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

Recent tax legislation added some components of Social Security income to the tax rolls (when combined with other income). Benefits that were previously enjoyed are now less than they were. Similar tax changes have removed the age-related exemption (an exemption for being over sixty-five) that had been available to older taxpayers on federal returns.

There is much discussion in the public press about the cost of medical care, particularly for older adults. Such discussion is ominous, if not specifically prognostic, because it sets the stage for benefit reduction and benefit alteration. Consider the numbers of public pronouncements about volunteer efforts on the part of older adults to help other older adults with health problems. Conference discussions include reports of plans where elders help other elders. All these initiatives, and others too numerous to mention here, may in some narrow sense be correct. It may be important to make certain adjustments in the tax system. It may be important to remove certain exemptions at certain times. It may be important to deal with rising medical costs. The problem, however, occurs when one puts these changes into a pattern and links that pattern to the larger context. It is this larger context of the need for societal victims that makes one wonder, and regardless of the motivation within any policy system for a particular change, the function of such a change may serve entirely different ends. That may in part be the problem the elderly are facing today.


SOCIAL EXPLOITATION AND POOR HATE

To take resources, one must have a reason. If the reason is hard to justify ("I want more, so I will have some of yours"), reasons need to be constructed. Attitudes toward the poor are such a construction. Negative attitudes add psychological solace to the whole picture: If I am going to take from you, it is nice to hate you; then I not only do not feel bad, I can even feel good about it.


CONCLUSION

Social exploitation--the securing of labor resources for free or cheap--seems to be a universal result from the gap between needs and wants (societal, organizational, familial, and individual) and available resources (also societal, organizational, familial, and individual). Many forms of social exploitation have existed over history. Karl Marx ( 1902), in looking at the relationship between capital and labor, was looking at one particular form of social exploitation as manifest in one particular historical period, but the historical form and choice of predators and victims may and doubtless will change. For Marx, class conflict based on one's position in the division of labor was central.

A future America will see class-related and age-related conflict or generational conflict replacing occupational conflict. The affluent citizens and the younger citizens will most likely unite against the underclass and older. Michael Lind ( 1995) feels this process is already well underway.

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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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