The Poor Are Already Divided, Thom Tillis, But Not for Long

IMG_tillis.JPG_2_1_ID2LUVB6.standalone.prod_affiliate.138The Zombie Tactics of Ronald Reagan just will. not. die! Thom Tillis, the speaker of the House for the North Carolina legislature and a front-running candidate for US Senator against present Senator Kay Hagan, told constituents:

What we have to do is find a way to divide and conquer the people who are on assistance. We have to show respect for that woman who has cerebral palsy and had no choice, in her condition, that needs help and that we should help. And we need to get those folks to look down at these people who choose to get into a condition that makes them dependent on the government and say at some point, ‘You’re on your own. We may end up taking care of those babies, but we’re not going to take care of you.’ And we’ve got to start having that serious discussion.

First off, I’d like to know who this “we” is that will take care of this poor woman’s children? Does Thom Tillis really think that the orphanage system is adequately set up to properly take care of “those babies”? Do his constituents think that? Or are they just fooling themselves in this entire fantasy? Isn’t there one moment of truth allowed to break out through this elaborate set of pillowy lies? This is some commitment to crappy classism, I must say. I’ll give Thom Tillis credit for that, though.

What Tillis needs to know is that he’s not saying something revelatory. If he’s hoping to start a movement, he’s way too late. I hear this Reaganish Welfare Queen mentality all the time not just from rich white conservative politicians, but from the poor ourselves.

These poor are deserving; they are not!

Those people are expecting handouts – but they are content bootstrappers.

This Divide & Conquer Tactic against the very poor became extremely popular some thirty years ago under Ronny Raygun and his fabricated anti-black/anti-poor myths. Tillis can’t be serious as he should already know that the very poor are fighting for what little is left over for them. This is a very effective and old tactic of conservatism and feudalism: let them fight over the crumbs.

And these are crumbs, mind you. I don’t know what kind of assistance Tillis is referring to here, but in post-welfare reform US, nobody is making a living of any sorts on welfare. I mean, not on social welfare. Corporate welfare costs the average American family $6,000 a year while social net programs like food stamps cost the same family a whopping $36 a year. So, if he were looking for who is or is not deserving, I can think of a few corporations to look into.

I do not want to give the impression that every poor person is divided, mind you. Among the poor, I experience more community than I’ve ever found among the middle class or rich, for when you’re poor and you know what struggling is you’re more likely to share everything. But often those outside of the community are suspect because there is only so much of everything. Additionally, poor white people have, since the beginning of the American colonies in present-day US, been pitted against black and indigenous people. The Elite Classes learned long ago that if they do not give special privileges to poor whites and turn them against Natives and Africans, they will all join the struggle against their chains and overthrow the rich.

Thom Tillis is just continuing in that logic.

Further, are we fooled into thinking that Tillis would give actual aid to those with cerebral palsy? How much? Up to what point? What kind of access would she have? What if she had children? Would that make her less deserving of our ‘generosity’? Welfare Queeners will say, She can’t afford to take care of those children! Who does she think she is? And that gravy train would end, y’know.

Oh yeah, assistance is viewed in the conservative mindset as some sort of generosity given by the wealthy-worthy to the temporarily-displaced worthy. “Worthy” is a value system solely determined by the wealthy-worthy, of course. Don’t have too many children unless you can fully afford them. Don’t face depression. Go to college, but don’t borrow any money to do so.

Survival in the richest nation in the world is merely at the whim of the luckiest people in the richest nation on earth, apparently.

That is, of course, assuming we do not fight back.

Screw you, Tillis! We will fight your tricks; we will organize; we will stand in solidarity. And it is you who will be defeated.


When he’s not riding both his city’s public transit system and evil mayor, Jasdye teaches at a community college and writes about the intersection of equality and faith - with an occasional focus on Chicago - at the Left Cheek blog and on the Left Cheek: the Blog Facebook page. Check out more from Jasdye in his archives as well!


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