Tag Archives: Poverty

The Rules Are Different For The Rich

Last year we learned about one of the most heinous ways the poor are kept poor, through a never ending series of fines and fees that an impoverished person can’t pay off, ultimately ending in jail time. Often there’s a private, for-profit electronic monitoring company involved, as here in Tennessee, or in lieu of jailtime, a driver’s license will be revoked (also here in Tennessee), as if people don’t need transportation to get to work.

So I find it pretty outrageous that our president-elect’s pick for Secretary of Education has been waltzing around the country free as a bird when she owes the state of Ohio $5.3 million. Not only that, she’s owed this money for a whopping eight years. Meanwhile, in the same state of Ohio, homeless Iraq veteran Stephen Papa was sentenced to 22 days in jail because he only had $25 of a required $50 court payment.

This is unbelievably outrageous. Why Isn’t Betsy DeVos’ ass in jail? Anyone?


Filed under poverty

Poor People Don’t Vote

Bernie is right, actually. Poor people don’t vote.

This is what makes me nuts about the whole “people voting against their economic interests” meme. Actually, no. As the New York Times explained last November in “Who Turned My Blue State Red?”, those people are not voting at all:

In eastern Kentucky and other former Democratic bastions that have swung Republican in the past several decades, the people who most rely on the safety-net programs secured by Democrats are, by and large, not voting against their own interests by electing Republicans. Rather, they are not voting, period. They have, as voting data, surveys and my own reporting suggest, become profoundly disconnected from the political process.

The people in these communities who are voting Republican in larger proportions are those who are a notch or two up the economic ladder — the sheriff’s deputy, the teacher, the highway worker, the motel clerk, the gas station owner and the coal miner. And their growing allegiance to the Republicans is, in part, a reaction against what they perceive, among those below them on the economic ladder, as a growing dependency on the safety net, the most visible manifestation of downward mobility in their declining towns.

Early in the campaign, Bernie Sanders talked about how he was all about bringing these “disillusioned and disengaged” voters back into the process. This was part of his “revolution” spiel. And then he did absolutely nothing to make that happen. Zero. Nada. He gave speeches about it but did nothing to make his vision happen. There was no organizing, there was no field game, there was nothing.

This simply reinforces my disparaging view of Bernie Sanders. It’s incredibly frustrating to see someone who clearly recognizes the problems but doesn’t seem interested in solving them. Complaining is not a solution.

His career has been one endless kvetch. He didn’t even think to tell his supporters to register to vote as Democrats in closed primary states? How lame is that?! Part of this may be due to the fact that he never thought he’d get this far, so back in the fall when those deadlines were looming he wasn’t focused on the actual mechanics of winning. But if you’re running for president, you’re running to win, or else you’re a fraud. If the only reason he was running in the first place was to have a bigger megaphone, then he just wasted everyone’s time. If all you want to do is kvetch louder and longer without following up with any tangible action then I have no use for you. All those thousands of eager kids at your rallies, did you have any organization to harness that energy? Get people registered to vote? Do some outreach to the disillusioned and disenfranchised? No. Bernie is supposed to be a man of the people, but it seems like his campaign has been all about the man, less about the people.

It is also far too simplistic to write off the country’s growing divide into merely Wall Street vs Main Street. As the New York Times piece illustrates, it’s more like Main Street vs trailer park or Main Street vs Skid Row. Any populist campaign that fails to speak to this issue is one focused too much on two-dimensional bogeymen, not reality.


Filed under 2016 Election, 2016 Presidential Election, poverty

Fuck You, Internet

Today marks the internet’s 25th birthday. And here is today’s internet-delivered contribution to the national discourse:


Spreading ignorance and hate for 25 years. Thanks for nothing, internet!

Honestly I sometimes wonder if we wouldn’t have been better off without it. This is the kind of ignorant BS your crazy uncle used to spew at the dinner table and everyone would sorta roll their eyes and pretend they weren’t related. Now it’s a meme seen by millions, perpetuating the kind of BS stereotypes people like Paul Ryan use as their basis for their economic policy.

Cripes. I’ve got to unfriend me some folks.

(By the way, that same photo was used on a “humor” site under the headline, “What a Country Girl Looks Like.”)


Filed under internet, poverty, sexism, taxes, women's rights

Welcome Rep. Kingston To GOP’s Starving Children’s Club

It appears the Republican Starving Children’s Club has spread beyond Tennessee and traveled to Georgia, where it threatens to derail Rep. Jack Kingston’s bid for Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ seat:

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), who from 2011 to 2012 chaired the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees funding for school nutrition programs, told party activists that kids receiving free breakfast and lunch should either be asked to pay for part of their meals or earn them by sweeping the floor. The 11-term Congressman, who is seeking his party’s nomination for an open U.S. Senate seat next year, said Saturday that he had suggested the idea to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

What horrible people.

The Republican war on the poor continues apace, despite the beseeching of people like Ohio Gov. John Kasich to stop being such assholes. He didn’t state it that way, of course, but that’s what it is. Rep. Stephen Fincher, Rep. Jack Kingston, Rep. Paul Ryan and the rest of the Republican Grinches are really about just one thing: making sure some undeserving slob isn’t getting “rewarded” for being lazy and fleecing the people who have had every advantage in life. Indeed, some of these same people trying to shred the social safety net had no problem taking assistance when they needed it.

Republicans are not looking like shining examples of humanity here. No, they’re kinda looking like giant dicks.


Filed under poverty, Republican Party

The Unbearable Hypocrisy of Tennessee Republicans

The $940 billion farm bill went down in flames in the House, and good riddance. It would have cut $20.5 billion from SNAP, aka the food stamp program.

Tennessee Rep. Stephen Fincher, who made national news when he said churches should deal with the poor while the government should keep sending checks to farmers like himself, voted for the bill. Apparently national scorn has left him uncowed.

Also voting for the bill: Rep. Marsha Blackburn and Rep. Diane Black, who three days ago were in the news peddling junk science about fetal pain and giving impassioned floor speeches about the need to ban abortions after 20 weeks.

Said Black:

“When I became a nurse more than 40 years ago, I took a vow to devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care,” Black said.

Said Blackburn:

“We are taking an action that will enable so many children to enjoy that first guarantee, that guarantee to life,” Blackburn told House members.

Hmm. I guess food isn’t part of “care” and “life.” Do you think Tennessee Republicans know that a fetus vessel (aka, a woman) needs food?

Proof yet again that unless you’re a fetus or a corporation, Republicans don’t give a damn about you.


Filed under Farm Bill, poverty, Republicans, Tennessee

Let The Churches Deal With Them

I just have one more thing to say about this whole “let the churches care for the poor” viewpoint which, let’s be honest, is not unique to Rep. Stephen Fincher, but is pretty pervasive among conservatives of all stripes.

Nothing is stopping any church from helping anyone. Please, churches, knock yourselves out. Feed as many people as you want: old, young, whatever. We need you to do this, we really do. Wasn’t that the whole point of Bush’s Office of Faith-Based Initiatives? Guess what, haters: the Mooslim Usurper Nobummer didn’t close that office, he expanded it. So yes, churches: feed us, house us, help us.

And indeed, the faith community is helping. Good grief, I’ve been part of more church-based programs helping the poor in this town than I can count: Room In The Inn, Rooftop, the Martha O’Bryan Center, Safe Haven Family Shelter, you name it. Here’s Nashvllle’s Downtown Presbyterian Church which feeds hundreds of homeless every week (much to the chagrin of local businesses,who don’t like having a soup kitchen on their doorstep). The Salvation Army has soup kitchens all across the country feeding the hungry (for which they are reimbursed by the government, I might add.)

But the need is great. There are not enough congregations doing enough of this work to help everyone. Every church-based effort I’ve been part of has had to ration the amount of help it provides because the need is simply greater than funds allow. At Rooftop, which provides temporary, one-time rental and mortgage assistance to keep people from being evicted, we routinely ran out of money and had to suspend services, sometimes for an entire month.

The need is great. Many churches are helping the poor. But many do not. C’mon, you know it’s true. Many church organizations prefer to spend their money on bullshit marketing efforts like the Scripturally-dubious I Am Second campaign, whose billboards have popped up all over town. Harold Camping’s Family Radio empire raked in millions of dollars in donations, money which could have been spent helping the hungry and needy. Instead, it went toward buying thousands of billboards across the country proclaiming a hilariously wrong prediction about the Second Coming.

No one can tell any faith community how to spend its money. And they don’t always spend it on the needy. Sometimes they spend it on ideological bullshit like this. How many kids could have been fed if the Mormons had channeled their $20 million somewhere other than the Prop 8 campaign?

Right-wingers are always telling us we don’t need the government to provide services, “charity” should take care of it for us. But what do right-wing billionaires spend their money on? Think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, and Cato Institute, whose sole purpose is to promote conservative ideology. Or phony conservative “foundations” like Citizens for a Sound Economy (now known as FreedomWorks) and Americans For Prosperity — political groups spreading the low-tax, low-regulation, free-market message. Maybe if Richard Mellon Scaife and the Koch brothers redirected the billions they spend on political power toward social welfare, the need wouldn’t be so great. Maybe if they walked their talk, their views might have more credibility. And yes, I know these and other billionaires spend a lot on charity, I’m not saying they don’t. But they spend at least as much, if not more, on political power.

And that’s the problem. The fact that so many billionaires would rather spend their fortunes on politics not people proves our point. The lure of power is great, is it not? Indeed, too often the lure of power is greater than the lure of helping your neighbor. I’m pretty sure Jesus and the Old Testament prophets knew this.

This is why we need government programs like SNAP: to fill in the holes left by human nature’s failure to always do the right thing. Charities and faith communities are doing a lot but they can’t do it all. Ask any social worker and they will tell you. Ask any secretary of an urban church, inundated with calls for help on a daily basis. They will tell you.

But this discussion is all big a waste time. Because people like Rep. Fincher don’t really care about the poor, do they? When I hear someone say, “let the churches deal with x, y, z problem,” what I’m really hearing is, “I don’t want to deal with x, y, z problem.” That’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it?

If only the poor would just go away. But they won’t, Rep. Fincher. They won’t just “go away.” They will always be with us, as Jesus said, as an eternal reminder of human failure — an eternal reminder of our sin, to use church parlance.

The poor will always be with us as long as we expect someone else to deal with the problem.


Filed under charities, poverty, religion, religious right

Rep. Fincher Joins TNGOP’s Starving Children Club


It’s not “stealing” when Rep. Fincher does it!

USDA data collected in EWG’s 2013 farm subsidy database update — going live tomorrow –shows that Fincher collected a staggering $3.48 million in “our” money from 1999 to 2012. In 2012 alone, the congressman was cut a government check for a $70,000 direct payment. Direct payments are issued automatically, regardless of need, and go predominantly to the largest, most profitable farm operations in the country.

I am literally at a loss for words. Surely Tennessee’s 8th district deserves better than a heartless bastard who has his hand in the till while telling poor children to go begging at the church door. And you call yourself a Christian with that mouth? No. That’s not Christianity. That is the opposite of Christianity. That is being selfish, greedy, and abusive.

I’m sick of these assholes and their phony faith.


DownloadedFileWhat is it with Tennessee Republicans and hungry children? First we had Williamson County GOP Chair Kevin Kookogey calling the National School Breakfast program a “perverse handout.” Yes, that’s right, making sure hungry kids start the day off right with some nutrition so they can actually learn something in school is perverse.

Then we had state Sen. Stacey Campfield’s now-infamous “starve the children” bill. And now we have Rep. Stephen Fincher, TN-08, passionately arguing to cut food stamps in the Farm Bill because, Jesus:

Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn., then quoted a verse from the 26th chapter of Matthew, saying the “poor will always be with us” in his defense of cuts to the food stamps program. 

Fincher said obligations to take care of the poor should be left to churches, not the government.

Right, that worked so well for hundreds of years when the obligation to care for the poor really was left to the churches. Also, way to cherry-pick the Bible, dude.

But also, Jesus Hates Lazy Poors:

Republican Congressman Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, who supports cuts to the program, had his own Bible verse from the Book of Thessalonians to quote back to Vargas: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat,” he said.

First of all, the idea that the poor don’t work is astonishingly, dumfoundingly stupid. Here’s a guy crafting policy affecting the poor and he knows absolutely nothing about what it’s like to be poor in America. But second of all, since Fincher brought the work topic up, what does he do for a living? When he’s not sucking on the taxpayer teet as a Congressmonster, of course.

Let’s ask the Great Gazoogle:

A seventh generation farmer, Fincher is a managing partner in Fincher Farms, a family business that grows cotton, corn, soybeans, and wheat on more than 2,500 acres in western Tennessee. The company has received $8.9 million in farm subsidies over the past decade, mostly from the cotton program, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.[6][7][8] Fincher received a $13,650 grant to help buy grain hauling and storage equipment from the state Department of Agriculture in 2009 as part of the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program.[9]

Oh! So Stephen Fincher thinks it’s perfectly fine for the taxpayers to send him a handout, but when the poor need help putting food on the table, it’s sorry! Jesus says no!


In fact, Fincher — a self-described member of the Tea Party, ‘natch — was the largest recipient of farm subsidies in the U.S. Congress, according to this 2011 report, raking in $3,368,843. This was so horrifying that at one point some pundits thought this might be a problem for him with Tea Party voters.


Get real. If you’re looking for principles on the right side of the aisle you will continually be disappointed.

Rep. Stephen Fincher, you are a horrible person who uses the Bible to selectively justify your greedy, selfish ways. Woe unto you.

Repent, asshole.


Filed under Farm Bill, poverty, Tennessee, TNGOP

Look At The Label & Remember

Next time you see “Made in Bangladesh” on your clothing, remember this picture:


This is the factory in Bangladesh which supposedly made clothing for Wal-mart, Dress Barn, Benetton, and others, where workers were ordered inside despite the sudden appearance of large cracks in the building, and a hundred or more died as a result:

The cracks that suddenly appeared on Tuesday afternoon in the Rana Plaza building were large enough to send workers fleeing into the street.

They made the television news that night, but the building’s owner, Mohammed Sohel Rana, told reporters the sudden appearance of cracks was “nothing serious”.

He did not say that police had ordered him to shut the factory. Nor did he mention that the top four floors of the building, in Savar, north of Dhaka, were constructed illegally without permits.

I know the New York Times‘ Nicholas Kristof has been trying to convince us that outsourcing our manufacturing to poverty-stricken countries like Bangladesh is a good thing because jobs and blah blah. Pretty sure he’s not saying such things with anything close to a straight face any more, though. As NPR notes:

The collapse comes just five months after 112 workers were killed in a fire in another apparel factory in Bangladesh that had supplied Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club.

I’d like steal a phrase (and documentary title) and say this is the high cost of those low prices. But actually, it’s not even low prices anymore; Benetton ain’t cheap. I’ve seen “Made in Bangladesh” on clothes I’ve purchased at higher-end stores, too. This seems to be “the way it’s done” these days. Clothing manufacturing has been outsourced to desperately poor countries where people work in Triangle Shirt Waist Factory conditions. I certainly didn’t ask for that, and I have no control over it. Even if I don’t buy a $10 T-shirt from CostCo, my clothes are still made overseas under specious conditions. At least if they were made in the U.S. I’d have some, tiny shred of confidence that the workers weren’t abused in the process (though the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion has even put that to the test). It’s damn hard to avoid it.

I really don’t want people dying to make my stuff. I don’t get why that’s so hard for Wal-mart and Dress Barn and Macy’s and The Gap and everyone else to understand.


Filed under corporations, globalization, outsourcing, poverty

The Republican Welfare Gravy Train Rolls On

Ah, Christmas! The time Tennessee Republicans decide to start hating on the poor:

Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, said he plans to push three bills calling for drug testing in the 2012 legislative session – one dealing with persons on welfare, one for those drawing unemployment compensation and one for those receiving workers’ compensation benefits.

Shadow Governor Ron Ramsey is already on record saying he thinks drug-testing the poor and unemployed is a great idea. Campfield and Ramsey need to explain how getting injured on the job is “a lifestyle,” though. That one really confuses me. Also, how do you drug test those folks? I’m thinking some of them might be on medication because, y’know, injured on the job? Hello? But I’m sure they’ll figure it all out.

True to form, Gov. Haslam has said he wants us to think very carefully about such an idea. Oh, indeed. Yes, we’ll think very carefully and then we’ll go ahead and do it anyway. I think I’ve seen this movie before. Gov. Goofball will wait an appropriate amount of time, during which he will supposedly consider all of the who’s, what’s and where’s, after which he will fold like a lawnchair and announce with that shit-eating grin of his that all of the due process has been done and yes we will treat people suffering under Republican policies of tax cuts for millionaires and outsourcing jobs to China as criminals. Just you wait.

If you hadn’t noticed, this is one of those ALEC-crafted ideas working its way through legislatures in all of the red states. Why? Because forensic drug companies want to feed at the taxpayer trough, that’s why.

I find it very strange that Republicans don’t believe government can do anything right … except decide who can marry, who can raise children, what you can watch on TV, what books you can read, which religion is the right one, when life begins, how much compensation is enough if you are injured by corporate negligence, and if your pee is pure enough to collect your unemployment which, by the way, is a benefit you paid for. Government is great at all of that stuff.

Go figure.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a similar measure earlier this year and is now embroiled in a string of lawsuits. After he signed the bill into law it was revealed that Scott had transferred his ownership of Solantic, a chain of walk-in clinics that performs drug screenings, into his wife’s name days before his inauguration. Isn’t that convenient! Then he went on to claim he had “no interest” in the company.

So who stands to gain in Tennessee? Look no further than Tennessee Republican Congress Critter Diane Black, whose husband is CEO of Aegis Sciences, a company which does drug testing. Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is on Aegis’ board of directors — presumably advising the company on how to screen for drugs via videotape. /snark

It’s all so very cozy, isn’t it? Speaking of cozy, let’s remember that Rick Scott used to be in charge of the Frist family’s hospital corporation, before getting ousted by the board when the company pled guilty to massively defrauding the government. You’d think a guilty plea and $1.7 billion fraud settlement would ensure this asshole never shows his face around Republican Party circles again, but sadly no: Republicans always fall upwards. Scott somehow became governor of Florida. Go figure.

Anyway, Florida’s pee-in-a-cup law has been temporarily suspended. Now there’s even a class action lawsuit. Way to go, governor! Maybe we should wait and see how these cases shake out before Tennessee signs on the bottom line, ya think?

And by all means, let’s also look at how much this has cost the State of Florida, not even including the state’s legal defense. In its first six weeks, only two people tested positive for drugs, and one of those cases was appealed. It’s cost more to screen for drugs than they saved by denying two people benefits. Woopsies.

So it appears the poor and unemployed of Florida are not, in fact, all drug using welfare queens. Hmm. What about Tennessee, though? Surely our poor are all dopeheads and burnouts, right? Surely they must be because Tennessee Republicans can’t imagine why anyone would be suffering in this glorious economy they created. I mean think about it: they spent two years doing nothing but making sure women’s access to abortion is nearly impossible, access to guns is nearly ubiquitous, President Obama’s birth certificate is questioned, so-called “Obamacare” is declared unconstitutional, teachers’ unions lose their collective bargaining rights, and so-called “tort reform.”

Amazingly, after all of this hard work and effort, the free market ponies have failed to appear. Tennessee’s jobless rate continues to exceed the national average. Clearly the fault must be with the unemployed!

Here’s what I wish. I really don’t expect Republicans to stop hating on the poor, but I do wish our media would stop acting like the poor don’t exist. Next time a conservative clown like Newt Gingrich, Ron Ramsey, or Herman Cain says some incomprehensibly stupid thing about poor people being lazy drug users, please, I beg of you: go find a poor person and ask them about their life. I mean, it really can’t be that hard, can it?

Because all I hear from the media is a long, string of right-wing fairy tales about poor people taking Hawaiian vacations with their food stamps. Please do not repeat such nonsense without also talking to a poor person and asking them if that’s even feasible (it’s not).

I think the rich Republican assholes have had the mic long enough. If Ron Ramsey and Stacy Campfield want to demand unemployed people pee in a cup before collecting their benefits, I want to hear from the people actually affected by such a policy.

Please tell us these peoples’ stories. I want to know why they are on welfare, how many jobs they work, how many kids they’re feeding, what they spend their money on. If they are unemployed, why. If they got injured on the job, what happened.

I’m thinking we need to shed a little reality on this fiction the Republicans are spreading.


Filed under poverty, Tennessee, TNGOP