Kick the Poor Then Jail Them

Tea PartyEd Kilgore made a good point over at the Political Animal blog, More Pain For Economic Victims. In it, he talked about the widely reported William Dickens and Rand Ghayad paper (pdf) that showed that employers would rather hire a less qualified applicant who has been unemployed for a short time than a more qualified applicant who has been unemployed a long time. He noted that this is part of the environment where the people who suffered because of the 2008 financial crisis were widely blamed for it.

You may remember this. Rick Santelli performed a live CNBC rant about how people taking out mortgages they eventually couldn’t afford were the reason for the financial crisis. This, of course, was entirely off base and entirely typical of elite opinion. The way the system is supposed to work is that a poor person goes to the bank and asks for a loan. The bank then decides if the poor person is a good risk. It is not surprising that poor people would ask for loans they can’t afford. It is the bank’s obligation to protect itself by only loaning money that is likely to be repaid. Santelli and his stock broker friends just loved the idea of turning this on its head. Those poor bankers! They were taken advantage of by those thoughtless poor people!

What’s more, we heard not a peep out of Santelli when it came to TARP, the law that paid out hundreds of billions of dollars to banks. It was only when the government decided to spend about a tenth of that with the Homeowners Affordability and Stability Plan that he started ranting. So you can see where the Santelli crowd was coming from. What was surprising was that the Tea Party movement would burst into existence as a result of Santelli’s rant. These were, after all, middle and upper-middle class people whose interests were better represented by the later Occupy Wall Street movement. But no, helped along by Fox News and the Koch Brothers, they were on the streets demanding that government not help individuals. (In fairness, the Tea Party claimed to be against TARP, but almost without exception, they have backed candidates who are against helping individuals and for helping corporations. We can either say that the people in the Tea Party hate regular Americans or they are stupid/ignorant, but we can’t say that they are smart and don’t hate their neighbors.)

The outcome of the Tea Party movement has been a more radicalized Republican Party and generally a more conservative and fearful Democratic Party. This despite the fact that the Tea Party never did have any real power. They were just the right flank of the Republican Party—now with a catchy name. And generally it’s meant a much more callous attitude toward those who are struggling in this economy. Perhaps the worst aspect of this has been the focus of Washington on debt over the last three years while ridiculously high levels of unemployment have just been ignored.

Kilgore notes that some of the army of long-term unemployed may eventually be driven to economic crime. But not to worry:

At some point, if this status produces anti-social behavior, I’m sure a lot of comfortably situated people will share some additional self-righeousness with these folk, and find it in their hearts to support even more public expenditures for incarcerating them than anyone proposed for helping them get back into the mainstream economy.

But I don’t totally agree with him. The 20% of Americans who associate themselves with the Tea Party have always been of the philosophy that if you fall down they’ll kick you but if you mess up they’ll jail you. The only question is whether reasonable politicians will continue to fear these vile and hateful conservatives enough to go along.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Kick the Poor Then Jail Them

  1. I know a woman who took out a $10,000 credit card, and spent it all in a single week on the best hotels, food and entertainment. After it was gone she was like: "What did they expect giving a person like me 10 grand?"

    I guess we should spend 40 grand a year to incarcerate her in debtors prison.

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