Tim Pawlenty's Classless Attack on the Poor

Not welfare cheats. Not illegal immigrants. The poor.


By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

American politics can be, as Henry Adams once wrote, the systematic organization of hatreds. It doesn’t need to be. But too often, we let it become so.

There was evidence of this last week, in Minnesota, where Tim Pawlenty--a governor, hoping to become the President of the United States--decided that what America really needs right now is some good old-fashioned bashing of the poor.

Not welfare cheats. Not illegal immigrants. Just anyone who doesn’t have a lot of money. The poor.

The folks that lost their jobs, or the value of their houses, or their homes, in this great recession. Who work at fast food joints, or cleaning office buildings, or as laborers. Who maybe aren’t as smart as Gov. Pawlenty, or as lucky. Who are trying to keep a family together, in a lousy apartment or a crowded trailer, with one spouse gone. Who have cancer, or a kid who is sick, and don’t have health insurance. Who are trying to wring a few more miles out of that third-hand Toyota pickup truck. Who think Velveeta and a bag of chips is heaven.

Yeah, the poor. Those inconvenient reminders of our frailty. The ones that Jesus told us to love. The ones that Christ said were blessed. The ones on whom God’s chisel, for some mysterious purpose, slipped.

Pawlenty was appearing at a rally of the crazed and selfish with Sarah Palin and Michele Bachman, two deft purveyors of the politics of grievance. Maybe he just succumbed to peer pressure. Or maybe his complaint that "We now live in a country where Wall Street gets a bailout and the poor get a handout" was a window to his character.

Either way, Pawlenty displayed a certain poverty of spirit. An ignorance of the old verities. A lack of class.

"At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge, said the gentleman, taking up a pen, "it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.
"Are there no prisons? asked Scrooge.
"Plenty of prisons, said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.
"And the Union workhouses? demanded Scrooge. "Are they still in operation?
"They are. Still, returned the gentleman, "I wish I could say they were not.
"The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then? said Scrooge.
"Both very busy, sir.
"Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course, said Scrooge. "I'm very glad to hear it.
"Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude, returned the gentleman, "a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?
"Nothing! Scrooge replied.
"You wish to be anonymous?
"I wish to be left alone, said Scrooge.

  • Check out this month's best political cartoons.
  • Check out our editorial cartoons on Sarah Palin.
  • Become a political insider: Subscribe to U.S. News Weekly, our digital magazine.