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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Conservatives are Killing Themselves


The conservative response to poverty is to blame poor people for being poor while denying them the means to escape their poverty. Conservatives blame the poor for not getting a job, but fail to realize how their attitude towards spending for the public good insures that the poor will always be with us and that we all will be the poorer for it.

In Oklahoma, one of the most conservative states in the nation, this can clearly be seen in our refusal to improve our public transportation system. In a word, it is horrible. In Oklahoma City buses run highly limited routes with very restrictive hours. How then is a poor person to have reliable, flexible transportation in order to commute to and from work? The poor typically must purchase older model, used cars from “We Carry the Note” dealers at usurious interest rates. These cars come equipped with built-in maintenance problems making them prone to breakdowns that require expensive repairs. Without good transportation, finding and keeping a job is even more of a struggle for those already at society’s margins.

Transportation is only one of a myriad number of problems the poor face in finding and keeping work. Added to the problem of basic transportation are expensive and inadequate early child care, an early childhood education system under-funded and under attack from conservatives, a paucity of after school programs, and a health insurance “system” that forces the working poor to face illness without medical attention resulting in sick or absent workers.

However, when it is proposed that we as a society do something to address these needs such as build the sort of modern public transportation system found in most of the industrialized world, conservatives go into a hissy fit about “class warfare”, “wealth redistribution”, “tax and spend” ignoring the fact that by helping the poor work, we help America work. Often they divert attention from real solutions to the problem of poverty by blaming immigrants, unions, public education, minorities, socialism or whatever is this season’s scapegoat for our social ills. They do so to save their self-centered attitude towards life.

Jesus warned his followers those who try to save their lives will lose them. Conservatives in particular, need to heed his warning. Saving ourselves, looking out only for ourselves and expecting poor Americans to do to the same is the surest way for us to die as a nation

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