The Sunday Mail
Letter from America Ken Mufuka
To cut a long story short, the easiest “munchies” (eating for free) is the programme for women expecting babies, which gives coupons for free milk, cheese, eggs and meat products so that the woman can bring a healthy baby into the world. The second programme is a food stamp programme. In order to avoid shame, President Barak Obama instituted a VISA card, so those qualifying do not have to feel a sense of shame when buying goods from a store.
The third programme is subsidised housing. A family qualifying can pay as little as one dollar per month (registration fee) for a three-bedroomed air-conditioned house, while receiving a stipend for electricity as well.
While I have not exhausted the 23 programmes that are supposed to alleviate poverty, the point I wish to make, which is the reason for a storm in the Republican Party, is that it can be rather enjoyable being poor.
This has become a very serious issue for them. To say these words, is to lose an election, because it assumes a certain heartless attitude towards the poor, namely that they enjoy being poor.
The Nigerian student who shared with me the secret of his good fortune is definitely enjoying his status.
The storm in the Republican Party comes from the fact that during the Obama years, 2008-2013, the US government has gone out of its way to advertise these programmes.
People who did not know that they were poor have joined the “munchies” bandwagon.
The numbers are staggering, rising from 43 million to 53 million in five years, one sixth of the population.
Though the majority of the poor are white, half of the 45 million Hispanics and one third of the 35 million brothers receive some help from the government.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney estimated that 53 million Americans on this “munchies train” would never vote for him under any circumstances because Republicans are viewed as mean spirited.
This gives the Democratic Party almost 33 percent of the voting strength before the elections start.
The Republicans have now brought in their big guns to map the way forward. The latest of these big guns is Arthur Brooks, head of the American Enterprise Institute.
The story becomes really murky and ridiculous.
According to Brooks’ new study, the top 10 percent quantile of the population has become richer, owning 92 percent of all business equity and stocks while the poor are worse off than they were in pre-Obama days.
Now, you will say: “Ken, so what is the storm about?” The conservatives are running around like wet chickens saying that a way must be found to make sure that people do not enjoy poverty so much.
Brooks says that before these 53 million strong group can be persuaded to vote Republican, they must be persuaded that the Republican medicine will make them wealthy and happy. The “odds that the second man (poor brother) would say that they are very happy are 10 percent.”
The solution, according to Brooks, is that “faith, family, community and work,” will make a man “enormously happy and wealthy.” In the “high income, high educated America, these institutions are abundant.” Among the poor, “they are rapidly vanishing.”
The truth of this is not by any means self-evident.
The happiest time in my life was when I came from Africa, 32 years old, had one car, one wife and two children.
We went everywhere together and we ate dinner at six o’clock in order to give time for children to do their homework.
Then president of my college, feeling sorry for me, gave my daughter a full scholarship.
Oh, I was so happy. Now we have four cars, investments, my spouse and girl children are feminist fighters.
I get nothing but disrespect, except when they want some allowance from me.
The Republicans are out of order if they think that poor people are unhappy. The argument that wealth comes with stable families is not self-evident either.
The Kennedys have a long history of divorce, tragic murder charges, and even incidences of alcoholism. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Kennedy in-law, confessed to a happy 10-year relationship with their housemaid rather than with Maria Kennedy Shriver, the upper class noble woman.
Brooks’ suggestion for a cure of poverty is even more ridiculous.
Cutting minimum wage from US$7,25 an hour will ensure universal employment. Slavery achieved universal employment without achieving tranquillity and happiness.
Similarly, while faith is the basis of happiness, it does not guarantee wealth.
In any case, faith has been destroyed by television programmes whose main attraction is their lack of virtue. Under freedom of expression, nothing can be done about it.
Teachers’ pay can be regulated by a no pass no pay regiment.
The failing education system in the US is predicated on a permissive culture which sees pupils as customers.
Customers are always right. Almost 30 percent of US students enter college with little skills in the way of grammar, writing and math’s, resulting in a remedial studies industry.
Teachers are not responsible for this cultural milieu.
Brooks’ programmes have been offered as a Republican platform for the November elections.
I do not see the poor swallowing this “muti” supposed to make them wealthier and happier.