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Posts Tagged ‘James Robertson’

Attitudes about helping those in poverty in the United States have long been connected to the idea of whether the individuals in question are deserving of help. Social Security and worker’s compensation are seen as policies that typically benefit those who “earned” society’s help by working, while welfare is seen as a policy that benefits the lazy who are unwilling to support themselves. Calls for drug testing for welfare recipients reflects the belief that these people are trying to cheat the system. This does not mean, however, that Americans are unwilling to help when somebody is seen as deserving.

In early February the Detroit Free Press published a story about James Robertson, a 56-year-old man who walked 21 miles to get to and from work five days a week. He had done this for a decade. Robertson, who apparently did not make enough money to afford a car, is praised as somebody who never complains and “can’t imagine not working.” He is, essentially, the perfect image of the deserving poor. As a result, within days of the story a collection had been started in his name, raising $350,000, and a local Ford dealership had given him a new car. With more money, however, came more problems, as Robertson recently moved out of fear that his fame and fortune would put him in danger.

Clearly, Americans are not opposed to helping others but we have a strong distrust of those who need assistance. It would be nice if it didn’t take national headlines to convince us that those in poverty are deserving of help.

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