Economic Policies Adding to Poverty
We live in a time when dogs and cats grow fat and lazy one-fourth of American children grow up in poverty. Those who are on the street, who are hungry and in poor health are the ones feeling the real effects of economic policies that have made half of all Americans poor or near poor, according to new Census Bureau data (Scientific American, April 10, 2012 issue by Daisy Grewal, “How Wealth Reduces Compassion”). Who is more likely to lie, cheat and steal — the poor person or the rich one? After all, if you already have enough for yourself, it’s easier to think about what others may need. But research suggests the opposite is true — as people climb the social ladder, their compassionate feelings towards other people decline.
Berkeley psychologists Paul Piff and Dacher Kletner ran several studies looking at whether social class (as measured by wealth, occupational prestige and education) influences how we care about the feelings of others. The Black Panthers in 1969 began a free breakfast program that so shamed the American Congress it created one of its own. See J. Edgar Hoover memo on the breakfast program of the panthers … for children!
Jesus was born poor. If he were born in America today he would qualify for pre-Head Start, WIC, and SNAP benefits. Our congressman voted against SNAP benefits, then left Washington, D.C., and dined at a Republican dinner at the Marshall County Country Club. The scientific American profile meets our congressman voting pattern.
The Piff and Keltner research underscored my own personal observation of people of power and wealth. The study makes the point: As power and wealth are obtained, do they distance themselves from others? Yes!
The poor will give more from their little than the wealthy will from their abundance. FDR said, “The test of progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have to little!” It was Donald R. Richberg who wrote “The First Draft.” I spent countless hours researching the quote — sounds like Leo Tolstoy’s diary entry, “people usually think of progress … progress consists only in the greatest clarification of answers to the basic questions of life …”