Oh, good! Ben Stein, the conservative commentator and actor who you may recognize from Clear Eyes commercials, has something to say about poor people! Listen up, peasants! This is for your own good.
In an op-ed for right-wing website The American Spectator, Stein explored the difference between income inequality and poverty. His conclusion was that income inequality is good because rich people make life better for poor people (take his word for it, no need to question anything there) by funding "symphonies and ballets and schools for inner city kids." The wealthy are also the only ones with the means to prevent complete tyranny by the government.
We want for there to be a high number of rich people who function as a brake on government just as the nobles did on the crown in long ago England.
Yeah! We want to be more like old-timey England and the government that we literally fought a war to separate ourselves from. It's not like the class system over there didn't remain totally fucked for centuries.
Anyway, that's his feelings on income inequality. Poverty, on the other hand, is a really shame — not that we'd know because, according to Stein, it's not something that any Americans have real trouble with:
Now, real poverty, where Americans lack cars or air conditioning (imagine that we now consider it poverty to lack something that was the ne plus ultra of luxury in my youth!) or solid food is extremely rare. Yes, the government designates many tens of millions as poor, but they almost always have indoor plumbing (which my mother did not have in her small town in the Catskills) and they are super nourished as opposed to mal-nourished. They get food stamps. They get free medical care. They get vouchers for many of the needs of life.
American poor people sure are livin' large, huh? What with the minimal government assistance they receive and access to basic utilities that, hey, not for nothing, are slightly better than the plumbing found in the mountains of New York circa 1914.
But what Ben Stein really takes issue with is blaming poverty on corporations when really, it's the individual who's most at fault:
My humble observation is that most long-term poverty is caused by self-sabotage by individuals. Drug use. Drunkenness. Having children without a family structure. Gambling. Poor work habits. Disastrously unfortunate appearance. Above all, and counted in the preceding list, psychological problems (very much including basic laziness) cause people to be unemployed, have poor or no work habits, and enter and stay in poverty.
Pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps and overcoming the odds is great and all, but can Stein really, not even for a second, consider the social and systematic factors that keep poor people poor and rich people rich? Apparently not, but he does offer a fix:
What will make the genuinely poor stop sabotaging themselves? Maybe, just maybe, if we let God back into the public forum it would help. I have seen spiritual solutions work miracles.
It's just like Jesus once said, "Sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven...PSYCH — keep that money on Earth and fuck the haters. KA-CHING KA-CHING."
By the way, Ben Stein would like you to know that he wrote this article after a day of lounging around home and listening to big band music because he's recovering from being ill. How nice that he can afford a leisurely sick day.
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