One of the ways in which we become more comfortable with our place on the playground, where we may just be watching other little kids get their lunch money stolen, where we, as yet, have not suffered such a visitation, is to accept the claim that, well, the kids who can’t afford lunch deserve what they get. They made bad choices. They threw their money around. They were disrespectful to their betters, the bullies. We’re told that the guys on the street are there because they were lazy growing up, they chose drugs, and never did get with the program.
Elizabeth Warren is a lawyer, a Professor, and works for government, and has a different story about the poor on the street. The following is from a CounterPunch essay, here.
You started in commercial law, but then you moved to the public realm. How did that transition come about?
I did my very first empirical study looking at the families who were going into bankruptcy back in the early ’80s, and I’ll tell you, I set out to prove they were all a bunch of cheaters. I was going to expose these people who were taking advantage of the rest of us by hauling off to bankruptcy and just charging off debts that they really could repay, or who’d been irresponsible in run-ning up debts.
I did the research, and the data took me to a totally different place. These were hardworking middle-class families who by and large had lost jobs, gotten sick, had family breakups, and that’s what was driving them over the edge financially. Most of them were in complete economic collapse when they filed for bankruptcy. They would never pay these debts off. Realizing this changed my vision. But it certainly didn’t make me want to talk about it in any public sense, until, in 1994, Congress passed a law saying they were going to have a commission on bankruptcy, and I was recruited to work on it. And that’s when I waded into the thick of it and started taking much of my research and translating it much more into public policy.