Biased Politician of the Week – Poor People Deserve It Edition

“You know what, Americans have choices. And now they have to make a choice. And so maybe, rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to spend hundreds of dollars on, maybe they should invest in their own health care.”  – Rep. Jason Chaffetz

“Medicaid is a welfare program.  It’s not designed for able-bodied adults.” – Sen. Tom Cotton on CNN

“Just like Jesus said, ‘The poor will always be with us.’ There is a group of people that just don’t want health care and aren’t going to take care of themselves. Just, like, homeless people … I think just morally, spiritually, socially, [some people] just don’t want health care. The Medicaid population, which is [on] a free credit card, as a group, do probably the least preventive medicine and taking care of themselves and eating healthy and exercising. And I’m not judging, I’m just saying socially that’s where they are. So there’s a group of people that even with unlimited access to health care are only going to use the emergency room when their arm is chopped off or when their pneumonia is so bad they get brought [into] the ER.”  –  Rep. Roger Marshall

Each Friday we will highlight a politician or local political scene that has shown some cognitive flaw, or bias.  Individually, these stories may fly under the radar.  As a whole, they contribute to our current state of biased politics. 

Some politicians really love blaming poor peopleJason Chaffetz tells poor people to buy health insurance instead of a phone. (I’m sure he also lectures about how the government should get out of people’s lives and stop telling them what to do.  The irony isn’t a coincidence. It’s a feature of the anti-government crowd.)  Tom Cotton only thinks adults without able bodies deserve to have health insurance thru Medicaid.  Roger Marshall basically says that poor people are lazy moochers who don’t deserve to be healthy.  These are all our elected officials.  They all think poor people deserve it.

What kind of world do we live in?

So, do poor people deserve it?  The conservative movement has been pushing this kind of toxic thinking for years. It’s an extreme form of what psychologists call the Just World Fallacy.  We often have an idea that the world is just – that it’s fair – that what goes around comes around – that hard work will equal upward mobility. 

Why do we think this?  Psychologists think it’s mostly for self protection.  When I pass a homeless person on the street, I protect myself by thinking the homeless person is poor for a reason.  Maybe he has a mental disease. Maybe he has a drinking or gambling problem. I want to point to something that’s different from myself so I can say: I will never be this person because of this.  If the only difference between myself and the homeless man is a bit of bad luck, that unnerves me.  So I make up a story for why he deserves it.

If we tend to think poor people deserve it, we also tend to think rich people deserve their wealth.  If it’s a just world, then we get what we deserve.  The rich deserve to bathe in luxury, while the poor deserve to die on the streets.  This helps explains why pointing out Trump’s extreme wealth and paltry philanthropy doesn’t bother his supporters.  They think he deserves his wealth.  They think he must be the smartest, best businessman the world has ever seen.  Trump believes that himself.

Do you feel lucky?

As for Chaffetz, Cotton and Marshall, they are pathetic symptoms of this fallacy.  The world is not just. The world is not fair. Luck has as much to do with our lot in life as anything else. No one chooses their parents – their economic background, their country of origin, their religious upbringing, their genetic makeup, their cultural background.  Poor people don’t deserve to be poor just like rich people don’t always deserve to be rich.  We retroactively decide as a society what people deserve. 

Earth - where poor people deserve it. Or do they?
What kind of world do you want to live in?

So, what kind of world do you want to live in?  One where you assume the world is just and everyone gets what they deserve?  Or do you want to live in the world that understands the inherent inequities of the world and makes systematic changes to address it?  I’d rather live in the second.  The only way to get there is if we work on these issues – like universal healthcare – as a people.  It’s hard to do that when we have biased, out-of-touch-with-reality politicians like Tom Cotton, Jason Chaffetz and Roger Marshall representing us. 

Poor people may not deserve to be poor, but I think those three deserve to lose their current jobs.