Thoughts on poverty and homelessness in the U.S.A.

Millions of Americans…

“Millions of Americans without insurance!  Millions of Americans without insurance!?  Well, I’m one of them!  I walk into a doctor’s office, and I pay out of pocket.  They’re surprised.  It’s called ‘self responsibility.'”

I quoteth Rush Limbaugh, to whom I was accidentally forced to listen one day when I innocently turned on my seemingly innocuous, little radio.

And there he was.  Ranting and raving as usual.

Okay, so not having enough money to pay for medical costs makes a person “irresponsible”?  Huh?  Since when is being poor the same thing as being irresponsible?  If someone buys something they don’t need, a luxury car, for example, knowing he/she can’t afford it then ends up in debt trying to afford to pay for something he/she can’t afford then that, one might argue, is irresponsible.  But when someone gets sick and needs medical care and doesn’t earn anywhere near the $60 million Limbaugh commands, in spite of working ten times harder than Limbaugh could even imagine, how has that person earned the label “irresponsible”?

It bears the question:  is it responsible of Rush Limbaugh to make such accusations against millions of people he doesn’t even know?

According to some sources, i.e., Newsweek, Rush earns nearly 60 million dollars per year.  So I guess he can well afford to pay for his medical bills.  (Though, judging by his not-so-sleek physique and his known drug problems, one can only ponder how cheap or effective his health care costs could possibly be.)

What interests me, however, is that Limbaugh suggests that vast the majority of Americans are somehow “irresponsible” because we cannot afford to pay for our health care out-of- pocket.  Who listens to this guy?

According to an article in the Colorado Health Insurance Insider,                      69% of Limbaugh’s listeners earn less than $100,000 per year.  Are you telling me these folks are paying out-of-pocket for their health care?  Probably not.  Do they see themselves as irresponsible?

In one swift sentence, Limbaugh insulted the majority of us–Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, Christian or atheist.  Because most of us–no matter how hard we work–cannot afford to pay out-of-pocket for our health care.  Does that make us irresponsible?  Unable to handle self-responsibility?  According to Limbaugh, yes.

We’re all a bunch of lazy, irresponsible bums because we’re not lucky enough to earn $60 million per year, according to Limbaugh.  We’re earning considerably less than that.  We can’t afford to pay, pay, pay.  In spite of the fact that we work, work, work all day for that tiny paycheck that barely pays our bills.  So this guy who does nothing but loudly vociferate, pontificate, manipulate, and spread hate all day long over the airwaves, this guy who thinks that ‘work’ constitutes sitting in front of a microphone proclaiming loudly his vitriol against anyone and everyone who’s not a millionaire, this guy has the audacity to attack us working Americans for not earning as much money as he does.

Yet people are giving him money.  People are paying him to speak.  People are listening to him on the radio.


Has anyone stopped to consider the consequences of millions of people living together on the same plot of land without access to proper medical care?  When they get sick they won’t go to see a doctor because they can’t afford it.  If they’re prescribed antibiotics but can’t afford to buy them they just won’t take them.  The sick will get sicker.  Diseases will spread.  Some minor health ailments will become permanent disabilities when they aren’t treated on time and properly.  So we as a society save money on taxes by not providing health care but end up spending more money treating all the diseases that spread and providing disability payments to those who end up permanently damaged.  Then we spend even more money and time trying to make up for the fact that these people are no longer able to contribute as they are too sick or damaged.

How does that benefit us as a society?

This brings me back to a point I’ve made over and over again.  We have to help the poor.  It serves our own best interest as a society to help the poor.  Because, unlike the rich, the poor do not have choices.  They do  not have alternatives.  If we don’t provide them with health care then they’ll just do without health care, and we all suffer with the resulting spread of disease.  If we choose not to fund education, the poor will not attend college and, once again, we all suffer when we learn that the US has fallen behind other countries due to our uneducated populace.  We budget cut programs and services to help the poor and we all suffer when we are constantly bombarded with homelessness, poverty and hopelessness all around us.

If we increase taxes for the rich, some people won’t like that.  The Rush Limbaughs of the world will complain, hem and haw.  They’ll decide not to invest in that new stock, not to buy the new painting, not to purchase the third mansion by the sea.  Maybe they’ll refuse to hire an extra maid to tidy up the guest room.  But they won’t suffer.  The rich are, by definition, rich.  They’re doing very well, thank you very much.  Higher taxes might limit their wealth and power but they’ll still be wealthy and powerful.  They won’t end up homeless or destitute, without food, clothing or healthcare.

But when we budget cut programs and services that help the poor we create huge problems in our society.  The poor will remain poor.  By definition, they are in need.  If their needs remain unmet, they will remain in need.  That means their problems will continue, they’ll fester and the sickness will spread.  It is common knowledge that poverty breeds social disorder.  Crime, violence, abuse, addiction, and mental illness all increase along with poverty.  That is because poverty creates great stress for people.  Money problems are one of the top causes of divorce and suicide.  Poverty is a trap.  Once you’re caught in it, you just can’t escape–unless something comes along and releases you.  You might be very intelligent, capable, and hardworking, but if you don’t have the money to go to college you just can’t go.  It’s that simple.  If your doctor tells you an operation is necessary and you can’t afford the operation you just won’t have the operation.  Even if it results in your own death.  If you don’t have the money, you just don’t have the money.  That’s what it means to be poor.  It means you lack necessary resources.  It means you don’t have the bootstraps to pick yourself up with.

I once got into a conversation with a man hailing from an Asian country that frequently was struck by tsunamis.  He explained to me that the people of the region affected know very well when a tsunami is coming but most can’t afford to escape.  They just don’t have the money to leave the region before the storm hits.  And so they just stay and wait for the death to come.  Sound familiar?  It should, as a similar event occurred in New Orleans.  Remember Katrina?

How heartbreaking is that?  You know the storm is coming.  You know you’re going to die if you stay.  But you can’t afford to leave the area.  Can’t afford the plane ticket and don’t own a car.  You’re stuck.  You’re going to die.  But then again, so will all your friends.  You’re all going to die together.

That’s what poverty is–a slow, preventable, yet inevitable death.  It occurs all over the world and now it has overtaken the US.

As Rush Limbaugh himself demonstrates, poverty does not result from lack of resources.  Our resources here in the US are plentiful and abundant!  Poverty is orchestrated.  It results from the greed and selfishness of the Rush Limbaughs of the world who are hoarding their wealth.  Like a spoiled three year old, they just don’t want to share, nor do they wish to contribute by paying their fair share of taxes.

So they won’t.  Nearly $60 million dollars and a job that requires virtually nothing from the man, yet Limbaugh isn’t happy.  Perhaps he never will be.

He’s not being called in the middle of the night to respond to a domestic violence scene.  He’s not required to run into a burning building to save a small child.  His job doesn’t involve staying up all night trying to save the life of a man who’d just had a heart attack.  He’s not alone in a classroom surrounded by 30 emotionally abused and impoverished students who can’t concentrate enough to learn anything.  Yet he’s paid literally millions of dollars more than any of us who take on even the most challenging, heart-wrenching jobs.

The very same people he calls “irresponsible.”

Shame on you, Rush Limbaugh.  But more shame on us for allowing him to be so well-rewarded for being so irresponsible with his actions and his words.


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