Melissa Harris-Perry returned to the topic of poverty on her show Saturday morning, not only to discuss its absence from both major parties’ political conventions, but the fallout from her impassioned explanation of what it’s like to actually be poor in America.
Among the hate mail she got, Harris-Perry told her panelists, one response calling her an “idiot” was particularly irritating.
“What it said was, ‘Melissa, you’re an idiot. Actual poor people live in the Third World,’” she explained. “‘In America, they have social services.’ And I thought, no no no no no. Actual poor people live right here. That vacuum of simply talking about poverty — even beyond the question of policies — just talking about it feels to me like something that, to me, both parties needed to address.”
Part of the reason they don’t address it, said Joy-Ann Reid, managing editor of The Grio.com, was conservative success over the past three decades in demonizing the poor as being lazy, which has an effect on undecided voters.
“The voters who are still available, who are white and middle-class voters, have built up a resentment over the last generation, where they feel that their ‘stuff,’ their money, is being taken from them through taxation to give to the poor,” Reid said. “So talking about the poor just stokes more resentment.”
Even as new data indicates 800,000 more Americans skipped meals every day to get by last year, writer Lola Adesioye said talking about the poor wasn’t a “sexy” issue, an omission that has major implications.
“It’s not just about shoring up what’s already there and getting more jobs,” Adesioye said. “It really is about addressing the fact that there are some serious factors on the table that, if they’re not being dealt with, you could have more and more people falling into the poverty trap.”
The discussion, aired on The Melissa Harris-Perry Show Saturday, can be seen below.