Few political commentators can call bullshit as well as Melissa Harris-Perry. In the clip below from yesterday’s show, she is talking about the Tennessee bill that would cut welfare funding from families who have children who are not performing well in school. I don’t have much to add to what she says, although I think I would go further. These lawmakers are not interested in improving how well students do in school. This is the same issue that we see elsewhere with conservatives trying to tie welfare benefits to clean drug tests. It is, in fact, the same thing that makes applying for food stamps a bureaucratic nightmare requiring 40 pages of documents while billion dollar bailouts of banks require just two.
It is no longer acceptable to say, “Get the blacks!” or “Get the Mexicans!” But given that conservatives think that all welfare recipients are black or brown, the “Get the shiftless poor person” has been a good substitute for their need to express their latent racist fury. I know that Harris-Perry feels the need to make nice. She is on national television, after all. And I’m sure she (rightly) thinks that calling out these racist shenanigans would be counterproductive.
I am under no such constraints. Anyway, I’m waging a longer-term battle here. It is one where we don’t wait for racist euphemisms to be retired before we call them out. From the passion that she shows on these issues, I know that Melissa Harris-Perry is a fellow (and far more successful) warrior. What this clip. It is a thing of joy.
Of course, I don’t want to leave the impression it is all about race. These people also hate the poor as poor. Did I focus on race because it was Tennessee? Maybe. But it doesn’t really matter. In the conservative mind there are two kinds of people: us and them. That’s why Rob Portman suddenly became pro-gay rights. He learned that part of “them” was in fact “us.” But that mentality defines conservatism.