No Bonus for Lister

Libertarian nutjob Dave Lister writes another long opinion piece for The Oregonian, this time on the Occupy movement compared to the 1932 Bonus Expeditionary Force. As usual, it’s riddled with errors, lies, and wacky conclusions, but it’s also just historically inaccurate. Not that I expect anything else from someone like Lister. The paper’s already run a couple of letters in response, so I guess they’re probably not going to run mine:

Dave Lister’s comparison of 1932’s Bonus Army to the Occupy movement is colored by the rosy lens of time and shows a stunning lack of knowledge of actual history.

Contemporary news accounts of the Bonus Expeditionary Force (BEF) occupation of Washington DC show that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and others claimed the protestors ranks were full of criminals and subversives, and that crime in the District of Columbia spiked during the occupation (DC Police Superintendent General Pelham Glassford refuted those charges). Army Chief of Staff Douglas Macarthur was convinced—despite the reports of his own intelligence unit—that the marchers were part of a Communist conspiracy to undermine the United States. Even before the marchers reached Washington, the federal government asked states to help stop their advance because the existing camp “constituted the gravest health menace in the history of the city” (New York Times, June 10, 1932, page 1).

The truth is that BEF was made up of men without much money (which is why they wanted their bonuses), without jobs, in the first years of what became known as the Great Depression. Their camp wasn’t some fantasy vision of a Boy Scout Jamboree with veterans; it was cobbled together out of whatever materials and scraps they could gather. The country was full of other ramshackle encampments (Hoovervilles), with the primary difference being that the members of the BEF were owed money by the US government and they massed together in larger numbers to try to make their point.

Shell Game

An article in The New York Times discusses how—in the face of reports that poverty in the US has exploded—the Census Bureau is planning to release “a long-promised alternate measure meant to do a better job of counting the resources the needy have and the bills they have to pay.” The new method of counting the poor will reportedly eliminate half the rise in poverty since 2006 by counting safety-net programs that “have played a large and mostly overlooked role in restraining hardship.”

This is nothing more than a shell game: changing the metric by which poverty is measured in order to say that there aren’t as many poor people. Whenever you reset any previously arbitrary measure to a new arbitrary measure, it becomes difficult if not impossible to judge progress over a long time.

More importantly, counting money and other aid given to the poor as a part of the measure of whether or not they are poor sort of misses the point that if they didn’t have those programs, they would, indeed be poor. It’s like claiming that people living in a famine zone aren’t in danger of starvation because they’re getting food aid. Sure, but what if the food stops?

This change is nothing more than an outgrowth of the Republican mantra that if the “poor” have refrigerators and cell phones then they can’t really be poor.

Pereant qui ante…and all that…

Another idea from long ago that I never followed up on, getting press in the new millennium: Evie and Victor’s blood-spattered couture.

Not exactly the same as my planned customizable line of “KasualTees” (featuring appliques of a variety of wounds on flesh-colored tee shirts), but close enough to cross it off the list.