July 24, 2014 Leave a comment
Great post from Thomas Mills. I think a huge difference between Republicans and Democrats really comes down to our basic conception of what it means to be poor. Obviously, it is a combination of individual choice and societal circumstance, but Republicans put far more emphasis on the former, the Democrats on the latter. Personally, I would say Democrats allow for individual choice to play a role more than Republicans allow for societal context, but that’s an empirical question to be settled. Anyway…
Back in the early 1990s, I went to work as a human resource director for an aluminum die cast company. The company had moved to rural North Carolina from the Midwest because of low wages, low taxes and no unions…
On dispute after dispute, I found myself siding with employees rather than management.
I believed in the carpal tunnel syndrome that management denied existed. I thought the guy who got his hand permanently disfigured should continue to get workers’ compensation despite the company’s claim that he had received job training and now should be on his own. And when employees walked out after management insisted on leaving garage sized-doors open despite temperatures in the low 20s, I explained that they were not on a “wildcat strike,” as management contended, but that their mamas had taught them a long time ago to have enough sense to shut the door and come in from the cold.
Needless to say, I didn’t last long. After six months, I quit. In my exit interview, my supervisor, who was gruff but basically a good guy, told me, “You’re just so naive. These people will get away with as much as they can while doing as little work as possible.”
And that, I believe, is a common Republican world view. They think the majority of poor people and working folks aren’t trying to get ahead in life; they are trying to get over on the system. [emphasis mine]…
Like my former bosses, Republicans are probably thinking “What a bunch of naive liberal bunk.” And that’s the difference in the Democrats who ran the state and the Republicans who control it now.
Nobody ever considered Marc Basnight, Tony Rand or Jim Hunt anti-business. But those Democrats also weren’t anti-poor. They understood that poverty was often caused by circumstances beyond people’s control and they also believed that government had a role in alleviating the impact of hardship on families. Most importantly, though, they believed that children were victims of poverty, not causes of it, and that education and support, from early childhood through college, offered the children of poverty the chance to escape it.
As long as we have leaders who see our poorest citizens as burdens and grifters, we’re doomed to make poverty harsher and ensure a permanent underclass. The free market may be the vehicle to create jobs, but it does little to soften the blow of poverty. To create the type of society I believe in, we need to do both. [emphasis mine]