…They don’t have enough money.
My dear (and long-suffering) spouse was on some kind of a panel the other day, where a number of kind good-hearted liberal folks were trying to figure out how to encourage literacy among the poor.
Of course this wouldn’t be a problem if there weren’t any poor. You’d then just have rampant illiteracy among the ‘middle class’, which doesn’t seem to cost anybody any sleep. As long as you have a BA and a white-collar job, it doesn’t matter how pig-ignorant you are.
So dear spouse suggested that maybe poor people would be better off if they had more money. Shock and dismay all round.
Now really, isn’t this the very heart and soul of liberalism? Leave all the core institutions of the society alone — including that most ancient and hallowed of institutions, poor people — but think, think very hard, about clever ways to improve the lot of those… poor… people. Everything is on the table. Sky’s the limit. Think. Think! Think outside the box!
Except the one unthinkable idea: abolish the poor. Which is to say, give ’em money.
Oh, no doubt they’d all buy big flat-screen TVs, and nice new sneakers, and SUVs. But then, that’s what their ‘middle-class’ fellow-citizens do too. Doesn’t that mythical but indispensable beast, ‘the Economy’, feed itself on just such folly? So the Teevee tells me, anyway. Not to mention NPR.
Now you may say that an unearned income is bad for peoples’ moral character. And maybe it is, in some cases. But I know a bunch of people who have enjoyed unearned incomes for the last four or five generations. Some of them are pricks, of course. But most are very decent people — hardworking, if there’s any virtue in that; conscientious; polite; respectful of books and pictures and 18th-century music; attentive to their spouses and devoted to their children.
From what little I’ve seen of life — if you want to elevate the cultural tone of the poor, you need to give ’em a trust fund.
And you have to stay the course. A presidential term won’t do it. A generation won’t do it. No, if you want to eradicate the lingering traces of the Culture Of Poverty(*), you’ve got to take the long view. Three generations at least.
(*) Do I correctly recall that we owe this loathesome phrase to the unspeakable Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who I hope gets to Heaven some day, but spends several millennia frying in Purgatory first?