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Kristof Won’t Even Acknowledge that the Poor Can Feel Love

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, December 11, 2012 9:56 EDT
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Occupy Kentucky understands what Kristof doesn’t.

Woo, back from San Francisco and discovering that I missed a minor dust-up when Nick Kristof used his column to spread right wing mythologies about the evil working poor that deliberately avoid work in order to live on that sweet, sweet welfare. Kristof, who prides himself on traveling around the world to talk to all sorts of people, couldn’t be bothered to find any of these people he claims force their kids not to learn to read (!) or otherwise supposedly fake their kids’ disabilities. He was too busy, it seems, regurgitating right wing talking points about poor people having air conditioning and microwaves (the former coming standard in a lot of apartments,  no matter how cheap, and the latter being something you can pick up full prices for $55), and interviewing school officials in a place awash with conservative ideology to hear their breathless recitation of urban legends of evil poor people. But for all the evil poor they supposedly know, they don’t seem to cough any up!

He seems to strongly believe that rural working poor people don’t love their children so much as see them a walking government checks, which makes his proposal—cutting off help for people raising severely disabled children and rerouting it to non-profits that tell parents to read to their children—hard to understand. If you have so little regard for your children you would force them to be illiterate to get a government check, why would you listen to some social worker telling you to read to your kids? If you care so little for your children that you willingly destroy their future to get checks until they’re 18, I wouldn’t trust you to even speak to Save the Children, much less let them in your home. It’s almost as if Kristof doesn’t actually believe that the working poor are as bad as he claims they are, but is simply pretending to believe that in order to excuse cutting off their aid.

Kristof makes many risible claims, including whining that poor people avoid military service when he clearly believes they exist to be cannon fodder, but for some reason, this quote really summed it up for me:

Antipoverty programs also discourage marriage: In a means-tested program like S.S.I., a woman raising a child may receive a bigger check if she refrains from marrying that hard-working guy she likes.

As with Mitt Romney suggesting women could single-handedly stop crime by marrying “someone”, this is a glimpse of how the Wanker Class imagines sex, love, and marriage for everyone else. For Romney and Kristof, of course, you marry for love. But for working class people, they prescribe a system where women exchange sexual release and laundry-doing for sharing household resources with hard-working men, who are also assumed to be able to provide discipline for children women are always mysteriously unable to provide. Love and romance go unmentioned, assumed to be a luxury for the well-off, instead of a desire shared across classes. Kristof can’t even bring himself to admit that working class women might actually be capable of a lofty emotion like love, imagining the best they can do is like someone.

After a column accusing people who need Supplemental Security Income of being liars, monsters who deliberately deprive their children of education, people who are swimming in luxury because they have cheap microwave ovens, and implying they’re incapable of higher emotions like love, Kristof finally bothers to actually speak to one of the people he castigates:

One woman I met, Anastasia McCormick, told me that her $500 car had just broken down and she had to walk two miles each way to her job at a pizza restaurant. That’s going to get harder because she’s pregnant with twins, due in April.

At some point, Ms. McCormick won’t be able to hold that job anymore, and then she’ll have trouble paying the bills. She has rented a washer and dryer, but she’s behind in payments, and they may soon be hauled back. “I got a ‘discontinue’ notice on the electric,” she added, “but you get a month to pay up.” Life is like that for her, a roller coaster partly of her own making.

He doesn’t explain how this is of her own making. Did she take a pass when she got that scholarship to Harvard? Did she turn down her parents’ offer of a free Mercedes to buy a $500 car? I’m guessing he’s hinting that her sexytimes choices that left her pregnant are the problem, even though being pregnant doesn’t make your car break down. And that, in turn, explains so well how reactionaries can simultaneously believe themselves entitled to sexual health care while believing those who can’t afford it out of pocket should go without: They, like Kristof, imagine low-income people to be incapable of higher emotions, and thus believe their sexual passions don’t deserve the same respect. It’s a vile way to think about your fellow human beings, but then again, this is coming from a dude who straight up whines that the poor are reluctant to be cannon fodder, so it’s definitely no surprise.

Further reading here and here.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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