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Psj 110: Intro to Poverty and Social Justice - What Do the Poor Deserve?

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Theories of globalization and the public policies involved in them often determine what the poor do or do not deserve, and reflect the ideals of current leaders. Historically, the Neoliberal and Social Development theories of globalization have presented almost perfectly opposing views on what the poor do and do not deserve. Neoliberalism is based on the economics and policies of leaders such as Ronald Regan, the president of the United States, and Margaret Thatcher, the prime minister of Britain. Regan induced policies that reduced government spending, government regulations on businesses, government control on the economy, and had a very laissez-faire approach to the economy. Thatcher was opposed to work unions and transferred the tax burden from the rich to the poor. The motto “a rising tide raises all boats” spoke to the mentality promotes giving money back to the rich. It assumes they will spend it wisely and boost the economy, and the effects will trickle down into the lower classes, and raise them out of poverty because a stimulated economy will add more work (Schiller). In reality, the tax cuts of Reaganomics forced health care services to become less accessible, especially for disadvantaged groups (Milio). These sort of Neoliberalist policies demonstrate how people are biased against giving the poor money because they believe they will use it irresponsibly. It implies that the poor do not deserve aid, and that it is better to primarily benefit the rich and hope that creating jobs for the poor comes as a side effect. Even then, the poor must work to get themselves out of poverty, because the rich have determined they do not deserve direct support. Those in the upper tax brackets are automatically trusted to spend money more wisely than the poor just because they are rich.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, the Social Development theory of globalization, popular in Truman’s reign as president, demonstrates a mindset in which the poor deserve and are obligated to receive aid. Truman viewed poverty as a handicap and saw it as the government’s responsibility to their people to stimulate the economy and provide a safety net for the impoverished and needy of society (Schiller). By stressing social economic equity and attempting to distribute unequal amounts of aid with the goal of creating an equal playing field in the end, Truman’s policies serve as a historical example of society purposefully making a decision about what the poor deserve in a positive way.

Modern day welfare policies attempt to help the poor, but even so will mandate more or less what the poor “deserve.” Many modern welfare acts are severely discriminatory against certain groups of people, such as illegal immigrants or non-citizens (Kullgren). Other welfare acts are restrictive on what you can use the money for. WIC stamps, such as the ones Dr. Johnson brought into class one day, only allow women, infants, and children to buy foods that are deemed “healthy” enough. This legislation is basically mandating that the poor do not deserve comfort foods, like Oreos. The TANF acts, or temporary assistance for needy families, attempt to provide families with the tools they need such as job skills, health care, and food. However, much of this aid comes with strings attached and have limits as to how long you can use them for, expecting families to get out of poverty in at most 60 months (Policy Basics: An Introduction to TANF). The assistance is heavily focused on employment and helping people help themselves, but also is heavily marketed towards families with children, who are viewed as more “deserving.” While modern day welfare acts are a step in the right direction in aiding people out of poverty, they are still very heavily restrictive and are a prime example of how we make decisions that purposefully tell the poor what they deserve.

In conclusion, there will always be inherent bias in how we subconsciously or purposefully decide what the poor deserve, be it through stereotypes, mindsets, policies, or welfare acts. Even the stereotype of the “poor” seems a bit harsh and judgmental; why don’t we refer to those living round the poverty line as “people in poverty,” instead of “the poor?” By calling them “the poor,” we are only perpetuating stereotypes by allowing the main identifier for these humans to be poverty, as if it is a permanent thing, instead of being people who happen to be in poverty at the moment. It is not entirely fair to judge all people in poverty by their covers and decide what they deserve for them, but it is understandable that there must be some sort of standard or benchmark to base aid upon. For the most part policies try to maximize the effects of aid while minimizing the costs, making it a seemingly efficient model. As much as we want it to be false, we always have and always will prejudice those living in poverty, and the judgements or actions of the rich too often make decisions regarding the poor and what they deserve.

Works Cited

Badger, Emily, and Christopher Ingrahm. "The Remarkably High Odds You’ll Be Poor at Some Point in Your Life." Washington Post. The Washington Post, 24 July 2015. Web. 8 Dec. 2015.

Iceland, John. Poverty in America: A Handbook. Third ed. Los Angeles: U of California, 2003. Print.

Kullgren, Jeffrey. “Restrictions on Undocumented Immigrants’ Access to Health Services: The Public Health Implications of Welfare Reform.” American Journal of Public Health: October 2003, Vol. 93, No. 10, pp. 1630-1633.

Milio, Nancy. "Chains of Impact from Reaganomics on Primary Care Policies." Public Health Nursing Public Health Nurs (1984): 65-73. Print.

"Policy Basics: An Introduction to TANF." Policy Basics: An Introduction to TANF. Web. 8 Dec. 2015.

Schiller, Bradley R. The Economics of Poverty and Discrimination. 2d ed. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1976. Print.


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