I keep committing to myself not to link every column Barbara Ehrenreich pens for the Times all month. But then again, I do owe her something for coming down to New Haven to get arrested with us. And maybe more links will help, in whatever small way, to shake enough sense into Bill Keller to carve her a permanent niche on the page. And ths piece is just damn good:
‘The lower-economic people,’ Cosby announced, ‘are not holding up their end in this deal.’ They let me down, too, sometimes – like that girl at Wendy’s who gave me sweet iced tea when I had clearly specified unsweetened. She looked a little tired, but, as Cos might point out: How hard can it be to hold a job, go to high school and care for younger siblings in all your spare moments while your parents are at work? But it’s just so 1985 to beat up on the black poor. During the buildup to welfare ‘reform’ in 1996, the comfortable denizens of think spas like the Heritage Foundation routinely excoriated poor black women for being lazy, promiscuous, government-dependent baby machines, not to mention overweight (that poundcake again). As for poor black youth, they were targeted in the 90’s as a generation of ‘superpredators,’ gang-bangers and thugs.
It’s time to start picking on a more up-to-date pariah group for the 21st century, and I’d like to nominate the elderly whites. Filial restraint has so far kept the would-be Social Security privatizers on the right from going after them, but the grounds for doing so are clear. For one thing, there’s a startling new wave of ‘grandpa bandits’ terrorizing rural banks. And occasionally some old duffer works himself into a frenzy listening to Cole Porter tunes and drives straight into a crowd of younger folks. The law-abiding old whites are no prize either. Overwhelmingly, they choose indolence over employment – lounging on park benches, playing canasta – when we all know there are plenty of people-greeter jobs out there. Since it’s government money that allows them to live in this degenerate state, we can expect the Heritage Foundation to reveal any day now that some seniors are cashing in their Social Security checks for vodka and Viagra. Just as welfare was said to “cause poverty,” the experts may soon announce that Medicare causes baldness and that Social Security is a risk factor for osteoporosis: the correlations are undeniable.
Is there an urgent place for social criticism of the African-American community from within? Certainly. Is that place filled by a millionaire who made his money first offering a not-too threatening image of Black America for White America and second offering a whole lot of jello blaming the victims of economic inequality for being the ones not holding up their end of the bargain? Not in the slightest.