How the world appears to the wealthy elites
Paul Ryan's poverty adviser is 77-year old Bob Woodson, a former social worker and civil rights activist who has advised conservatives on poverty policy for decades. He has some some strong opinions on the causes of poverty.
the suggestion that discipline and personal responsibility alone might not be enough to guarantee success, Woodson reacted viscerally.
"Bullshit," he told HuffPost. "That's just bullshit."
The modern GOP likes to talk about "modernizing and reforming" the social safety net, but in reality their solutions are nothing new. The exact same ideas were offered in the 1870's.
The Republican Party proposals of today are simply an unvarnished version of the Scientific Charity Movement.
"You know, people are poor in America, Steve, not because they lack money; they're poor because they lack values, morals, and ethics. And if government can't teach and instill that, we're wasting our time simply giving poor people money."
- Bill Cunningham, October 28, 2008
Scientific charity built on Americans’ notion of self-reliance, limited government, and economic freedom. Proponents of scientific charity shared the poorhouse advocates’ goals of cutting relief expenses and reducing the number of able-bodied who were receiving assistance, as well as the moral reformers’ goal of uplifting people from poverty through discipline and religious education via private charity. In this model, individuals responded to charity and the government stayed out of the economic sphere.
It's almost the exact same words that Republicans use today.
Not surprisingly, Charity Organization Societies were generally opposed to unions.
If this description of Scientific Charity sounds like it fits into the idea of Social Darwinism, it's because it does. All failure is pushed onto the individual. The idea that there might be forces outside of the individual's control is rejected by faith.
One of the founders of the movement, Josephine Lowell, believed that the poor should be given a "test", such as breaking stones, before receiving charity. She opposed alms giving.
The other item to note from this description of Scientific Charity is the reliance on religious faith. Thus "Scientific" Charity is as much about science as intelligent design.
"It is not bread the poor need, it is soul; it is not soup, it is spirit."
- historian Walter I. Trattner, "From Poor Law to Welfare State"
"The poor know little of the motives which stimulate the higher ranks of action - pride, honor and ambition. In general it is only hunger which can spur and goad them onto labor."
- Joseph Townsend, 1786
The goal of Scientific Charity was about getting rid of "outdoor relief".
The way they wanted to address that was to eliminate the "undeserving poor". This concept of "undeserving poor" dates all the way back to 16th Century English Poor Laws.. Henry VIII created them to deal with the impoverished of England after he had seized all the monasteries, which operated the only charity system at the time, in order to sell the lands to wealthy and corrupt friends.
Under the Poor Laws there were four classifications:
* The impotent poor could not look after themselves or go to work.
* The able-bodied poor normally referred to those who were unable to find work.
* The idle poor were of able body but were unwilling to work.
* Vagrants or beggars, sometimes termed "sturdy rogues", were those who could work but had refused to.
The last group was normally treated with whippings, brandings, time in jail, and eventually hanging. Only the first group was considered worthy of assistance. Basically being poor was treated as a punishable crime for nearly a century.
Today's Republican Party doesn't shy away from blaming the poor for their condition. Marvin Olasky, author of "The Tragedy of American Compassion," the book that Newt Gingrich so loved, had this to say: "Does that mean I'm blaming the victim? Yes and no."
For years the right-wing, and especially the wealthy elite, have been telling us that the poor are poor because the are lazy, because they are immoral, because they've gotten what they deserve.
Meanwhile the wealthy are living in luxury because they worked harder, because they didn't give into sin, because they are better.
The reality is exactly the opposite.
sociopath:A person with antisocial personality disorder. Probably the most widely recognized personality disorder. A sociopath is often well liked because of their charm and high charisma, but they do not usually care about other people. They think mainly of themselves and often blame others for the things that they do. They have a complete disregard for rules and lie constantly. They seldom feel guilt or learn from punishments.
It may sound like a bold statement to say that most wealthy people are sociopaths, but in fact there is plenty of scientific evidence behind it.
A recent NY Times article summed up a study as Rich people just care less. The report was bolstered by a 2008 report from University of Amsterdam and the University of California, Berkeley.
A prerequisite to empathy is simply paying attention to the person in pain...The more powerful were less compassionate toward the hardships described by the less powerful.
“People who are perfectly capable of working are buying things like beer.”
- James Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma
This conclusion is far from unusual. Consider this list:
On 29 July 2010, Britain's Economist headlined "Wealth, Poverty and Compassion: The Rich Are Different from You and Me; They Are More Selfish,"
On 13 December 2010, Rich O'Hanlon of goodmenproject.com bannered "Study of the Day: Rich People Feel Less Empathy,"
On 26 January 2012, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, PNAS published "Higher social class predicts increased unethical behavior,"
On 27 May 2013, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology published "Social Class Rank, Essentialism, and Punitive Judgment."
“The only way to prevent the people from becoming habitually dependent on government is to bring the operation to a close.”
- Sir Charles Trevelyan (on ending Irish famine relief efforts), circa 1850
A 2009 survey of 316 CEO's was compared to their company's performance.
In other words, warm, flexible, team-oriented and empathetic people are less likely to thrive as C.E.O.’s.
And finally there is this article from 2011.
In multiple trials that involved both questionnaires and physical-response tests, the researchers found that young adults whose upbringing involved some degree of financial struggle were quicker and more likely to register signs of empathy than young adults who came from affluent backgrounds.
Interestingly, the article refers back to a 2005 study that casts a great deal of light on why people who lack empathy seem to rise to the top of our capitalist system.
if a stock trader suffers from some kind of emotional impairment -- that is, brain damage that prevents them from fully experiencing their own emotions -- it may allow them to make more profit on the market, since they can make decisions based more firmly in rationalism.
In fact the average stockbroker is more competitive than a diagnosed psychopath.
There is a clear pattern showing in these scientific studies, and it is the opposite of the right-wing meme. To get to the top you need to be ruthless. Empathy, kindness and a firm set of morals to guide your behavior are traits of the lower classes, not the ruling class.
The super wealthy are less empathetic and more likely to cheat than those in the working class.
The growing income inequality means the wealthy rarely rub shoulders with the working poor, and its getting more rare.
Because they rarely meet regular people it is easy for them to stereotype the poor.
“The explosion of food stamps in this country is not just a fiscal issue for me, this is a defining moral issue of our time.”
- Representative Steve Southerland, Republican from Florida
If you think that's simply some statement by a class war loser, think again. It's what the wealthy elite believeas well.
In a survey of 500 senior executives in the United States and the UK, 26 percent of respondents said they had observed or had firsthand knowledge of wrongdoing in the workplace, while 24 percent said they believed financial services professionals may need to engage in unethical or illegal conduct to be successful.
If anything, those numbers are low.
If you think that is shocking, consider this: that at least one major bank is rumored to have actively sought out sociopaths.
A senior UK investment banker and I [were] discussing the most successful banking types we know and what makes them tick. I argue that they often conform to the characteristics displayed by social psychopaths. To my surprise, my friend agrees.
He then makes an astonishing confession: “At one major investment bank for which I worked, we used psychometric testing to recruit social psychopaths because their characteristics exactly suited them to senior corporate finance roles.”
So given that information, consider what it means in Washington, where half of the politicians are successful millionaires.
"Everyone but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor or they will never be industrious."
- Arthur Young, 1771
This sociopathy can be seen in today's politics.
The insistence by some House Republicans in Congress on cutting financing for food stamps and impeding the implementation of Obamacare, which would allow patients, including those with pre-existing health conditions, to obtain and pay for insurance coverage, may stem in part from the empathy gap.
It's hard to believe that the politician you supported could have fooled you. That there must have been a reason why he appears to betray his supporters.
But in fact, the average politician has many of the personality traits seen in the violent criminal underground.
“[the social safety net has become] a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency.”
- Paul Ryan, 2011
“It is time that we recognize that many families are trying to survive in drug-induced poverty, and we have an obligation to make sure taxpayer money is not being used to support drug dealers.”
- Utah state senator Tim Schaffer, 2013
"The poor ... are like the shadows in a painting: they provide the necessary contrast."
- Philippe Hecquet, 1740
[children in poor neighborhoods have] “no habits of working and nobody around them who works.”
- Newt Gingrich, 2012
''In order to succeed, the poor need most of all the spur of their poverty.''
- George Gilder, ''Wealth and Poverty'' 1980
"There is not a more contented people amoung us, than those that work the hardest and are the least acquainted with the pomp and delicacies of the world."
- Bernard de Mandeville, 1732
"There are no rich. There are no middle class. There are no poor... We all either work for rich people or we sell stuff to rich people."
- Rand Paul, 2010