Those Compassionate Conservatives!

By now you’ve undoubtedly heard of the wretched Gene Marks’ disastrous column, “If I Were A Poor Black Kid.” Far greater minds than mine have already torn it to shreds;’s staff writers already appear to be distancing themselves from the paternalistic “white man’s burden” diatribe. If you want to read it you’ll have to Google it, I won’t add to the article’s hit count (and indeed that appears to Marks’ intent all along, anyway. Nothing generates hits like race-baiting.)

I have a general rule of thumb that if a column is based on the “if” premise, it’s probably not worth reading. Gene Marks wrote about if he were a poor black kid, then went on to list all the awesome things he’d do to make his life better. He’d study really hard and use the free internet at the local library and he’d work his ass off, yada yada. If he were a poor black kid, that’s what Gene Marks would do.

But Gene Marks is not a poor black kid. He’s a balding, middle-aged white guy, a CPA and contributor to Fox News and CNBC who lives in the Philly suburbs. So I have a steaming cup of STFU that has Gene Marks’ name on it. If you were a poor black kid? Right, but you’re not. So you don’t know. So shut the fuck up. Tootles.

Here’s a news flash: I’m not a poor black kid, either. But I know enough about what I don’t know about being a poor black kid never to assume that everyone had the same opportunities as me. I never thought I hit a triple; I always knew I was born on third base. I remember being around seven years old and feeling incredibly amazed and thankful that I wasn’t born a poor black kid in Africa. (I was a weird child. Also, we got National Geographic. Some of those pictures were forever seared on my unconscious.)

So I really don’t get where Gene Marks, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and the rest get their “if only these people would work harder and not steal” crap from. You have to have been drinking some serious American Dream-flavored Kool-Aid to think that hard work and a good education are enough in this world. That’s the bill of goods we’re all sold of course: the fairy tale of the American Dream is as much a part of our psyche as apple pie and baseball. And sure, every now and then someone breaks through to provide a heart-stirring example of what’s possible. It’s not impossible. But lately it’s become really clear to a huge chunk of the populace that the American Dream is growing increasingly out of reach. Such as it ever existed, it’s increasingly unattainable.

This is that awful disconnect that Newt and Gene Marks and the rest don’t get. Those people pooh-poohing Occupy Wall Street until Frank Luntz’s band of merry pollsters told them to cut it out? They don’t get it either. America in 2011 is a hard place. Doors have been closed, ladders have been pulled up. Opportunities that once existed so a poor kid could move up a rung or two on the economic ladder are vanishing. Thirty years of trickle-down economics has only trickled misery and hopelessness down on the masses, while the fat cats at the top gorge on ever bigger shares of the pie.

This is why people are protesting. And this is why chastising poor people for not working hard enough or being lazy is just so offensive. These people who got everything handed to them as part of their birthright don’t need to be lecturing anyone on how to be an American success story. They don’t know. They think our system is so awesome and wonderful but really it’s just been awesome and wonderful for them. Too much depends on the luck of the draw. Just admit it. Horatio Alger wrote fiction for a reason.

What’s so frustrating to me is that it feels like we’ve taken a giant step backwards. Just as we’d gotten to a place where the playing field was getting leveled, a few more doors were cracking open and a few more people were being invited to the table, all of a sudden the powers that be have decided no more. Party’s over, out of time. Back to the end of the line. Suddenly equality is a bad word. Now we’re all about “freedom,” by which we mean, freedom to keep slaving away with nothing to show for it, freedom to be a bigot and an asshole and not get called a racist. Freedom to tell people how they ought to live without having the slightest understanding of how fucking hard it is for a poor black kid to get up and get to school in the mornings.

I mean, I guess this is how empires die. I really don’t get it.


Filed under conservatives, poverty

14 responses to “Those Compassionate Conservatives!

  1. You’re beautiful when you’re angry.

    And I mean that in the best possible way.


  2. Min

    If I was a balding, middle-aged white guy, a CPA and contributor to Fox News and CNBC who lives in the Philly suburbs, I’d work really hard not to be an assh*le in print.

  3. The Puritans started the “Poor are Lazy” meme long ago.

    P.S. Babylon’s Burning. The Empire is Dead. Long Live the Empire.

  4. John Weiss

    They don’t get it because at the bottom if it, they’re highly paid, highly educated idiots. They’ve never been on the ground. They’ve never been poor. They simply don’t know what they are talking about: it’s all theory to them. I simply won’t pay attention to ’em and when it’s my misfortune to read some blather from their ilk it makes me want to vomit.

    A pox on their houses.

  5. There are lots of poor people.We are compassionate and ought to care for those less fortunate.In order to care for poor people, we ought to pursue public policies that actually improve the lives of the poor. Empirically, we know that policies that enable civil society to flourish actually promote human flourishing.. Thanks for sharing hope that we can get a lesson on this article ..

  6. Yes, well… When I was a child, Smedley sometimes made me WALK from the limo to my chaise lounge at the Country Club, rather than carrying me!
    And there were times when my polo ponies were not freshly shod before every match. Those were hard times, I can tell you.

    RWA is not just for “Right Wing Authoritarian”, anymore, it also stands for “Rich White Asshole”.

  7. ThresherK

    I thought “poor are lazy” was the same thing as “work ethic”, which I thought was invented with the Industrial Revolution: Now that mankind reached a point where some people (not royalty) were visibly wealthy and in close proximity to all those millworkers/etc, some excuse had to be made for why near-endless labor (thanks to gaslight) was fine for poor people but that the rich didn’ t need it.

    Ergo if poor people don’t work continually they are adjudged to have moral failings.

    Of course, there’s always Yip Harburg (“When the Idle Poor”) and Lorenz Hart (“Too Good for the Average Man”).

  8. Randy

    Some of you probably followed the links to the article too(increased his hit count,blah) but just in case you didn’t I found this little gem in the comments on a response to Marks article at: Kelly Virella, Dominion of New York:” If I Were The Middle Class White Guy Gene Marks”

    “If I Were a Slave Girl
    -Many masters have huge libraries!! I would teach myself to read!!
    -I would make friends with relatives from the north and ask to go on a trip there, and then ask them to buy me!!
    -I would have a child with my master so that the child might have a better life!!”

  9. mudplanet

    “If he were a poor Black kid”

    some cop would have either shot him or railroaded his ass into a lifetime of prison showers before he was 18.

    But he wasn’t.

  10. Mike G

    What rightards will never get, or pretend to never get, is that if you want a population that widely embraces values of hard work, education and thrift, you have to make it worth their while. Hard work has to pay off in terms of the living standard that can be achieved, possibilities for upward mobility, access to social capital like education and public facilities, and social dignity — even if it is lower on the pay scale.
    It’s easy to work hard when your diligence results in a cushy office job that pays you lots and a comfortable life in the burbs. When you live in grinding poverty with run-down schools and high crime, and hard work for most means toiling in a menial job that barely, if at all, gets you out of the undignified daily insults of poverty, and you’re still mentally battered by thieves, rip-off merchants and brutal cops, well, it’s hard not to feel like a chump.

    • Very good observation, Mike. And that’s not just an American problem, it’s a global one. We’re creating a world where we’re telling people we have no place for them. We devalue human beings, tell them that their health, education, and communities aren’t worth investing in, we don’t want them voting so we put up roadblocks to their participating in our democracy; we tell low-income people and Third World people that their only value is as dumping grounds for everybody else’s toxic waste, that they aren’t worth educating but they can pick our tomatoes. I mean, WTF. No wonder people don’t have a sense of pride and self worth.

  11. As far as white people understanding what it means to be poor, young and black, allow me to recommend Stevie Wonder’s iconic Living in the City. The first song I ever downloaded off of ITunes.

    So Marks runs through this catalogue of internet sites. Google Scholar? Fer cryin’ out loud!. How about spending some time in your local library or school library?. If computers are the key, why not take a course in using PC and MAC operating systems or networking, or configuring routers, advanced word processing, desktop publishing, CAD, hexadecimal, processors, registers, LIFO, FILO??? The obvious takeaway from this one is there are literally millions of inner city black youths that have done a far better job of cultivating their minds than this joker.

    What a colossal fucking dumbshit. He just gives us a little survey course in how to be Newscorp/Limbaugh junkie bloggy trollhead. Cliffs Notes? That’s like the “Idiots Guide to …” Read the fucking book. Only real information truly makes you smarter. That and Mozart or Bach.

  12. John Weiss

    ‘Compassionate Conservative’ is an oxymoron.

  13. Pingback: American Dream Is Officially Dead | Southern Beale