Barry Saunders

Saunders: Poor mouthing for a vote

Carly Fiorina, former chairman and chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard Co. and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, speaks during the Quad Cities New Ideas Forum in Davenport, Illinois, U.S., on Friday, Sept. 25, 2015.
Carly Fiorina, former chairman and chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard Co. and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, speaks during the Quad Cities New Ideas Forum in Davenport, Illinois, U.S., on Friday, Sept. 25, 2015. Bloomberg

What’s so great about being poor?

Judging by the narratives spun by lots of people in politics, everything, and their impoverished beginnings – real or fake – entitle them to your vote.

▪ Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina contends in her “only-in-America” narrative that she worked her way up from secretary to CEO.

▪ Hillary Clinton claimed in interviews that when her husband and she left the White House, they were broke.

▪ John Boehner cries when talking about his humble upbringing, especially when he gets to the part about growing up sweeping the floor in a bar.

Fiorina doesn’t mention in her rags-to-riches tale that she worked briefly as secretary for a real estate company – a noble occupation, to be sure – during one summer when she was a student at Stanford and her father was dean of Duke’s law school.

Clinton, when decrying her post-White House poverty, leaves out the fact that her husband and she had millions of dollars of speaking engagements and book deals lined up and their choice of white-shoe law firms from which to choose. They were “broke” in the same way a dude who hits the lottery but just hasn’t bothered to go cash in his ticket is broke.

Boehner? The bar and diner whose floors the exiting Speaker of the House swept was owned by his daddy and his granddaddy before him.

I asked Jarvis Hall, associate professor of Political Science at North Carolina Central University, if there’s a rule that requires all politicians to po’ mouth their childhood circumstances.

“All except for Donald Trump,” he said, laughing. “In his case, he counts on you knowing how rich and successful he is and how he got that way... There’s this notion that candidates are not one of us, or ‘How can they relate to our everyday challenges, the kinds of thing s we have to do to make ends meet?’ ” Making oneself appear to be from a hardscrabble background is meant to dispel that notion, he said.

I’ve been poor, I have friends who used to be poor, and it can be said without fear of contradiction: There is nothing sanctifying about not knowing from where your next sandwich is coming or where you’re going to sleep that night.

There is nothing about being poor, Hall said, that inherently makes someone more sympathetic to the plight of those who still are poor. “Some of the most progressive politicians we’ve had have been people of means who have a sense of obligation to help those who were less fortunate,” he said. “I think of the Kennedy family. That (sense of obligation) was almost a mantra for them, although JFK was kind of slow to get behind a number of” progressive policies.

Slow, yes, but he did eventually get behind them. So did FDR, another blueblood.

Some of my buddies from college – can’t call ’em friends because of their contumely and contempt for those who are currently poor – have never gotten behind things to help the poor.

When not blowing a month’s salary styling and profiling at the annual CIAA Tournament while their alma maters wither on the vine, many are loudly lamenting paying taxes to help people who are in the same positions at the bottom of the economic ladder they once occupied.

The people down there now, these people who themselves were once down there insist, don’t want to work.

I often interrupt their diatribes to encourage them to look on the bright side: You’re paying more in taxes because you’re making more.

If that doesn’t work, I tell them to go to hell.

These are the same dudes with whom I used to gather up coins just so we could afford those four-for-a-dollar boxes of macaroni with powdered cheese or who, when they got enough money to eat a buffet, would line their pockets with aluminum foil so they could stuff chicken wings in them.

The three most prized possessions on my desk are a baseball autographed by former Washington Senators ace pitcher Joe Coleman, a picture signed by former Baltimore Colts tight end John Mackey and a bank receipt from First Union Bank after drawing out $10.

The remaining balance listed was one cent.

Does that make me qualified to be President?

No. It does, however, help me appreciate that someone can work two jobs and still be poor.

Hmmm. On second thought, maybe that does qualify me to be president.

Barry Saunders: 919-836-2811, bsaunders

@newsobserver.com, @BarrySaunders9

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