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Who Are the ‘Legitimate’ Poor?


Who Are the ‘Legitimate’ Poor?

Stephanie Land

Recently, I disobeyed a cardinal rule of the Internet and decided to read comments on an article I once published in the Missoula Independent. I had begun writing about raising my daughters on very little income, which opened me up to a lot of criticism.


When I was a kid, it was usually the boy who was insecure about his sexuality (closet homosexual) who called everyone else gay or a "fag." I think similar metrics operate when the entire right wing machinery goes to work attacking the poor (or temporarily poor) so that no one looks at the way many rich persons come by their gargantuan sums. It's a diversion device.


LBJ's war on poverty that started a half century ago reduced poverty for more than a decade until the Raygun revolution reversed that effort with its depiction of the welfare queen who raked in more taxpayer dough with each additional offspring to the extent that she drove a shiny new Cadillac. When the Clintons and others founded the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) in 1985 poverty programs were further reduced, a systematic destruction of the middle class was started with highly regressive bipartisan 1986 tax "reform". Bill Clinton ending "welfare as we know it" in the 90s eliminated what remained of LBJ's war on poverty while Clinton's NAFTA and other corporate friendly legislation accelerated the demise of the middle class, throwing more Murkins into poverty, a trend that has continued for two decades.


Where the hell did this peculiarly USAn, callousness, couched in self-righteousness and judgementalism come from???


Actually, according to the US Census bureau the poverty rate in 1964 (War on poverty begins) was 15%, went down to reach 8.8 in 1974, then started going up and reached 12.3 in 1983 just to fall for the rest of Reagan's presidency in 1989 to 10.3. Been hovering between 8.7 (2000) and 12.3 (1993) ever since. It was 11.6 in 2014.