The Carrot and the Stick

This is written by “The Sierra Revolution” from Indivisible in Auburn.

The recently passed 1.5 trillion-dollar tax giveaway was presented as necessary to incentivize business to create jobs. In contrast, the Trump/Republican approach to the poor is punitive—taking away one of life’s most essential needs—healthcare, as a disincentive if they don’t work.
This harsh approach to the poor is being enthusiastically adopted by the former slave states in the South. Is it any surprise? It shouldn’t be. One of the legacies of a nation half slave and half free is the contradictory assumptions that apply to what motivates the rich and what motivates the poor. The rich are understood to be motivated by rewards such as tax breaks. While the poor can only be motivated to work by harsh negative consequences that make their lives even more miserable.

It is a holdover from the lash of slavery and hereditary wealth. For slaves and peasants there was no hope for a better life for them or their children. They worked until they died as poor as when they were born. Their horizons were as limited as those of America’s poor, both white and black. They are trapped in a cycle of poverty perpetuated by crowded ghettos and crumbling schools, rural decay and closed mines and factories. Those who think the poor are lazy should be required to watch the movie “13 Years a Slave” to experience what hopelessness feels like.

Being poor is not a happy life willingly chosen. Poor people respond to hope and opportunity like everyone else. That is what free enterprise is all about. We have long known that the best anti-poverty program is a job. In the last election, the theme was jobs, jobs, jobs. Where are they?

Instead, of trying to lash poor people into working by pushing them lower, why not offer them a job? Why not offer stipends for job training? Let’s put people to work. Not only would we be offering a way up and out of poverty. The jobs would be here not overseas. The wages paid would be spent here pumping up our consumer driven economy instead of going overseas or into corporate buyouts. Let’s offer jobs and hope, not take away health care if what we really want a better future for all of us.