Feet on the ground – head in the clouds.

McCain couldn’t even begin to understand poverty

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John McCain is on another speaking tour, this time talking about poverty. The It’s Time for Action tour, at least one major news outlet likens this tour to President Bush’s ‘compassionate, conservative campaign’. We now know what a sham that was. It’s not to say that he doesn’t have a few good ideas, it’s that he wants to talk about something he doesn’t – and couldn’t possibly – understand. This further calls into question one of the traditional roles of the First Lady, if he brings his heiress wife into that role. Their hearts may very well be in the right place, but every policy plan McCain rolls out reeks of true legislative elitism. Here is a snippet from the Think Progress story about his economic policy:

The Center for American Progress has the breakdown and analysis of Senator McCain’s economic plan and its impact on the poor. To say he’d be further forgetting these parts of America is an understatement. He’s spent the past year shattering every rational person’s view of him as an unabashed maverick and turned him into a true pandering Republican party loyalist. Partisanship is not what the American people need. Hollow claims of helping the poor is not what the American people need.

$8 an hour, 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year yields $16,640 before taxes. If you don’t think there are single parents out there unable to find a better job, making this much stretch for two or more people. It happens. If you don’t know many people actually living on this much, you’d think it were impossible. You might even believe people who lived on this much did so by choice, or by some guilt of their own. It’s just not always a black-and-white issue.

A lot of the response I hear to things like this are that people are unmotivated, addicted, or otherwise prone to poverty. What I don’t hear is any honesty about the advantages given to those enabled to speak on the issue. I rarely hear people working face-to-face with people in poverty, telling them the low-down on why they are poor and will remain poor. I rarely have someone on the ‘front lines’ of this issue willing to dismiss the struggles of the suffering.

Senator McCain is highly capable and has spoken the truth on many occasions in the past.  He is still living up to that legacy in many respects.  He recently criticized the response to Hurricane Katrina, going so far as to point the finger at President Bush.

Asked at an outdoor news conference if he traced the failure of leadership straight to the top, Mr. McCain, who has vowed to campaign with President Bush, said, emphatically, “yes.”

John McCain can observe a problem and shed light on issues to more people, but as far as understanding this issue, he’s just never been poor or even close.   Many who have never experienced poverty have done great things to improve the quality of life for others less fortunate, and I have no doubt a McCain presidency may yield some benefits for those in poverty.  To offer welfare with no teeth is as cruel as offering nothing at all.  

The problem with poverty is that if you live in poverty, it’s all you see.  If you never live it, you’ll never see.  The subject itself breeds a discontent that makes the entire issue hard to discuss, but it must be done.  It must be done with people who live the experience.  Go ask a grandmother in the poorest neighborhood of your city what happened to her neighborhood.  Ask a worker who was laid off and saw his wife leave, taking the kids, why he might be more open to criminal activity.  This is not to justify behavior, it is simply to understand the problem.  


A day’s work is a day’s work, neither more nor less, and the man who does it needs a day’s sustenance, a night’s repose and due leisure, whether he be painter or ploughman. – George Bernard Shaw


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