Many of those on the right think that, as a rule, people are poor because they deserve to be, because they haven't "worked hard" or some other such reason. These Social Darwinist, Ayn Rand worshippers believe that the economic rewards of our society are distributed based solely on merit, that we each get exactly what we deserve. That's why they believe the rich are the best people in our country and the poor are the worst. This is the moral (cough) justification for conservative economic policies.
You know these people, the ones who talk about being a "maker not a taker," who bow down at the feet of corporations (they are people, so they must have feet) and ignore the fact that it's consumers with money to spend who create jobs.
I don't mean to suggest that no poor person has ever done anything to exacerbate their own poverty, or that rich people are, in general, evil bastards. I would hope anyone reading this would recognize that it's not that simple. And that's the problem with the Social Darwinist argument we're talking about here. It's simplistic, and it's false.
To prove my assertion, here's a fact and then a question for the aforementioned folks on the right. Ezekiel Emanuel recently noted in the NYT blog, "Between 2000 and 2010, the number of children living in poverty in America increased by 41 percent, and now includes nearly one-quarter of our kids."
Are our children 41 percent lazier than they were 10 years ago?
Let me ask that again: Are our children 41 percent lazier than they were 10 years ago?
Do Social Darwinist/Randians really believe that's the case? Do they have any evidence to back it up?
Even if they want to make the absurd, ridiculous, amoral argument that all or even most children living in poverty really do deserve to live in poverty, then that must mean that 41 percent more children deserved to live in poverty in 2010 than did in 2000.
Because if not, then maybe the aforementioned Social Darwinists have to entertain the notion that children and, by extension, people who live in poverty don't actually "deserve" to be poor. Maybe they'd have to consider the idea that programs such as food stamps or Medicaid or free meals served at public schools so that low-income kids can learn rather than focus on being hungry aren't simply "rewarding bad behavior" or some other such right-wing nonsense. And maybe then they'd have to entertain the notion that goodness and wealth do not actually go hand in hand in the real world, and that poverty does not, by definition, signal the immorality of a person.
In other words, maybe they'd have to open their eyes.