Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Are South Carolina Voters Racists, Ignorant, or Both?

I have to ask the question due to all of the audience applause I've been hearing during most of the GOP presidential debates. So in all fairness, it hasn't been just the good Republican Christian "socially conservative" people of South Carolina...but it was last night.

For many years there's been this stereotype about the poor...that they were all lazy black men. This is mostly a belief that originated in the deep south after the Civil War. Later they became Dixiecrats, but today they are mostly members of the Tea Party and Republicans.

My dad was raised on a farm in Arkansas by a very strict father. My dad was one of those guys who had been raised during the Great Depression and had to walk five miles to school barefooted. After he left the family farm he spent his whole life serving this country, first in the Navy during the Korean War, and then a few years later when he transferred into the Air Force and served two tours of duty in the Vietnam War.

I knew how people in the southern states felt about blacks. I heard what they were always saying. If a white man couldn't find a job, they were lazy too. It's a residual sentiment from the days when most people lived on farms in rural areas. It almost seemed that most "liberals" were generally found in the big cities.

The African-American community had always been vilified for being on public assistance after they were discriminated against from finding work. A white man usually always had a better chance of finding work. This eventually manifested into the Civil Rights movement.

But since the Great Recession started, the demographics have radically changed. Although African-Americans may still have a harder time finding work than whites, many more whites are unemployed and poor today than are any minority.

It's been touted that Americans are the most charitable people in the world, and that as a nation of immigrants, we are the most diverse. But are we really so sympathetic and giving? Or have we always despised all poor people, no matter what their color? And are we really so tolerant of any minority?

First our ancestors discriminated against and vilified the American Indians. Then it was the Mexicans and Chinese. Later it was the Italians, the Irish, and Germans. But since the very beginning, it was always the African-Americans. The white man brought them here against their will, worked them to death, freed them, then vilified them and discriminated against them.

And how intelligent are the American people? Our current president approved a food stamp program that congress appropriated to help those whose lives were crushed by the Great Recession. An economic crisis that was caused mostly by the policies of the preceding political party. Most of the unemployed today were once hard working middle-class Americans who just fell on hard times because of greed in the financial markets.

But a politician from Georgia claims that these newly created poor people became a drag on the economy, and that the current president should be blamed for an "out-of-control" deficit, just because he authorized a food stamp program to feed poor people. Not just black people, but all poor people.

One of the basic necessities for human survival is food. How charitable of a nation are we to deny our poor citizens food? Especially since people like myself worked hard for the past 35 years, paid our taxes, and obeyed the law. But since 2008, we were laid off, lost our homes, lost our savings, lost our cars, and now live in poverty. Do we not feed the poor? Or does this country just starve black people?

Or maybe the audience who were at the Republican presidential debate last night in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina aren't stingy at all. Maybe they are good Christian Americans and believe in helping their fellow countrymen when they are down and out and in need. Maybe they are generous, kind, and giving people. Maybe they do empathize with the poor people in America. Maybe they don't mind if black people and people like me eat. Or as Rick Santorum might say, "Blah people."

Maybe it's not food stamps that the good people in South Carolina object to at all, maybe it's just the man that signed the appropriations bill to authorize the food stamp program...maybe that's who those good people in Myrtle Beach despise...and it's not because of poor white people like me at all.

Juan Williams (a black journalist and political analyst for Fox News) was one of the moderators for the debate last night, and he asked Newt Gingrich: "Speaker Gingrich, you recently said black Americans should demand jobs, not food stamps."

Note: As far back as this blogger can remember, the African-American community has always been demanding jobs, not food stamps (and it's still true today...and that goes for most Americans of any color).

Juan Williams also asked Gingrich: "You also said poor kids lack a strong work ethic and proposed having them work as janitors in their schools. Can't you see that this is viewed, at a minimum, as insulting to all Americans, but particularly to black Americans?"

"No. I don't see that," Gingrich replied. The former House speaker argued that children would be an affordable alternative to unionized workers. Affordable?

And like most of those in the GOP, Newt despises labor unions and blames them for attempting to negotiate wages that keep pace with inflation. The GOP uses this argument that union workers shouldn't be paid more than those in the private sector, when it's become common knowledge that wages in the private sector have remained stagnant, and falling, for the past 30 years -- just to pay CEOs ever rising and excessive salaries. Union workers haven't been getting rich on worker's back, the rich like Newt Gingrich have been getting rich on your backs - - with an unfair tax code. Read my post: How the 1% bilks the 99%

Newt Gingrich went on to explain: "New York City pays their janitors an absurd amount of money because of the union. You could take one janitor and hire 30-some kids to work in the school for the price of one janitor, and those 30 kids would be a lot less likely to drop out. They would actually have money in their pocket. They'd learn to show up for work. They could do light janitorial duty. They could work in the cafeteria. They could work in the front office. They could work in the library. They'd be getting money, which is a good thing if you're poor. Only the elites despise earning money."

What did Gingrich mean by only the elites despise earning money. That statement made no sense at all to me, since it's usually the elites that do everything they can to grab every dollar possible, even evading taxes. Read my post: How the 1% bilks the 99%

And Newt Gingrich's tax plan (like everyone in the GOP) proposes more tax breaks for the rich at the expense of the poor. Maybe the audience at that debate last night in South Carolina doesn't know this (and are ignorant), or they are all wealthy (the elites).

And according to Politfact, New York City union janitors only earn $15.77 an hour ($32,800 a year). Divided by 30 kids, that would only be 53¢ an hour. This is what Newt and the Republicans would also like to pay grown adults to live on...slave wages.

Juan Williams pointed out that some had perceived Gingrich's comments about child labor, as well as remarks he made this month singling out blacks when speaking about food stamps, as offensive to poor people and racial minorities. (The good people in that South Carolina audience must think all poor people in their state are either black or lazy, or both...judging by how much they applauded Newt last night).

Williams said: "The suggestion that you made was about a lack of work ethic. And I've got to tell you, my e-mail account, my Twitter account has been inundated with people of all races who are asking if your comments are not intended to belittle the poor and racial minorities. You saw some of this during your visit to a black church in South Carolina, where a woman asked you why you refer to President Obama as 'the food stamp president'. It sounds as if you are seeking to belittle people."

Williams' comments prompted loud boos from the audience. After he finished speaking, Gingrich refused to walk back his characterization of the president.

In a very condescending tone, Newt replied: "Well, first of all, Juan, the fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history. Now, I know among the politically correct, you're not supposed to use facts that are uncomfortable." Again, the South Carolina audience applauded, as though it were a fact that President Obama personally and single-handedly put millions of unemployed American on food stamps. Racism, ignorance, or both?

Gingrich did not address the question of why he singled out blacks specifically when speaking about food stamps in January remarks.

"I believe every American of every background has been endowed by their creator with the right to pursue happiness," he said. "And if that makes liberals unhappy, I'm going to continue to find ways to help poor people learn how to get a job, learn how to get a better job and learn some day to own the job."

Does Newt Gingrich really believe that only "liberals" are poor and get hungry, and/or want to feed the poor? Fox News reported that another moderator at the debate, Bret Baier, could barely be heard going to the break over the sustained standing ovation. What does this say about the good Christian folks of South Carolina? That all poor people and school children should take a part-time job paying 53¢ an hour? That all poor people should be denied "free" food if they can't find these low-paying jobs?

But to be "fair and balanced", it's not just Newt Gingrich, but ALL of the Republican leaders feel this way.

Fox News went on to idolize Newt Gingrich, saying "It was the kind of answer only Newt Gingrich could give. He was quick on his feet and reached for a philosophical depth not available to most politicians, equally pungent and inspiring." I wondered if the author of that article (Rich Lowry) might also have ejaculated while watching Newt bash the poor during the debate.

Like all those good Christian folks in South Carolina, Georgia's Newt Gingrich (and Fox News' Rich Lowry) must either be a racist, ignorant, or both. Currently there are supposed to be only 3 million job openings for 30 million Americans that are already under-employed and unemployed. Does Newt and the good people of South Carolina want to take away one job from every working adult who's only earning $15.77 an hour (thereby putting them on unemployment or food stamps) to teach 30 children how to get a job paying only 53¢ an hour?

But yet, Gingrich's response was met with a standing ovation from many in the audience. Just what does this say about the audience? Are they racists, ignorant, or both?

According to Newt Gingrich (and the Republican voters in that South Carolina audience), if we put kids to work earning 53¢ an hour cleaning toilets, that will solve are deficit problem -- rather than taxing those like Newt Gingrich who earn over $1 million a year in capital gains, inherited estates, trust funds, dividends, interest, annuities, royalties, and stock-options as regular income. The average working people in South Carolina have to pay a higher tax rate than Mitt Romney does...but it seems that all those poor and uninformed people are always being tricked into voting against their own best interests.

Fact: Obama is not a Socialist, he's just a half-black Democrat who had no control over where his father was born. Because of Republican policies, such as deregulating the banks, busting labor unions, and outsourcing jobs (and representing primarily big oil, big banks, and large corporations), we saw the economic collapse and mass layoffs during the Great Recession. Obama was only trying to help those (Americans, both black and white, like myself) who had their lost jobs and suffered trying to care for themselves and their families. Shouldn't "real people" come before corporate welfare...such as taxpayer-paid subsidies for Exxon-Mobil, who don't pay any taxes at all?

According to U.S. Census Bureau, about 28 percent of households that receive food stamps are African American, while 59 percent are white. According to the same report, about 78 percent of American households are white, while about 12 percent are black.

I heard a commentator on a cable news show yesterday say that the media in South Carolina keeps their citizens uninformed with primarily "conservative" points of view (keeping them "dumbed down"); so maybe I shouldn't rush to judgment about those good Christian voters in that South Carolina audience. Maybe they can't help but be racist, ignorant, or both.

Full disclosure: My great-grandfather was an "undocumented worker" as a stowaway on a ship from Germany. He moved to Arkansas to become a farmer. He didn't own slaves, but raised a large family to help with the chores on the family farm. They never became rich, but managed to eke out a comfortable living.

For most of my life I was a Republican. Ronald Reagan was my hero. I used to watch (and believe in) Fox News. I once thought Glenn Beck should have run for president. I embraced the ideals of the Tea Party since early 2009.

I've worked my ass off all my life. I'm white, I'm very informed, I'm not lazy, I'm not a drug addict, I'm not an alcoholic, I'm not an ex-con, I'm American (born here), I'm patriotic, I'm Christian, and I'm the son of a military Vet who served in two wars for America who was a Southerner before he passed away.

Many, if not most of my relatives still live in the South. A cemetery in a small town in Arkansas is half filled with tombstones that bear my family name.

About a year after I was laid off from my job during the Great Recession I finally woke up and I realized (to my horror) what the Republicans had been doing all along for the past 30 years. So I began researching and watching other news channels.

And now because of the Great Recession, I now find myself poor and in need of food stamps...something all in the Republican leadership want to stop -- to deny me my very existence. I appeal to the good people of South Carolina and their Republican voters...please allow me to at least eat.

Because now at 56 years old, and after 3 years of looking for work, no one would hire me...not even to clean toilets or work as a janitor for 53¢ an hour. And now Newt Gingrich wants me to compete with school children for a job.

My Related Posts:


  1. HUFFPO: "It was a moment that will likely be dissected, debated and discussed for some time: a black journalist being booed by an overwhelmingly white audience in a deep South state on Martin Luther King Day, as a white candidate for president talked about the work ethic in low-income, majority black neighborhoods. It's hard to imagine a more charged few minutes in public life in recent memory."


    But Mitt Romney will most likely when the GOP nomination. Read how Mitt Romney re-invented income inequality" - "To an efficiency expert such as Mitt Romney, you're all expendable. No job is safe, not even yours."


  2. after experiencing this working poor this for the first time, I"m here to tell you that , contrary to GOP rhetoric, Obama is not the 'foodstamp president'.
    That title, in my opinion is held by corporate America and the CEOs (& polticians) who are pushing for lower min wage requirements, lower wages period - while at the same time, they are raking in billions of record-breaking profits in 2010, 2011 and will likely continue to do so going forward.]

  3. Glad to see your still writing, Bud. Yeah, Newt's and the audience's reaction to the journalists questions was amazing...

  4. Brilliant post. Thank you.

  5. Those people in South Carolina play right into the stereotype that all southerns are bunch of dumb rednecks. They gave people from the south a bad name.

  6. No wonder...the Tea Party "Patriots" co-sponsored the last South Carolina Presidential candidate debate. The audience made me ashamed to call them Americans.