Everybody in Trumpworld is an “acting” this or that — including Trump himself, who is nothing but an act, a carnival side show with shades of a horror movie, to be precise. The title “acting” has changed in meaning from “temporary” to “somebody who will never get confirmed in the real job.” Today the acting director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services came up with this gem.
Here's acting USCIS director Ken Cuccinelli saying on NPR this morning that the Statue of Liberty plaque should be changed to read, "give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet, and who will not become a public charge." pic.twitter.com/q8OoNn3k6r
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 13, 2019
Emma Lazurus penned “The New Colossus,” the moving inscription on the base of the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Forget about that sentiment in this day and age. Moreover, Cuccinelli’s comments evoke the echoes of “welfare queens” and “welfare Cadillacs.” Read the lyrics to “Welfare Cadillac” recorded in 1970 and listen to the song below. This is the quintessential Republican fantasy of what it is to be poor — and it’s now being projected by this administration onto the most marginalized segment of the population.
But I sure don’t pay no rent
I get the check the first of every month
From this here federal government.
Sometimes, four or five sacks
Pick em up down at the welfare office
Driving that new Cadillac,
And I’d even been called a fool
But my kids get free books and
All them there free lunches at schoolWe get peanut butter and cheese
And, man, they give us flour by the sack
Course them welfare checks
They make the payments on this new CadillacThe way that I see it
These other folks are the fools
They’re working and paying taxes
Just to send my youngins through school
Salvation Army cuts our hair
And gives us the clothes we wear on our back
So we can dress up and ride around
And show off this new Cadillac
But things still gonna get better yet
At least that’s what I understand
They tell me this new President
Put in a whole new poverty plan
Why, he gonna send us poor folks money
They say we gonna get it out here in stacks
In fact, my wife’s already shopping around
For her new Cadillac”
Stacks of money and TWO welfare Cadillacs! Yup, see it every day.
The Republicans won’t be satisfied until they rip every single thread of the social safety net to shreds.
Just to interject a note of reality here, I have known poverty and I have known hunger. I grew up in poverty and worked my way out of it, getting grants and scholarships and work-study jobs to go to college, based upon my high school performance and my SAT scores. I believe I was worthy of the assistance that I got. Without college, my socio economic background would have qualified me to work as a cashier after high school — or stay working as a waitress the rest of my life, which surely would have been a waste. Republicans don’t think about any of this. Their only value is keeping as much money as possible. Developing human worth and supporting human achievement is not on their agenda. They got theirs, you don’t got yours, tough.
As an adult, I worked very hard, putting myself through night law school in my forties. As many of you know, I was malpracticed and went first on temporary disability. That was the first time in my life that I knew hunger. I lost my nice two bedroom apartment with wood beamed cathedral ceilings, four miles from the beach, and went to live in a rented room with my cat. I couldn’t afford to eat, plain and simple. I lost a lot of weight, as one will do when eating a cereal bar for dinner. I looked great, but my propensity for anemia was enhanced by this poor diet, and that led to complications later.
I was on temporary disability for nine months, and unemployed, the longest period of unemployment in my life. During that time I never went to a movie or went out, unless some kind friend took me. A couple of kind people took me grocery shopping and that was the best gift of all. I used to get emails from a woman I no longer speak to, someone who was raised Republican but believes herself to be a Democrat, and she would tell me about all the “church giveaways” and “food pantries” that exist — as if she had a clue. I, of course, explored these venues and what they had was bread and refried beans, hardly condusive to a healthy diet. Once I found a tin of sardines and was thrilled.
After nine months in the hell of hunger and privation, not to mention a landlady who hated my guts because I was educated, I secured a job and moved out three months later. I moved to a slum level single in Hollywood, with insect life out of a science fiction movie, but at least it was mine. And I was so thrilled to be able to eat. That was round one with hunger, which I won. Round two was several years ago when I became permanently disabled. This time I was very sick and weak. I thought I was dying. I signed up for Meals on Wheels and had to cancel it after six months or so. The food is pure garbage. If it was what it touts itself to be, a nutritious hot meal once a day, a body could live on that. I assure you that is not the case, at least not in Los Angeles County. For example, their version of “lasagna” is a micro-wave crusted noodle with ketchup and a fragment of cheese. I kid you not. The chicken is dried out rubber and all the vegetables are out of a can.
Once again, somehow I rallied. One of the last things that Obama did before leaving office was to sign an executive order discharging student loans for disabled people. That was one of the greatest boons to me in my entire life, since, among other things, my student loans from law school had gone into default. Late summer of 2017, my life started to turn around. I was able to get credit cards for the first time in twenty years. In the fall of 2017 I, miraculously, started making money from my political blogging and that has continued, and grown, to this very day.
The point I am making with this digression is this: Americans are a hearty and resilient lot. Many of us fall on hard times for one reason or another. That is when a sane and stable social safety net is needed. If we can just eat and keep a roof over our heads, the basics, we can rebuild after times of crisis and personal hardship. This is the American character that I know. I grew up around people with the values of hard work and upward mobility and these attitudes became ingrained in me early on. Granted, there are some lazy slobs looking for a free ride. But in my experience, they are not the majority of people.
Bottom line: there is no free ride in America and welfare certainly is not it. Unemployment benefits are not that big, the aforementioned food pantries and giveaways are woefully inadequate and rather than degrading people who have fallen on hard times, or who have come to America under difficult circumstances seeking a better life, the social safety net has to be expanded, not cut. But then that’s the perennial dialetic between Republicans and Democrats, now isn’t it?
Trumpworld’s newest anti-immigrant stance is only going to leave us with crops rotting in the field and necessary jobs going unfilled. Trump himself knows this, he employs lots of immigrants, many of them in the country illegally. But he needs a scapegoat and so the racist rhetoric keeps escalating and this GOP president continues to make a contribution to the human suffering in the world. Many immigrants now are terrified to apply for food stamps and benefits that they are entitled to legally, because they don’t want their green card status to be adversely affected. Rock and a hard place doesn’t even begin to come close to the conundrum these people find themselves in. Today the United States dropped yet another notch in the eyes of the world. We used to be known as a humane and decent people. I wonder what we’re going to be known as at the end of Trump’s term — and God forbid he gets reelected to another?