The Tea Party presidential debate this week included one of the darkest moments in modern Americans politics. When Wolf Blitzer of CNN asked Rep. Ron Paul, a doctor, if he would let a 30-year-old man without private health insurance die, a man in the audience yelled "yeah" and the crowd in the hall cheered.
The U.S. Census Bureau announced Wednesday that 15.1 percent of all Americans, 46 million people live in poverty. One of every six Americans and more than one out of every five kids are poor. This is the highest poverty rate in 17 years. You would never know that there so many poor people if you listened to the politicians talk. No one cares.
When I raised this issue Wednesday when I hosted Leslie Marshall's nationally syndicated radio show, a listener called in to say that people are poor because they are lazy. I wondered if that included the 2-year-old toddler who hasn't had a decent meal in a month? Does it include the 25-year-old single mother who has been looking for a job for a year but can't find one because there are six Americans looking for work for every job opening in the United States?
Now there are lazy rich people and lazy poor people. But if poor people are so lazy why do thousands of applicants show up for interviews when a company advertises job openings for 15 new employees?
There are very few public figures who discuss the need to help the needy. The Tea Partyers stick up for rich people. The Democrats talk about aiding middle class families which is a definite improvement over the conservative rhetoric. But no one is talking about the growing number of Americans who live in poverty.
Back in 2000, George W. Bush ran as a compassionate conservative. He proved that his campaign slogan was a joke and his administration was a farce when he left thousands of poor people to rot in New Orleans after Katrina. Then in the fall of 2008, President Bush bailed out the bankers and billionaires on Wall Street to the tune of $770 billion dollars and didn't lift a finger to help the millions of Americans who lost their jobs and then their homes because his administration let its allies on Wall Street run wild.
Congress cut spending on programs to help the poor in the fiscal year 2011 budget, and there will be another round of killing cuts on top of those in the few months after the new deficit "super committee" reports in November. There also will be cuts Medicare and Social Security programs for the ill, elderly, and the infirm. There's always plenty of money for tax freebies for oil companies and corporate jet setters but never enough to help people who can't help themselves.
There was a short window of concern for the poor after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina but that compassion is gone with the wind.