By Matthew Rothschild on September 16, 2010

During this campaign season, barely any candidate is talking about the poor.

Mostly what we’re hearing from Dems are pledges to keep middle class tax cuts, and from Republicans, an unapologetic grab to keep upper class tax cuts.

But what about helping the poor?

It’s urgent right now, since the poverty rate keeps zooming up.

It was 12.5 percent in 2007, 13.2 percent in 2008, and 14.3 percent last year.

Even worse, today one out of five kids is living in poverty.

Yes, the middle class is hurting, too, as we’ve entered the age of the downwardly mobile. In August alone, a record 91,000 families lost their houses.

The middle class needs relief now.

And the tens of millions of people in poverty need relief, too.

There’s no moral reason why politicians shouldn’t be addressing both groups of people.

But there are a couple of political reasons: A lot more people are in the middle class, and they vote at a higher percentage than those in poverty.

Plus, Democrats are squeamish about appearing to be the party that attends to the needs of the poor and of minorities.

But ignoring this huge moral crisis of poverty doesn’t make the crisis go away.

Donkeys shouldn’t act like ostriches.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his article “Queenmaker Palin Triumphs with Christine O’Donnell.”

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).


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