Bill Moyers is not a young man. Nevertheless, he has been active since his retirement from PBS. Bill still thinks life is unfair. He's right about that!
Bill also thinks we should do something about that unfairness. By "we" Bill means our utterly corrupt, hilariously dysfunctional political system. (The dysfunction is largely a consequence of the corruption.) So Bill often shoots himself in the head right off the bat. Invisible Americans Get the Silent Treatment is a good example.
It’s just astonishing to us how long this [presidential] campaign has gone on with no discussion of what’s happening to poor people. Official Washington continues to see poverty with tunnel vision — “out of sight, out of mind.”
Whoa, Nelly! Let's stop right there. Ask yourself: how astonishing is it that politicians don't want to talk about the poor?
And we’re not speaking just of Paul Ryan and his Draconian budget plan or Mitt Romney and their fellow Republicans. Tipping their hats to America’s impoverished while themselves seeking handouts from billionaires and corporations is a bad habit that includes President Obama, who of all people should know better.
Remember: for three years in the 1980’s he was a community organizer in Roseland, one of the worst, most poverty-stricken and despair-driven neighborhoods in Chicago. He called it “the best education I ever had.” And when Obama left to go to Harvard Law School, author Paul Tough writes in The New York Times, he did so, “to gain the knowledge and resources that would allow him to eventually return and tackle the neighborhood’s problems anew.” There’s a moving line in Dreams from My Father where Obama writes: “I would learn power’s currency in all its intricacy and detail” and “bring it back like Promethean fire.”
Oddly, though, for all his rhetorical skills, Obama hasn’t made a single speech devoted to poverty since he moved into the White House.
Not a single speech devoted to poverty in nearly four years. Bill finds that odd.
Why, for most humans, does that first clue never arrive? This is a complicated, deep question. Take Moyers. What kind of mush does his Big Brain contain? Is it as simple as this?
I'm a liberal. Barack Obama is a liberal. Liberals care about people, unlike those callous conservative bastards. So Obama should care. Yet he doesn't make speeches about the poor, let alone do anything special to lift them out of poverty. What's the problem? I'll give him a hard time, maybe that will do the trick!
I do not want Bill to die without that first clue. But it has to be a first clue, not something complicated like how stratification and inequality have characterized complex human societies since the Neolithic Revolution. (See my post Human Nature — Exhibit B.) So what might that first clue look like? Let's try this—
The poor don't have any money (because ... uhhh ... they are poor). Money runs the political world. Therefore, politicians don't have to pay any attention to the poor.
I know — it's a Big Leap. If Bill had a firm grasp of this first clue—a firm grasp of the obvious, as one reader recently put it—he would no longer find it astonishing how long this presidential campaign has gone on without any discussion of the poor. He would no longer find it odd that Barack Obama has not made a single speech about the poor since his Inaugural Day. And then a proper discussion of what's really going on could begin.
Bill finishes up with a flourish, a call to arms, if you like.
We know, we know: It is written that, “The poor will always be with us.” But when it comes to our “out of sight, out of mind” population of the poor, you have to think we can help reduce their number, ease the suffering, and speak out, with whatever means at hand, on their behalf and against those who would prefer they remain invisible.
Speak out: that means you and me, and yes, Mr. President, you, too. You once told the big bankers on Wall Street that you were all that stood between them and the pitchforks of an angry public. How about telling the poor you will make sure our government stands between them and the cliff?
Speak out ... you have to think ... how about telling the poor. Bill! Wake up! You're not getting any younger. This is it. Last chance!