During her television show Saturday morning, Melissa Harris-Perry exploded on one of her guests as they talked about welfare. The conversation was centered on a book by Princeton professor Martin Gilens titled “Why Americans Hate Welfare.” The book discusses surveys of public opinion that says Americans approve ‘spending for the social good’ but do not like it when it is referred to as welfare.
“The answer, according to Gilens…[is] that Americans hate welfare because media, at the behest of conservative politicians, have relentlessly linked welfare with black people, and have hammered home the idea that welfare recipients are undeserving,” Harris-Perry said.
Harris-Perry went on to compare the theory in the book with that of the speech from Mitt Romney at the Republican National Convention.
“It does feel to me [that] part of the American story is class mobility. If there is no class mobility, we are not America, right?..And data now shows that in our current moment, class mobility is very low,” Harris-Perry said. “I just feel like, from the bottom, you have to be able to say, ‘I deserve the ability for class mobility.'”
The guest on the show was Monica Mehta, a financial expert. She said that mobility of the classes is ‘enabled by taking risk.’ Harris-Perry then interrupted her guest and asked, “What is riskier than living poor in America? Seriously?” Harris-Perry angrily slammed down her hand on the table and went off:
“What in the world is riskier than being a poor person in America? I live in a neighborhood where people are shot on my street corner. I live in a neighborhood where people have to figure out how to get their kid into school because maybe it will be a good school and maybe it won’t. I’m sick of the idea that being wealthy is risky. No, there’s a huge safety net, that whenever you fail, we’ll catch you, and catch you, and catch you. Being poor is what is risky. We have to create a safety net for poor people and when we won’t because they happen to look different from us, it is the pervasive ugliness. We cannot do that.”