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Thursday
Oct062011

If You're Broke, Herman Cain Sez That's Probably Your Fault (Video)

With black unemployment at 16-20 percent depending on where you live and entire industries collapsing and dying in the Midwest and with companies not hiring, or for the ones that are, are often refusing to hire unemployed people, presidential wannabe Herman Cain took the unusual tact of blaming broke people for their brokeness. He, naturally, was directing his "old man yells at cloud" act to the Occupy Wall Street protesters, many of whom are young people with student loans and meager job prospects after being told their entire lives that going to college = job, not McJob.

Living dangerously, Cain opens his "your own fault statement" by admitting he may not have any facts to back up anything he says (two points for honesty!):

CAIN: I don’t have facts to back this up, but I happen to believe that these demonstrations are planned and orchestrated to distract from the failed policies of the Obama administration. Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks, if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself! [...] It is not someone’s fault if they succeeded, it is someone’s fault if they failed.

I think Cain was TRYING to appeal to those poor, beat-down, down-trodden and discriminated against hedge fund managers, bankers, and wealthy folks who actually caused the economy to collapse to the point where they shouted "Too big to fail! Government, SAVE US!" and we saved them rather than relive the Great Depression. Now those same folks are upset they're being portrayed as the villain-of-the-week on crappy police procedural dramas and that the folks who lost the most in this horrible economy are still mad at them.

Them who their tax dollars saved, but are all ungrateful about it. Accusing them of being lazy and rabble rousers as they face the decade with diminishing job prospects and the jeers of the class of folks who were born on third and thought they all hit triples.

It's tough feeling persecuted from on top of that pile of money.

Cain, naturally since he's kind of naturally befuddled, has confused the people who just want sustainable income with being "jealous" of the person who was "smart" enough to be born in an environment that made it favorable for them to go to school to become hedge fund managers. Cain sounds like he would have been a great spokesperson for King Louis just before the French dragged him and his wife out of Versailles.

"You don't have bread because you don't want it enough! Stop blaming the King and the church and the lords and ladies for spending all this money to build Versailles and buy nicer robes and have pointless wars in the Americas and look at yourselves. Look at your choices. Look at your actions! I don't really know what this so-called French Revolution is about, but it seems pretty anti-royalist to me. If God didn't destine you to be rich and to rule you should take it up with God, not Louis XVI!"

Moving up in the class ranks is not easy. But to strike it rich in America you need a few breaks your way, you need the skill and talent, you need the ability to capitalize on that skill and/or talent or you need to be born to the Kardashian family and have a low sense of shame. To accuse Americans, a nation of people who work longer hours than most Western countries for stagnated wages and diminished benefits, who often shun organized labor for fear of not looking attractive enough to employers, it's pretty darn insulting to accuse folks of being lazy and anti-capitalist. It's a lazy, simplistic description of something far more complex going on.

Cain is falling into the trap of confusing people who want fairness with people who want handouts. People who "just" want handouts don't do the work of protesting, organizing, leaving their houses and turning off the TV in their mom's basement. I've only known a few truly unmotivated people who have spent their life on disability rather than tackle the real world and both those people had crippling mental health issues and are living in a state most of us would be disgusted by.

The Lazy American Horde is pretty much a myth propped up to blame poor people for their own poverty, excusing away the systematic issues we have with inequality. Most people, if given the opportunity for a living wage, choose work. Getting angry with someone who used to make $42,000 a year at a factory who now blanches at the prospect of making $15,000 or less working at Starbucks isn't about "lazy." It's about falling out of the Middle Class and right into poverty and being told this only happened to you because you are "lazy." It's convenient to think people are unemployed because of their own dealings until it happens to you as there is "personal responsibly" and there's the reality where you and grandma are fighting for the same $11 a hour job at Macys. When your unemployment is over 10 percent it's not going to be everyone's own fault why they're without a job.

As for the Occupy Wall Street protesters, there is something terribly wrong when you have done "all the right things" -- been a good citizen, got good grades, got into a good school and graduated on time -- and all you have to show for it is your student loan debt. And EVERYONE can't go to school to be bankers. Everyone can't get government jobs (that the Republicans want to cut ever more of). Everyone can't join the military. Everyone can't invent Facebook. Some people are going to end up with the short end of the stick, and in a do-or-die economy that means a lot more people than normal. You ignore those people at your own peril. And I would advise Cain to modify or even change his statements if I thought for a minute he was for real running for president, but he just got off the campaign trail -- with less than three months before primary season begins -- to go on a book tour.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, for some of these folks running it's not a presidential campaign, it's a ponzi scheme. They're political grifters posting up a hustle of a candidacy to prop up books, TV gigs and speaking engagements. They're not serious and it's particularly insulting AND cynical to see the GOP ticket to have so many fake candidates in it for anything but the top job.

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Reader Comments (7)

a lot of the crap that happens to us is our own fault. too bad no one ever wants to take personal responsibility.

October 6, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterswiv

@ swiv

Normally I don't care if you throw in an contrarian comment for the heck of it, but ... dude? The post was full of examples of the inherent unfairness if you are a recent college grad trying to make a living in an economy of stagnant wages and fewer benefits that discriminates against hiring unemployed people. I'm not saying you have to write a book, but what is anyone supposed to glean from that? What are you supposed to do when caught in the middle of the crush as America goes from a place that builds thing to a white collar and service based economy? No one should ever protest about the unfairness of our system because the auto industry failing, long-time industries moving factories overseas, Wall Street and the banks screwing up our economy and our government being rife with grift and corruption is the fault of the unemployed individual with student debt? Sometimes it seems the only people ever expected to be responsible for their own actions are the ones who suffer the most -- either due to their own failings or societies -- but those with the money and power get a pass under the belief that they "earned" that pass through the divine manifestation of being a member of the ruling class.

Unless you're secretly a monarchist?

My lengthy point is that Cain essentially made a thoughtless comment about a serious issue that he didn't bother to research or understand before making the comment. I just would rather see some serious discussion of this rather than smirking at the people who truly are suffering. I poke fun at the rich and powerful because they're the ones who can best withstand a-kicking. It seems especially counter-productive to put all the burden that is the tragedy of this economy on those least able to do crap about it. The rich and powerful don't lead perfect lives either, they just have an incredible amount of cushion to fall upon.

There are other places where the personal responsibility trope is more fitting. Here it just seems mean-spirited.

October 6, 2011 | Registered CommenterDanielle Belton

i'm not denying underlying circumstances that do or do not exist. but the fact of the matter is that too many people use those circumstances as a crutch to not succeed. and you of all people should know what excuses are. i get tired of people giving me a reason (read: excuse) of why they can't do something. is it hard out there? absolutely. does that mean you' should wallow in your own pity? no. it's hard for a lot of people. getting mad at people who do succeed or who are in power isn't going to help you in your own cause.

people get all butthurt when someone utters the word "poor, minority, color, ect." and never even attempt to understand the underlying point. those buzzwords seem to cause people to lose all thought and illicit emotional responses.

those are all general "yous", not specific "yous." BTW

October 6, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterswiv

@ swiv

I totally get that, although, I would argue that organizing, protesting, lobbying both businesses and government, pushing for media exposure and trying to influence the 2012 election is about being proactive about the current economic environment. Cain essentially dismissed one "businesses and government are in bed to hurt common people" group (the Occupy Wall Street protesters) for the OTHER populist "businesses and government are in bed to hurt common people" group, the Tea Party. I feel like your fight against those who use their misfortunes as a crutch is misplaced on groups who seem politically active and are more reserved for those who have accepted a depressed lifestyle and refuse to seek alternatives. Like say, a teenager who has embraced ignorance as a lifestyle choice, thinks there should be a fast route to success and remains politically unmotivated, but complains constantly rather than educating him or herself about our system. Those who truly do nothing are the ones who deserve that scorn. Not those using the tools we have at our disposal in a Democracy.

October 6, 2011 | Registered CommenterDanielle Belton

i think the tea party is a bunch of loonballs. protesting for jobs is all well and good. but it's not going to get you what you're looking for. a job. it's not going to provide you the skills to excel in a workplace environment.

the people on wall street are probably laughing at them while drinking 25 dollar lattes. wall street and the government aren't the sole culprits in all of this. have they contributed a large amount? absolutely. but the do nothings and the go nowheres are a large percentage of that unemployed population.

October 6, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterswiv

Don't blame the banks, Don't blame wall st? Oh that's right because i caused the housing bubble and sub prime mrtg crisis when i came up with the idea of credit default swaps and derivatives. and got the ratings agencies to issue A+ ratings on junk bonds and got filthy rich doing it.
i dont even know what the f*&^ a derivative is
shut up herman cain

October 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteradam

Thank you for eloquently stating what I didn't know how to say. If you're broke, then yes, it is your fault.
Broke implies that you blew money that you already have, or thought you had, or pretended to have and now you're in the hole, much like the banks.
Being born into an environment where it's highly improbable that you'll be rich is let alone middle-class is an entirely different story.
Everyone likes an underdog story, but everyday life doesn't lend itself to an underdog story.Some people will be born poor, stay poor, and die poor because they didn't have an opportunity to be better. This is all about fairness and impartiality to not be poor.

October 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnnT

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