It was a bumper year for callous, elitist politicians and CEOs spouting off in public. Cast your vote for one of these doozies, or add another 2010 classist comment to this list:
- • When Carl Paladino ran for governor of New York, he got a lot of media coverage for his homophobic, racist and anti-Muslim comments, but less for his lovely little plan to convert prisons into dormitories for welfare recipients, reported by the Associated Press: “Instead of handing out the welfare checks, we’ll teach people how to earn their check. We’ll teach them personal hygiene.”
- • When there was a flood in Nashville, TN, in May, Fox Sports reporter compared survivors there with survivors of Hurricane Katrina, according to Media Matters for America: “the people in Tennessee, unlike – I’m not going to name names – when a natural disaster hits, people weren’t standing on a rooftop trying to blame the government, OK. They helped each other out through this.”
- • Alan Simpson, co-chair of the President’s deficit reduction commission, said that people who rely on Social Security are “lesser people,” according to Firedoglake.com.
- • A Republican candidate for Congress in Iowa, Pat Bertroche, proposed a new way to stem immigration, according to the Cedar Rapids Gazette: “I actually support micro-chipping them. I can micro-chip my dog so I can find it. Why can’t I micro-chip an illegal?”
- • South Carolina’s lieutenant governor Andre Bauer said he opposes giving food to poor people, according to TheState.com: “My grandmother….told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better.”
- • Bauer also said at a candidates debate that increased immigration in his state was caused by “flat-out lazy” people. “The problem is we have a give-away system that is so strong that people would rather sit home and do nothing than do these jobs.”
- • The CEO of British Petroleum at the time of the biggest oil spill in history, Tony Hayward, said about Congressional hearings, “What the hell did we do to deserve this?” and he said to reporters, “There’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I would like my life back” – without mentioning the lives of the 11 oil rig workers who died in the explosion. He also took a day off to watch his yacht in a race around the Isle of Wight while the oil was still spilling out unstopped.
- • After negative public reaction to Hayward’s comments and the company’s callous behavior, another BP executive, Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg, reassured the public by saying “We care about the small people.”
Thanks for spotting these comments goes to The Progressive magazine, the best-edited publication on the left IMHO, and in particular to Jim Hightower and to the stellar “No Comment” feature.
Do you know of a 2010 classist comment that belongs on this list? Email email@example.com to suggest another contender, or to offer your opinion on which of these takes the cake. I’ll post the most appalling viewer suggestions on Classism Exposed.
Betsy Leondar-Wright, the author of Class Matters: Cross-Class Alliance Building for Middle-Class Activists and co-author of United for a Fair Economy‘s The Color of Wealth: The Story Behind the US Racial Wealth Divide, is Class Action‘s project director and blog editor of Classism Exposed.