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Thursday, February 02, 2012

Blaming the Treatment for the Disease

Patients on dialysis
Bass-ackward reasoning 101: Imagine a patient with kidney disease. This patient has be treated with dialysis regularly or the blood toxins normally filtered out by the kidneys will eventually kill him. It's not cheap, but it's necessary. Everyone knows that the solution to this problem is a kidney transplant. But a group of quacks -- without any real research at all -- insist that the problem isn't the failing kidneys, the problem is the dialysis. Stop giving the patient the treatment and they'll recover.

I bring this up to draw a parallel. After Mitt Romney said he wasn't "concerned about the very poor," head wingnut and US Senator Jim DeMint suggested a better way of putting it -- the dialysis is the problem, not the disease.

Roll Call:

DeMint said that portion of Romney’s comments also need to be reframed. While Democrats have been using Romney’s comments to argue he is callous toward the poor, conservatives have expressed concern that the former governor might be OK with having Americans who are dependent on government-subsidized social programs.

“He needs to address it,” DeMint told Roll Call. “Because I know he does care about the poor. But I think he was trying to make a case that they’re taken care of. But, in fact, I would say I’m worried about the poor because many are trapped in dependency, they need a good job; they don’t need to be on social welfare programs. I think he needs to turn that around because — the middle class is key, and we have to focus on that. And, really, the problem with the middle class is not successful people, it’s politicians — but the key to making our country successful it to get everyone on that economic ladder.


“I think all of this is a teachable moment for America,” DeMint continued. “I think Bain Capital was, and I think he finally turned that around and showed some confidence in his success, and we need to do that here. We do worry about the poor when they’re trapped in government dependency programs and the education system’s not producing the skills [and] character for them to succeed, and I think it is an important thing for him to backtrack on that. I don’t think anyone thinks he doesn’t care about the poor, but I think he’s trying to say they’re taken care of right now with these programs. Those are the programs that are hurting, not just the poor, but our country. We need to address it at every level.”

Yes, many people are "trapped in dependency," just like our dialysis patient who's dependent on a machine. But here's the thing; dialysis isn't the problem, kidney disease is the problem. In the same way, the social safety net isn't the problem, poverty is the problem. The point isn't just to get the guy off the machine, the point is to get the patient off the machine because he's well.

But this all ties in with the conservative view of poverty -- poor people are poor because they're lazy. It's like saying people on dialysis aren't really sick, they're just too damned lazy to put in the effort it takes to use their own kidneys. Never mind that our economic system requires low income people to function. After all, if everyone's a millionaire, who hands out burgers from the drive-thru window? Mitt Romney? Jim DeMint? Our economy, as it's set up now, wouldn't function without low-wage workers. That's just the way it works. If everyone's wealth, wealth offers no advantages or security -- the two things that are the whole damned point of being wealthy.

But the "pro-business" approach to labor ensures that things would be even worse. As I wrote a few days ago, high unemployment is actually good for hiring, since it keeps wages low and replacement workers plentiful. Republicans, who serve the 1% almost exclusively now, have plenty of incentive on more than one level to keep employment high as long as possible; it helps out their big donors and it makes President Obama look bad. And they don't actually have to do anything to keep the numbers high, other than block every effort to lower them and make sure nothing gets done. In the face of this Republican pro-poverty economic policy, I'm amazed that DeMint can still, with a straight face, blame poverty on the poor.

But that's today's Republican Party -- shameless to the core. In you're on dialysis, shut down the machine. If you're in poverty, remove the safety net. They're both bad prescriptions, but the point isn't really to solve the problem. The point is to exacerbate it. Not because it's good for this particular patient, but because it's good for another -- actually much healthier -- patient who's willing to pay more.


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