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

Preface

As we approach the twenty-first century, an examination of elements of the passing century may help us plan better for the future. So much has changed since 1900 that it seems almost a completely different world. Almost nothing we think of as "modern"--cars, planes, medical care, electronics--existed to any degree in the early 1900s. The Social Security Act, signed August 14, 1935, in its now twenty titles, provides help for those in need--the elderly, mothers and children, the unemployed, those with disabilities. It is a different world.

The more things change, though, the more they seem like the same things. While we provide help for the needy, the poor, and the old, we are deeply suspicious both of "them" and of "helping them." Themes articulated as the century closes about the poor, their need to work, and the unnecessary benefits they receive are much the same as those articulated as the century opened. Historically, the thinking was that if "poverty" was bad, "pauperism"-- accepting help for being poor--was worse. It destroyed the individual's independence. As Rauschenbusch commented, "To accept charity is at first one of the most bitter experiences of the self-respecting workingman. Some abandon families, go insane, or commit suicide rather than surrender the virginity of their independence. But when they have once learned to depend on gifts, the parasitic habit of mind grows upon them, and it becomes hard to wake them back to self-support" ( 1911, 238).

Almost seventy-five years later, a "New York Times" article by Frank Levy announced, "A Growing Gap between Rich and Poor" ( Levy 1988). And

-vii-

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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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