we are faced with silly ideas like “trickle down.”
There was a time that candidates would campaign door-to-door, visiting with potential; voters in their homes and listening to their concerns. Now campaigns are limited to televised speeches and rallies among the faithful where the candidates never talk to anybody who is not already disposed to support them. The questions usually come from those who already know the canned answers which they will receive, and neither candidate nor voter actually learn anything.
It is easy for a candidate like Ron Paul to espouse leaving sick and uninsured to just die and to receive great applause from his supporters which leads him to believe that his answer was correct. Do you suppose Congressman Paul has any close friends or relatives who are truly poor? So why should he care should a constituent or a hired minion should die for lack of medical care?
To some of a gentler persuasion, it would seem necessary for a successful candidate to know those whom he is bound to represent in the government of the United States. Try asking the question at the next political rally you attend, “How many poor people do you really know?”
This writer is an octogenarian who has spent a half century working with handicapped and deprived people and advocating on their behalf while caring for her own working-class family. She spends her “Sunset Years” in writing and struggling with The System.