For shame for poor-shaming

Tina Dupuy
Tina Dupuy
Staff Photo |

You’ve heard the term “slut-shaming.” It’s a tactic used by those fighting to repeal the 20th century. As women make strides for equality, a chorus of antiquities pronounces women who want to work outside the home as promiscuous. Only wanton women would want abortion rights. Loose ladies demand day care.

Slut-shaming is even prevalent when women get sexually assaulted. In 2011, in the wake of a string of rapes in Toronto, Constable Michael Sanguinetti, a police officer, said, “women should avoid dressing like sluts.” That touched off worldwide “SlutWalks” where women marched against slut-shaming.

But what never gets called out — despite using the exact same playbook — is poor-shaming.

Here’s how it works: You’re poor because you’re not good.

This is the land of opportunity. If you’re not wealthy it’s because you’re lazy. All you need are some bootstraps to pull up and you’re on your way! It’s framed as a moral issue. Lack of wealth indicates lack of morality.

“Four out of five U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives,” writes the AP according to their survey published this week.

Right now, 48 million Americans are in poverty. That’s one third more than the entire population of Canada (34 million). Our wealth inequality statistics are staggering. We have the worst infant mortality rate in the industrialized world. Twenty percent of our nation’s children live in poverty.

That’s not “opportunity.”

How have we resolved these sobering numbers? By kicking the downtrodden.

Which is why we no longer enjoy our once storied upward mobility. In America you get to be middle class the same way you get to be king — by virtue of birth.

Sure, we believe in upward mobility more than Europeans do. We also believe humans domesticated dinosaurs for transportation more than Europeans do. Doesn’t make it true.

The idea is that poverty itself isn’t punitive enough. It isn’t soul crushing enough. We need to make it more dehumanizing, more humiliating, more degrading. Poor-shaming is the notion that people are destitute because we haven’t sufficiently stigmatized their misfortune — enough.

Leave it to Republicans to have the courage to kick Americans because they’re down.

This attitude was summed up nicely by born-rich GOP presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, when he was secretly filmed talking to donors: “There are 47 percent of the people … who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims. … These are people who pay no income tax. … and so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Poor people are asking for it. They don’t care about themselves. If they did they wouldn’t be poor.

This is why Republicans cut the SNAP (food stamps) program from the farm bill. They want to cut the program and cut needy people off of the nutritional program. They want Americans to instead “eat cake.” So they poor-shame.

Florida Congressman Steve Southerland says government benefits actually hurt people. “One thing we cannot put a number on is the number of casualties because people were never connected to their purpose in life,” said Southerland to NPR’s Linda Wertheimer.

The aim of poor-shaming is to get the marginalized to fight over scraps instead of demanding more from their country.

Tax cuts are government handouts to the wealthy. For some reason that’s an entitlement Republicans are OK with. Poor people are greedy when they want a living wage. Wealthy people are greedy to ensure success. When rich people are on the dole — entitlements are necessary for job creation.

How about Americans who have jobs but are paid so little by their profit-hoarding, mega-conglomerate employers that they’re eligible for food stamps? People who work at fast food restaurants have been mobilizing for better pay. Poor-shamers’ answer? They’re trying to bankrupt McDonalds just like Detroit.

Poor? Get a job. Work full-time but can’t make ends meet? Be grateful you have a job. Can’t get a better job? You’re being picky. Ah, the bounty of American insults for the less fortunate.

Let’s recap: Poor-shamers are anti-union, anti-living wage and anti-social safety net.

That’s just anti-American people.

— Tina Dupuy is an award-winning writer and the editor-in-chief of Tina can be reached at

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