The Coachella Valley in California is where Palm Springs provides a home to the rich and famous. It's a conservative bastion of wealth. It's also a tolerant sort of area. One former mayor of Palm Springs is black and openly gay, and was possibly the only such mayor in America. One day, perhaps, such a distinction will be no distinction at all.
The eastern half of Coachella Valley is mostly Spanish speaking. It is a low income area, one of the lowest income area in California. The area has gotten a lot of local attention because of poverty and gang related activity. But actual statistics point to a very low crime rate. It was a central point for protests by farm workers. César Chávez was often there. The valley is mostly Republican, but the eastern part of Coachella Valley is quite Democratic.
Local media personalities occasionally demonstrate their courage by going the politically incorrect route, going out of their way to insult Hispanic people directly. Sometimes they will go in a slightly more coded direction, attacking the eastern valley itself. The fact that the population is Latino is kind of incidental, you see. So anyone who takes offense is just overly sensitive.
A few years ago a Limbaugh clone, Gary Stone, was conducting a daily diatribe, attacking a local councilman from the area. He described eastern Coachella Valley as a "third world toilet." See what I mean? Politically incorrect. Kind of courageous is you look at it just right, slamming all those low income Hispanic residents like that.
Not much to cover there. One more conservative blowhard going after those without the economic power to fight back. No Koch brothers there.
Except one listener made the story a bit more noteworthy. Congressional Representative Mary Bono Mack happened to be listening in. She heard the diatribe. So she swung into action.
If you think her protest had an effect, you'll have to speculate. She didn't protest. She thought it was pretty funny.
From: Mary Bono
Date: Tue,2 May 2006 02:35:46 +0000 GMT
Thank you!!!! I heard some of your remarks with the councliman from Coachella. You were great!!!!!! Unbelievably great!!! Third World Toilet? That was too funny. I have eyewuitnesses who saw Roth protesting. He probably wants to be all things to all people and not act like he was there. I hear there wer 1500 people. That's smaller than the Desert Aids Walk! And they bussed in 8 bus loads. You rock and are so damn funny and smart! Hey, how come you don't send me poems and Shakdespeare anymore? I miss that!
Sent via BlackBerry from Cingular Wireless.
Thanks to The Daily Kos, the story had a day or so of publicity, then died away. Nobody was all that interested.
Sometimes these things acquire a life when they become part of a narrative. The Mitt Romney discussion of the 47% who pay no federal income tax was the start of just such a narrative.
Of course, approximately 60 percent of those deadbeats are the working poor. Those are the ones you'll see on street corners way early in the morning in workclothes waiting for buses to take them to hard labor low pay jobs. They have federal payroll taxes deducted from every paycheck. They pay local and state taxes. They pay sales tax. Another 20 percent are retirees living off pensions and Social Security. Social Security is also there for those who have become disabled. Military veterans are also part of the 47 percent. Mitt Romney tried to explain later that he was merely providing to his audience of appreciative country club wealth a political analysis.
The part of that analysis that should have been more offensive than it was can be heard in a single sentence. Quite apart from those folks feeling they are entitled to "you name it," completely aside from "My job is not to, to, worry about those people," was this: "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
Ezra Klein spells out some of the collision between lazy prejudice and harsh reality:
The thing about not having much money is you have to take much more responsibility for your life. You can’t pay people to watch your kids or clean your house or fix your meals. You can’t necessarily afford a car or a washing machine or a home in a good school district. That’s what money buys you: goods and services that make your life easier.
He goes into some detail of the life people born to wealth do not experience.
The problem is that he doesn’t seem to realize how difficult it is to focus on college when you’re also working full time, how much planning it takes to reliably commute to work without a car, or the agonizing choices faced by families in which both parents work and a child falls ill. The working poor haven’t abdicated responsibility for their lives. They’re drowning in it.
When Melissa Harris-Perry recently exhibited eloquent anger, pointing out that the working poor take greater risks every day than anyone else, she was talking about the daily burden of juggling meager resources, investment of time, and often physical danger in a struggle to survive.
The role of government is a debatable topic. One whose life of wealth has known no interruption should be ashamed at even thinking that "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
The laughter at poverty that Congressional Representative Mary Bono Mack expressed is hard to take back, even six years later. A representative of her campaign says she didn't mean it. "I think she regrets using the word funny and thinks there is a better way to say it."
As Mitt Romney would put it, it was not elegantly stated.
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