The Poverty Pimp’s Poem

by | Jun 11, 2001

MY FELLOW-ECONOMIST WALTER WILLIAMS has for years kept track of how much money it would take to lift every American man, woman and child in poverty above the official poverty level. That sum has consistently been some fraction of the money actually spent in “anti-poverty” programs. In other words, if you gave every poor person […]

MY FELLOW-ECONOMIST WALTER WILLIAMS has for years kept track of how much money it would take to lift every American man, woman and child in poverty above the official poverty level. That sum has consistently been some fraction of the money actually spent in “anti-poverty” programs. In other words, if you gave every poor person enough money to stop being poor, that would cost a fraction of what our welfare state programs and bureaucracies cost.

Obviously, a lot of anti-poverty money is going to people who are not poor. There are whole classes of people who live off the poor — or rather, off the vast sums of money that are poured out from the public treasury and private philanthropy, in hopes of helping the poor.

Those who intercept the money intended for the poor have been aptly called “poverty pimps.” The poor are a commodity to these people, who include not only local politicians, community activists and small-time hustlers, but also people with impressive titles and academic credentials, who likewise milk the larger society, in the name of the poor.

At the top of the food chain, as it were, are Ivy League professors who rake in big-time research grants to support themselves and their cronies while they are studying, romanticizing or otherwise exploiting the poor. The poem below is about such people, who are as much poverty pimps as politicians who simply pocket graft from poverty programs or collect votes for promoting lucrative boondoggles.

THE POVERTY PIMPS’ POEM

Let us celebrate the poor,
Let us hawk them door to door.

There’s a market for their pain,
Votes and glory and money to gain.

Let us celebrate the poor.

Their ills, their sins, their faulty diction
Flavor our songs and spice our fiction.

Their hopes and struggles and agonies
Get us grants and consulting fees.

Celebrate thugs and clowns,
Give their ignorance all renown.

Celebrate what holds them down,
In our academic gowns.

Let us celebrate the poor.

Thomas Sowell has published a large volume of writing. His dozen books, as well as numerous articles and essays, cover a wide range of topics, from classic economic theory to judicial activism, from civil rights to choosing the right college. Please contact your local newspaper editor if you want to read the THOMAS SOWELL column in your hometown paper.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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