The Simple-Minded and the Uninformed

Andrew Malcolm has a particularly nasty piece in the Los Angeles Times about a visit Michelle Obama made to Miriam’s Kitchen, a food pantry and soup kitchen near the White House.

When I first saw the headline, “Michelle Obama Serves Food to D.C. Poor and Homeless, But…” I assumed that this was going to be some kind of hit piece on the First Lady, with the “But…” referring to something she said that the press could seize on as a gaffe, or to something she might have worn, like maybe a sleeveless dress.

But that was not it at all. Malcolm had no critical words whatsoever for Mrs. Obama. It was the impoverished recipients of the food aid that he attacked. And in a singularly vicious way. He sets the reader up with a straightforward recounting of Michelle Obama’s visit, bringing food from the White House, serving it up to the men and women there, her comments about the importance of doing this kind of volunteer work, etc., etc. — and then, after this very mild, innocuous lead-in, Malcolm saves these three short paragraphs for the end:

It doesn’t detract from the first lady’s generous gesture or the real needs she seeks to highlight to ask two bothersome journalistic questions about these news photos:

If this unidentified meal recipient is too poor to buy his own food, how does he afford a cellphone?

And if he is homeless, where do they send the cellphone bills?

Can it really, actually be that Andrew Malcolm, “[a] veteran foreign and national correspondent [who] served on the Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004,” who has written 10 nonfiction books and raised four children, and who looks to be quite of the age one would have to be to have accomplished all of those things, has never heard of pay-as-you-go phones?

I have a Go Phone. The phone cost $15. There is no contract or monthly payment plan. There are no bills. You load the phone with a $15 or $25 card and pay only for the minutes you use. When the money is used up, you can reload the phone, or not, as you choose. You only need to pay $25 every 90 days to keep the phone activated. And if you can’t, and the phone is deactivated, no problem: six months or a year later, or whenever, if you get through the hard times, you can buy another prepaid phone for $15. You don’t get second and third notices to pay your bill, you don’t get thrown into collections, you don’t get into debt. If you have the money you can use the phone; if you don’t, you don’t have to, with no repercussions.

Now, it does not (or should not) take an Einstein to figure out that housing and food cost much much more than a $15 prepaid cellphone. And anyone who thinks that having a prepaid $15 phone with $15 or $20 worth of minutes on it means that you have the ability to pay $800 or $1,000 or more for a rental apartment or a mortgage, and pay hundreds of dollars a month for groceries, is out of their minds. Or, to put it in a slightly different way, anyone who thinks that a $15 prepaid cellphone is the reason a homeless or poor person cannot afford to buy food on a regular basis or pay the rent on an apartment is both insane and hopelessly stupid.

Via Memeorandum.

Also posted at Liberty Street.

9 Responses to “The Simple-Minded and the Uninformed”

  1. Dynamic says:

    Just as importantly – how does Mr. Malcom expect a homeless person to get a job and get back on their feet WITHOUT a phone? How many businesses does he think are willing to send an agent out on the street to hunt down the homeless for second interviews these days?

    I’m so tired of the hypocrisy of the upper class, who will spit on a homeless man or woman and snarl “get a job!” – but would never even consider hiring one.

  2. jasperjava says:

    This is equivalent to Michelle Malkin snooping around, stalking S-CHIP recipients to find out what their kitchen counters are made of. These people have no shame.

  3. tas says:

    In a just world, people would get fired for writing such inane pieces. Seriously. Or, at the very least, an editor would tell them to stop being so full of shit.

    Unfortunately, being full of shit is what rakes in the bucks when you’re a writer. Think about it… Malcom, David Brooks, Thomas Friedman, the entire staff of National Review — even upto bigtime authors like Samuel Huntington — all of these people are full of shit. Constantly. The dumbass, illogical arguments and theories they come up with is amazing. They’re so stupid that people read them and debate just how stupid they are — thus letting them roll around naked in money for being rich, full of shit writers. These people make me ashamed to do any political writing at all.

    Or I could just become really full of shit and make a mint. Seems to work for other people.

  4. Tangaroa says:

    As already said, lots of homeless people have cell phones because it allows employers to get ahold of them. Many also have free email accounts that they access at library computers for the same reason. Cell phones also give people the ability to do something other than wait around a pay phone all day until they get a call back. It is easy for the comfortably uninformed to see a cell phone and think “luxury” without acknowledging that homeless people don’t have houses with land lines for the cell to replace.

  5. Once Was says:

    The reporter is an idiot. I was homeless for two years, I had a job, but not making enough to afford even a share in NYC, and it was my cellphone that kept me working. without that phone, I’d be in a shelter wasting away.

  6. KayInMaine says:

    The reporter is refusing to admit that those who had a good paying job and ended up homeless may have had a cell phone already and could still afford to keep the phone going, because how else would the next employer reach him or her or their families? Jees. Somedays I spend whacking my head against the computer because of reporters like this guy. It doesn’t help my head either having to deal with the stupidity of the whole entire republiCON party either.

  7. Augie says:

    Ahh yes, when you GIVE food you’re God’s chosen saints but when you take food and/or ask why there are hungry…. you’re a communist evil doer.

    What we’ve learned about “Murkins’ “Christian Compassion” ….. the Jesus types who use one fish and feed the multitudes these last eight years is that while feeding those multitudes one has to be called a traitor/hater/communist/socialist/anti-American/unpatriotic ’cause Jesus has evolved into a socipath armed with an assault rifle who’s only message was – apparently – kill, kill and kill some more!

    While Jesus evolved into a gun totin’ Military Dictator his personally ordained eyeball soul searcher …the earthbound temp. employee in the White House . . . . was fobbing off our tax dollars and marching orders to the very community programs and churches to “help the poor” so those who do and did can reap the reward of being called traitors and haters by his cabal’s talking heads.

    It doesn’t suit the GOP’ers talking heads that there are news stories about helping the poor because the GOP is convinced that if the world dared to be informed there was hunger (they called “food insecure) that ‘Murka wouldn’t be able to perpetuate the delusion of how superior we are.

  8. DICKERSON3870 says:

    ‘Jitterbug’ cell phone service starts at just $10 a month. “But you can’t take no pi’ture with one o’ dem, dadgummit!”

  9. Petro says:

    For Malcolm’s ilk, it’s not enough that the poor suffer because they’re poor, it’s also important that they suffer because they’re *the* poor.

    It reminds me of a (sorta relevant) joke – I wish I could cite the comedian here – that I’ll paraphrase:

    “Why should I give that bum any money? He’ll just spend it on drugs or alcohol… wait a minute, that’s what I do with it!”


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