|Photo credit Josh Anderson Photography|
I think I know poverty. But 1,008 hours amounts to 12 weeks, and at the end of my work day I can retire to some rest and comfort in my home. I don't know 24 hours of poverty, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and on and on and on. Just because I bought an iPhone that set me back $500 doesn't mean I know poverty like State Representative Joshua Evans apparently does. While debating a bill about withholding welfare from families whose children perform poorly in school, Representative Evans said, "They at least give the appearance that they care more about their electronics and their cell phone and other things than they do their kids, and I think that’s really unfortunate. Sometimes the only way to get people’s attention is in their pocketbook,” Evans told the committee.
If Josh Evans is seen talking on his cell phone while his children play is he considered a bad father by
his peers? Or because he's not-poor does he get a pass? Are the people who want to punish poor welfare mothers and their children all-knowing when it comes to the work ethic and financial stewardship practices of poor people? Or do these state legislators resent poor people who have the same material things they have?
In America our poor are in our midst. The poor live in the wealthiest counties and cities. Sometimes they have some of the same material wealth as I do - nice cars, cell phones, televisions, and jewelry. Companies often target poor people with advertising for cheaper cell phones, because they like the allure of having stature with a tech purchase. Poor people aren't dumb either. They know that buying a smartphone serves a dual purpose as phone and computer. Similarly, if you can't afford a mortgage why wouldn't you buy a nice car with more readily available credit? Who wouldn't want to escape the projects into a leather-lined SUV?
I might not know much about poor people, but I know something about middle and lower class white guys in the South. It's easy to lump all poor people into a few stereotypes of lazy, entitled individuals living off the hard work and taxes of other people. It's easy to resent others, especially if your only experience with that other person was waiting in line at the grocery store and they might not be as considerate or as great as you are. The challenge for Tennessee lawmakers debating this festering turd of legislation is to set aside an hour or two frustrated by some experience among Tennessee's poor. They could be real statesmen and stateswomen if they stopped resenting others and represented them. The poor are all around us. They are also the people who make Tennessee the place it is today despite their economic well being. The Tennessee Republican Party should work to help them make this state even greater and oppose this bill.