Coining a Word

What’s a traffic jam caused by lane closures? It’s a Christie!
Steven G. Platt
racine, wis.

Is Christie History?

There are several LOL moments in Katha Pollitt’s “Christie: A Bully’s Bully” [Feb. 3]. The most delicious: “Christie has filled the place formerly occupied by John McCain: the straight-shooting Republican ‘maverick’ (a maverick being a Republican who admits the earth is probably older than 10,000 years).” Ooooo loverly! That really made my day.
Robert Greene

If Christie (to say nothing of McCain) is the Republicans’ idea of a “man’s man,” they’re worse off than I thought. I’m not sure how to define “man’s man,” but I am definitely sure we would not want one as president.
Jeff T

As John Nichols notes [“Christie’s Jam—and the GOP’s,” Feb. 3], owing to “the decline in media coverage of statehouses, governors frequently work their will with scant scrutiny.” This was true in 2012 when Christie was able to defund and kill the New Jersey Network (NJN), the state’s public television system, which had broadcast daily hard-news, field-produced programs since the 1970s. He was able to do this, as Katha Pollitt notes, with the assistance of Democrats who cozied up to him.

So the watchdog was replaced by the new, under­funded “public TV 2.0” model, NJTV, with its lapdog style and webcam interviews with studio hosts/newsreaders replacing experienced beat reporters. An early show featured a long interview with a Christie crony blaming the messenger (The New York Times) for its front-page exposé of halfway houses run by the crony. NJTV had to try to get up to speed quickly to cover “Bridge(t)gate” (named for the alleged perpetrator, Christie’s assistant chief of staff, Bridget Kelly). But Christie’s bipartisan murder of NJN was the death of electronic journalism here.

Alan S. Pollack
jersey city, n.j.

Chris Christie looks and moves and gestures and sounds like the pig in Animal Farm. Notice how the face registers no emotion except when it falls into anger. The eyelids have no affect; the eyebrows are rarely raised; there is no frown, no sweetness in the occasional smile, no grin, no joy. There is only the almost continuous push—as if every fiber of his being has been concentrated to pull off an effort—swimming upstream in a gale; squeezing the life out of a victim; ordering retaliation against a perceived enemy.
Sean David Bennett
galway, ireland

VISTA & the War on Poverty

As a former VISTA volunteer assigned by the Office of Economic Opportunity to work in a poor black community in North Carolina (1968–69), I appreciate Sasha Abramsky’s “The Battle Hymn of the War on Poverty” [Feb. 3]. He particularly focused on the important role of Legal Services; I regret that he didn’t mention VISTA—once referred to as the domestic Peace Corps, and called by The New York Times “the shock troops in the war on poverty.” Many of us, trained as Saul Alinsky–style community organizers, became radicalized attempting to actualize “the maximum feasible participation” of the poor. Some VISTAs I knew were law school grads; some referred poor folks to their local Legal Services programs, among other duties.
Maureen O’Connor, author,
Knocking on Doors: VISTA Volunteers Remember 1965–1971

The War on Poverty was largely phased out in the 1980s, and then turned into a war on the poor by Bill Clinton in the ’90s. After cutting the rungs off the ladder out of poverty and shipping out the bulk of our working-class jobs, those responsible just can’t understand why so many people “choose the poverty lifestyle.” We turn our backs on those pushed out of the job market.

America’s contempt for the poor started early. Back in 1657, a Puritan divine named Richard Baxter preached that wealth is a sign that people are saved, while poverty signifies damnation. He took Jesus’ Beatitude that the poor are blessed and turned it into a curse, while ignoring John Calvin’s advice that the rich should live modestly and work for the common good, and that all honest labor is honorable. With few exceptions, we’ve been sneering at the poor ever since and grinding them into the dust. So much for Jesus’ promise that the meek shall inherit the earth.
John Raby
new london, n.h.

Call It Anti-Inequality

Re Greg Kaufman’s “Building an Anti-Poverty Movement” [Feb. 3]: It’s good to call attention to the shameful way our economy exploits the poor and how inadequately our government responds. But calling the problem “poverty” focuses on just half of it. It accepts the idea that the poor are responsible for their own problems, and families can pull themselves up through hard work and “climb the ladder of opportunity” (Obama in the State of the Union address), perhaps with a little help up from government. It’s an idea Nation writers reject. But they skirt the fact that you then have to confront the reality that the poor are so poor because the rich are so rich.

The focus on poverty can help avoid exactly that conclusion. Criticizing the rich smacks of “class war” and raises uncomfortable questions about the 1 percent and whether they deserve to reap so disproportionate a share of the wealth that increasing productivity provides them.

Seriously addressing inequality rather than only poverty would undercut the president’s justification of inequality in the State of the Union message­—that “we don’t resent those who, by virtue of their efforts, achieve incredible success.” Even if their efforts come from financial and employment practices that cause widespread joblessness and that very poverty that is being attacked?

Tackling poverty involves tackling inequality, tackling the wealth of the rich as well as the poverty of the poor. An anti-poverty movement needs to be willing to say that, out loud.

Peter Marcuse
new york city