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Sun., June 29, 2014, midnight

Smart Bombs: Many have poor view of poverty

The widening gap between rich and poor is undeniable, but one way to feel better about it is to believe that poverty isn’t so bad.

Many delusional Americans gaze upon “the poor” and imagine a life not much different from their own. In some ways, it may even be better. They call jobless benefits “unemployment assurance.” They believe fanciful tales spun from conservative propaganda factories, like the average welfare recipient collecting $30,000 to $50,000 a year. “No wonder they don’t work!”

Perhaps they saw a poor person (their “poor-dar” is infallible) with a cellphone, or tsk-tsked at the items in their shopping carts. Hmm, and if the poor buy perishables, they must have refrigerators. Probably a television, too. Apparently to the never-poor, basic appliances are the leading indicators of serenity.

So if that’s all it takes to be happy, why are the complainers so grumpy? Is it their jobs keeping them down? Then quit, and join the land of envied. Or are they worried they can’t handle this nirvana all at once? Maybe they should ask for a pay cut, so they can ease into it.

I’d love to think I’m exaggerating about the prevalence of this opinion, but an extensive Pew Research Center poll released last week found that more than three-quarters of self-described conservatives think the poor “have it easy.” Overall, the country is almost evenly divided between those who believe the poor have it easy (44 percent) and those who believe they don’t (47 percent).

Christopher Ingraham, of the Washington Post’s Wonkblog, supplied some data that ought to disrupt this delusion. Compared to middle- and upper-income Americans, the poor are three times less likely to have health insurance coverage and three times more likely to be crime victims. They also breathe dirtier air and sleep less. The children of the poor are three times more likely to be affected by food scarcity or obesity. They go to worse schools, and those who make it to college are more likely to drop out.

All of the above – and more – translate into a much shorter life.

So unless you desire constant stress and an early grave, you might want to cancel that U-Haul to Easy Street.

Block Party. House Speaker John Boehner says House Republicans will sue “King Obama” over his excessive use of executive orders. But if they’re that concerned about the president usurping powers and failing to fulfill his oath of office, the founders offered an option: impeachment.

On the other hand, that would require the House to do a lot of work, which is out of character. The 113th Congress favors three-day workweeks and has introduced relatively few bills.

Meanwhile, the Senate minority has engaged in a record number of filibusters to block legislation and executive branch appointments since Obama has been president. But not to worry, these aren’t the arduous talkathons of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” fame. Senators merely indicate their opposition and then go about their daily inaction.

So they still have plenty of time to complain about the president doing everything.

Dethroned. John Hudak, of the Brookings think tank, toted up the frequency of executive orders by recent presidents, and found that President Barack Obama issues an executive order about every 11 days. President George W. Bush did so every 10 days, President Ronald Reagan every seven days, and President Jimmy Carter every five days.

So King Obama doesn’t deserve the crown.

Street smart. The city of Spokane has released a list of 11 street projects that would be completed in 2015 and 2016 if voters approve a levy this fall. Three of the five projects for 2015 cover my daily commute, so let me confirm that they’re excellent choices.

The city also is asking people to “Tweet the Street” they’d like to see worked on, but don’t bother. This list is fine.

Associate Editor Gary Crooks can be reached at or (509) 459-5026. Follow him on Twitter @GaryCrooks.

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