Conservatives want to make low-income Americans feel bad about babies and diets to cut birth control and food stamps
So many of life’s problems could be solved, according to conservative provocateur Ann Coulter, if the poor could just learn to keep their knees together until they got married – and if their wealthy and educated counterparts just weren’t afraid to shame them into doing so. These pearls of wisdom, particularly the “shaming is good” part, were greeted with loud applause over the weekend at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Tempting as it might be to dismiss Coulter’s remarks as the usual crowd-pleasing nonsense, they fit a little too neatly into the Right’s narrative to morally demonize poverty, even as Republicans in Washington pretend to care about poverty by the numbers. Indeed, this shame-the-poor narrative is now being used to justify policies that take needed resources away from the poor, and while it’s a self-defeating prophecy for conservatives that doesn’t add up, they’re still the ones who should be shamed.
Blaming poverty on the moral failings of the poor and criticizing their sex habits and eating habits has always been a favorite conservative sport, dating back to Victorian times. But it has been alternately sickening and fascinating to watch the current crop of American conservatives, particularly those who claim to be devotees of the original social justice champion – Jesus Christ – jump through hoops to try to find new ways to vilify the poor just so they can feel less bad (or at least appear less bad to their followers) when they do nothing to help them.
Whether they’re trying to cut benefits to the long-term unemployed or take food from the hungry or restrict women’s access to birth control, the standard Republican refrain is that they’re just trying to save the poor from themselves. If you believe that, then I’ve got a bridge to sell you – and it’s got some traffic problems.
I’m going to give Coulter the benefit of the doubt and assume that what she was trying to get at, in her not-so-eloquent way, was that people should wait until they are in the best possible space financially and emotionally before they have a baby.
This is not a new concept. It’s called family planning, and it has been popular in the Western world for almost 100 years. It also requires one small thing to be effective: affordable and accessible birth control.