Rep Gwen Moore Talks About the History of the ‘Unworthy Poor’ Myth

The way America thinks about poor people is no accident, according to Democratic Representative Gwen Moore.

“Since the Jim Crow-era, we have seen Black people in particular being described as lazy, ne’er-do-wells, who just wanna game the system,” she explained. “Ronald Reagan really stepped up on that message when he invented a welfare queen and sort of exaggerated some of the abuses that one recipient in Chicago, Linda Taylor, had committed.”

In order to justify raiding Social Security, Moore said that Republicans aggressively characterize poor people as lazy and unworthy of the benefits or aid provided by the country. This has created an environment that has enabled them to convince others about the concept of the “unworthy poor.”

“I think that the American public is probably ripe for curtailing these programs given the 40 or more years of messages that people are poor because they have poor character,” she explained. “It’s not your next-door neighbor, or those other people who will be harmed by the destruction of our safety net. It is you. You as an American, who at some point will need one of these programs. Our economy doesn’t work as well when we have great, vast income inequality.”