Does America Hate the Poor? The Other American Dilemma: Lessons for the 21st Century from the 1960s and the 1970s

By John E. Tropman | Go to book overview

tion of the public will only bring about further rejection. It is necessary to find ways of calling the attention of the public at large to this problem without making arguments and explanations which will reinforce the status anxieties of the middle American.

Related to this is the second possibility, one of educating the public about the poor. The problem is not middle-class misperceptions about the poor, implying, as that does, that education with the facts will help. That solution ignores the psychological energy and needs behind views of the poor. The argument here is that the conceptions have much more to do with the concerns of all classes for themselves and are not, in any specific sense, directed only at the poor. The poor themselves have misconceptions about the poor. We thus need to make new attempts to provide facts that may change the images in people's minds.

Third, these results suggest a set of problems for professions which systematically deal with the poor, especially social work. Specifically, there is not much support, in these responses, for pleas for support of the poor due to the external nature of the causes of poverty. And unlike education, which is connected with the myths of upward mobility, social work can draw strength from no deep reservoir of values. Perhaps it could seek in some way to connect itself with mobility and achievement values as a way to enhance its ability to be helpful.

Fourth, it is now clear from the responses that the middle class is one important source of hostility to welfare programs. Those involved in designing new programs to help those in the lowest class will need to think of ways to avoid the stigma attached to many current programs, stigma which comes from a sense that the lowest-class members have a heavy hand of responsibility in their own fate.

The important point here, however, is to see that the problems are centrally, not peripherally, related to key American values, and it is therefore necessary to take those values into account in both analysis and policy.


CONCLUSION

The old explanation, which points out that "support of an ideology is strongest among those who profit most from the system which the ideology explains" ( Rytina, Form, and Pease 1970, 715), still rings true. The question remains, however, as to who profits from certain ideologies about the poor. As Pogo, the comic strip possum created by Walt Kelly, famously said, "We have met the enemy, and he is us."


NOTES
1.
Williamson ( 1974b) found similar inaccuracies, except for the proportion of illegitimates, in people's perceptions of the welfare clientele.

-43-

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Does America Hate the Poor? The Other American Dilemma: Lessons for the 21st Century from the 1960s and the 1970s
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Note x
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Part I Who are the Poor, and Does America Hate Them? 1
  • Note 4
  • Chapter 1 How America Hates the Poor 5
  • Conclusion 15
  • Notes 15
  • Chapter 2 Poorfare Culture, Welfare State 17
  • Conclusion 23
  • Part II Pictures in Plenty: Conceptions of the Underclass 25
  • Chapter 3 Laggards and Lushes: Images of the Poor 27
  • Conclusion 43
  • Notes 43
  • Chapter 4 The Decent Poverty Stricken: Images of the Near Poor 45
  • Conclusion 57
  • Chapter 5 The Overseer of the Poor: View from the County Welfare Office 59
  • Conclusion 70
  • Note 71
  • Chapter 6 Mothers: Opinions and Stereotypes 73
  • Conclusion 79
  • Note 80
  • Part III The Life Cycle Poor: Images of the Aged 81
  • Note 83
  • Chapter 7 Images of the Elderly 85
  • Conclusion 91
  • Notes 91
  • Chapter 8 American Culture and the Aged: Stereotypes and Realities 93
  • Conclusion 104
  • Notes 105
  • Chapter 9 What the Public Thinks: Older and Younger Adults 107
  • Conclusion 123
  • Note 123
  • Part IV Why America Hates Poor 125
  • Chapter 10 The Poorfare State: Embodiment and Revelation 129
  • Conclusion 131
  • Chapter 11 Social Exploitation 133
  • Conclusion 142
  • Notes 143
  • Chapter 12: Mirror of Destiny 145
  • Notes 152
  • References 153
  • Bibliography 159
  • Index 169
  • About the Author 173
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