Sunday, May 12, 2013

How Ignorant and Privileged is Dennis Prager?

It's been a very long time since I bothered to read one of Dennis Prager's ignorant little scrawls.

He has not improved.

I was over at the Rude Pundit's place (don't I love the Rude Pundit) and came across this post, "Free Breakfasts Are a Liberal Plot?  Are You Fucking Serious?" and found it concerned an argument -- and I used that term loosely -- made by his Pragerness himself.

The Rude One's take down is good, but clicking through to read the ridiculous original, I found Prager was even more ignorant and evil than the Rude One claimed.

Prager claims, in "No More Free Breakfasts," that the free breakfast program was created to solve a problem that does not exist.

Since I live here in Arkansas, where we also serve free breakfasts to our students in poverty, and where we have been doing that for years, and where we have a program known as Backpacks for Students, which sent students home with backpacks filled with food during the holidays (when school is not in session, and they won't get their school meals), I tilted my eyebrows dubiously, but kept reading.

Here is why Prager thinks there is no need for free breakfasts in public schools:

First, the program was created to solve a problem that does not exist.
It is inconceivable that there are five, let alone 200,000 or the projected 450,000, homes in Los Angeles that cannot afford breakfast for their child. 
Second, it both enables and encourages irresponsible, uninterested, and incompetent parenting. Given how inexpensive breakfast can be (not to mention the myriad public and private programs that provide food for poor households), any home that cannot provide its child with breakfast demands a visit from child protective services. 
Third, even where decent parents are involved, free breakfasts at school weaken the parent-child bond. 
And fourth, the free breakfast profoundly weakens young people’s character. When you grow up learning to depend on the state, you will almost inevitably — even understandably — assume that the state will take care of you. And you will grow up also assuming — as do Europeans, who give far less to charity than Americans for this very reason — that the state will take care of your fellow citizens, including your own children.

(Bold is mine.  Because HAHAHA.  Talk about having your causality reversed.  Europeans have fewer people living in miserable fucking poverty, because they have a less destructive social system, so they give less to charity, you fucking miserable shit. Yeah, that's really a bad thing.)

Clearly Prager has no idea what poverty means.

Poverty does not mean, Prager, that you don't have enough money to go out to dinner on Friday night, or that you can't buy the bigger version of your Buick, or that you have to fire one of your fucking gardeners and maybe have your son mow the lawn instead.

No, poverty is having two kids and living on less than $18,000/year.  That's in a city -- Los Angeles -- where the rent for a two bedroom apartment is seldom less than $900/month, even in the worst parts of town. Which will leave you the princely sum of about $700 a month for every other expense in your life and your children's lives.  Say you spend $200 dollars on transport and such luxuries as clothing, medical, utilities, your phone -- and yes, you have to have a phone, and so on -- for the entire family, mind you, and let's hope no one is actually ill, because that won't be nearly enough, if so. (Forget entertainment.  You have libraries and parks and boredom when you're this poor.) That leaves $500 a month for food.  Which is how much per meal?

(And don't forget taxes, because some of this money does go for taxes, even though you're desperately poor. In Arkansas, the sales tax rate is nearly 11% on everything, even our food.  I don't know what it is in LA. But since you're earning the $18,000, some of it will come right off the top in payroll taxes, so you're not really bringing home $18,000.  Of course, you'll get it back in EIC at the end of the year -- usually. If you don't owe student loans or child support or any other debts that will give the IRS reason to confiscate it.  But in any case you have to live until then.)

So!  Say you have about $400, which is probably likely. How much does that give you day per meal?

A little over four dollars, per meal, for the entire family; or thirteen dollars a day.

Dennis says it's easy to feed a family on thirteen dollars a day. He links a site that gives Breakfast Ideas for a Buck! and claims that any parent who "give a child breakfast is not too poor; he or she is too incapable of being, or too irresponsible to be, a competent parent."

Raise your hand if you are thoroughly convinced that (a) Dennis has never provided breakfast for any child in his life except maybe on the occasional Sunday morning while his little woman was at a prayer breakfast with her coffee buddies, on which occasion he took the little darlings out to the nearest (expensive) restaurant and (b) he actually thinks buying a Burger King Ham Omelet sandwich is a cheap breakfast. (Dennis.  Son.  A cheap breakfast is boiled grits with an egg mixed in.  An a little pepper.  That's about 30 cents, and that's what I ate all through graduate school.  You don't know from cheap.) Plus (c) Dennis has never held a job that required him to use public transport.  Ever.  In his entire life.

This entitled bit of crap column reminds me of all those sites and all those blogs I have been on in which claim it is easy to live on thirty-five cents a day.  "Why, I did it when I was poor!" people claim in the comment sections.  "Once I lived on rice and peas for an entire summer when I was in graduate school!"

Or: "When my wife and I were first married, we were between paychecks once, we lived on crackers and peanut butter for a month.  Why can't kids today try that!"

Whenever I read shit like this, I know I'm reading someone who knows absolutely nothing about what actual  poverty this like.

My suggestion? As a cure for this fatal case of privilege?  Take away Dennis's wallet, his giant house, his soft job, his nice suit, and dump him in the worst neighborhood in LA for about two years.  Give him a job washing dishes, at $16000/year.  Let him see how soft the poor have it.  See if he learns anything at all.

I'm dubious, but he might be educable.

Update: Charles Pierce also talks about His Holy Ignorance: The Tyranny of Liberal Pancakes.


Anonymous said...

Even if all these arguments about parents are true (which they aren't, but let's say they were), why is it a child's fault when hir parents buy cigarettes instead of food?

Additionally, when we don't feed children, they're more likely to cost us in jail-time down the road. Therefore even libertarians should support breakfast programs.

delagar said...

I love Jack's comments over there on your post, N&M. "National defense cannot be provide by charity, but feeding hungry children can!!"

Right after you had explained to him (with links) why they could not.

So -- maybe not educable?

You can lead a conservative to education but you can't make one think.

Anonymous said...

People who say things like Prager is saying are completely clueless. Experiencing a period of "salad days" during college when someone else is paying for one's housing, tuition, and hardship means less spending money than one would like, is their idea of what it's like to be poor. Bully for them being privileged and prosperous, but their point of view is simply not useful or realistic. They should volunteer for a legal aid clinic if they want to know what goes on in the real world where people don't even go to college.

Does Mr. P even know someone who didn't finish high school? Someone for whom breakfast is not the biggest issue because they are all being kicked out of housing for taking in a homeless relative? Someone with five kids and a broken jaw? I suspect not. --L