Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. … Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.
— Jesus, in Matthew 25:38 and 45
I swear on a stack of Bibles, Korans, Books of Mormon, Baghavad Gitas, L. Ron Hubbard tomes or Christopher Hitchens essays — pick your text — that I planned to write this column before GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney saw his mission complicated by the release of video footage in which he labels nearly half of all Americans lazy bums, gleefully smirks at the plight of mistreated Chinese workers and unilaterally declares a two-state Israeli-Palestinian solution dead in the water.
Dang. That’s a lot of damage for one puny $50,000-a-plate fundraiser.
I’m not going to repeat his remarks. If you haven’t heard them by now please email me the name of the anti-anxiety meds your doc has you on.
Even before Mitt’s-big-mouth-gate, I was aghast at some of the spittle-flecked anti-poor, anti-downtrodden, anti-unlucky rhetoric pouring from the mouths of certain enraged Republicans. In their version of reality, the less you have, the more responsible you are for the alleged collapse of the nation.
You’ll recall the lusty cries of “yes” during one GOP debate when someone asked if a sick person without insurance should be allowed to die.
Then there was the critic of the idea of government intervention in the housing debacle as “subsidizing losers’ mortgages” (thank you, CNBC Business News Network editor Rick Santelli for this oft-repeated quote, which some say was the “rant heard round the world” that gave birth to the Tea Party).
And then we have the ever popular “makers vs. takers,” moochers and leeches on society, the subject of Romney’s blithe claim that 47 percent of Americans (Obama voters all) are suckling at the public teat and have no intention of loosing their lips. A cluster of lazy bums who don’t deserve the time of day, much less freebie handouts from the virtuous 53 percent of noble, god-fearing job creators.
Well, here’s what I’d like to do. I’d like to take Romney and like-minded people on a tour of a Boulder care facility where I do volunteer work. Few people even know it’s there, tucked away where it does not afflict the comfortable. I genuinely love being there.
I’d like to walk the halls of this institution and have the Romney-ites meet the hundreds of residents, most of whom are disabled, ill, suffering dementia or elderly and require focused care. Many, perhaps most, of these “losers” and “mooches” receive federal assistance in the form of Medicaid. They are, in most cases, “the least of these” that have come in for such political thrashing of late.
To the glib reply that their families should care for them, many require literally round-the-clock care (which they receive; I am always impressed with the people who work there, many of whom make little more than minimum wage). It’s easy to judge until we have been there; shall we drop the stones?
I’d also like to introduce Romney and friends to my friend Brian (not his real name). He struggles with a serious mental illness that prevents him from working full time. He gratefully accepts the gift of public housing, which keeps him off the streets, as well as medical care for his devastating illness.
I’d also like to take them to dinner at Pat and Candy’s house (again, made up names for privacy’s sake) to meet the couple and their two children. Pat lost his job not because he’s a “loser” or “lazy,” but because the economy collapsed (arguably because of the “haves” on Wall Street). He’s relieved to receive unemployment benefits to keep his family afloat while he continues to search for work and does some retraining in hopes of finding another job.
And, for a change of pace, I’d like to take anti-moocher crew to meet the two billionaires and one multi-multi-millionaire I’ve met in my life. The first two received their fortune via inheritance, and not a lick of work. Nothing wrong with that, but it was always fascinating to witness their dubious “morality” (and whining!) as compared to many a poor person I’ve met. And the multi-multi has frequently cost taxpayers through irresponsible behavior. Each clung to their enormous assets with palpable fear.
Are there able-bodied people who game the system? Of course. But not as many as the Angry Right would have us believe; follow-ups to Romney’s 47-percent claim show that many are likely Republicans. And it’s worth remembering that not all disabilities or disadvantages are visible.
So no, Mr. Romney, Mr. Ryan and your ilk: “Having not” does not incline one toward laziness or immorality any more than “having” makes one a virtuous asset to society, no matter what your neo-Calvinist beliefs tell you.