What was the most classist comment of 2010?

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 info@classism.org 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.

8 Responses

  1. Andre Bauer has my vote for classist douche canoe of the year. It should also be noted that this same “pro-life” right-wing lieutenant governor actively and deliberately implemented even more obstacles for poor women to be able to get abortions, even in the event of rape, in his state. Those precious unborn fetuses that are valued far more than poor women’s lives become the “stray animals” that the affluent don’t want to feed — or clothe, or house, or educate, or extend access to health care to and employ at a living wage. Now, say it with me everybody: I-R-O-N-Y.

  2. You can also add Senator Orin Hatch (R-UT) who said that poor people on food stamps and unemployed people who get UI should be forced to get drug tested (that they would have to somehow pay for out of their own pockets). Hatch said his idea would help battle drug addiction and could reduce the nation’s debt. He will try to get the Senate to include his amendment to a $140 billion bill extending tax breaks and social programs this week.

    “This amendment is a way to help people get off of drugs to become productive and healthy members of society, while ensuring that valuable taxpayer dollars aren’t wasted,” he said after announcing his amendment. “Too many Americans are locked into a life of a dangerous dependency not only on drugs, but the federal assistance that serves to enable their addiction.”

    The fact that this automatically punishes glaucoma patients who use marijuana (even in states where medical marijuana is allowed) sailed right over the luckily-still-employed middle class public’s heads — those who are fortunate enough to not have glaucoma, or be poor and jobless.

  3. Michael Paone

    In my opinion, Paladino takes the cake. Not only was it classist, but it was just non-rational–more of an emotional outburst than anything. That’s when our true colors show.

  4. Kudos to Class Action for doing this list of “the most classist public comments of 2010”.  
    At first I thought this was a bad idea – “this doesn’t educate people, this just focuses us on the problems, not on solutions,” I said to myself.
    But after clicking on the link in the email, I was impressed to see the number and prominence of many of the classist public comments, and it broadened my awareness and understanding of classism, where it is festering in America these days, and what kind of classist thinking is out there.  
    And it made me think, what actions might I take to promote inter-class interaction, respect, and righteous behavior.

    Thanks Class Action

  5. Susan Hill

    I vote for Alan Simpson’s comment that lesser people rely on Social Security. That passes the racism included in most of the other comments and goes straight for the working class in general. I know elderly white men who worked all their lives at fairly low-paying jobs, raised a family and educated their children. Now, in retirement, they live off social security and rely on Medicare for all their health needs. “Lesser people” indeed! These are men who were in the army in WW2 and Korea, worked in construction and factories, volunteered in their small communities. Alan Simpson clearly only sees the people who accumulate money as worthy.

  6. Bradford Medicinehorse

    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.”<—Um, I think you better do a follow-through on this one. I believe that Mr. Svanberg both mis-spoke, and also was mis-quoted and translated. What he said in Swedish, is NOT how it sounds when mis-translated into American English. Hey, correct me if I'm wrong…

  7. Cliff Owens

    In a PC society, it is not acceptable to be judgmental. I don’t want to live in a PC society. Like it or not, there are people that have been ensnared in welfare dependency by the liberal Democrats and have no work ethic. They are doomed to live a lower class life. They wouldn’t take a job if you sent the government limo to their house and drove them to work every day. They have earned the identification as welfare bums, slugs, leeches and parasites. We will always have different classes whether you like it or not. Some people have initiative and others do not. Some make good decisions and other have lousy judgment. You could take all the wealth in American and divide it equally among all the citizens and soon the same people that make bad decisions would be poor and the people that make good decisions and have a work ethic would be rich again. That is the reality of the human condition.

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