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An Ideology That Focuses on No. 1

April 27, 1985

If I could draw a political cartoon, I would do the following response to Gardner's comment regarding federal funding for educating the poor and handicapped.

It would show a forest of missiles and tanks, with jets flying overhead and a nearby ocean teeming with warships and submarines; in the foreground would be a rag-tag group of children in tattered clothing, some in wheelchairs or on crutches. Underneath would be the quote by Gardner, "In a misguided effort to help a few, the many have been injured."

Considering the billions we spend on weapons, which we do not even need built simply as "bargaining chips" in an arms race that nevertheless goes on and on, to claim that the sorry state of public education is the result of overspending on the poor and handicapped is not merely ludicrous, it is frighteningly malicious.

Secretary Bennett compounded the insult with his Orwellian Newspeak designation of her attitude as "religious existentialism." To say that poor and handicapped children are responsible for their own plight, blaming "spiritual and genetic factors rather than environmental influences such as poverty and prejudice," is tantamount to the old racist view that blacks were poor because they were genetically inferior and a lesser species than human, lacking even a soul. The attitude is far from "thoughtful" and "sensible." It is merely racist and a throwback to 19th Century social Darwinism, which justified injustice to the poor and weak as "survival of the fittest."

If it were an isolated incident, the statements might be forgiven as an aberration, but similarly callous statements have continuously issued forth from the Reagan Administration; from Reagan's claim that the homeless did not want anything better than the streets; to Edwin Meese's allegation that non-needy people were standing in free-soup lines; to Bennett's comment that without student loans, college kids from the upper-income levels presently qualifying for loans would merely have to cut back on luxuries like a stereo, a car, or trips to the beach; or the gem of illogic from another Administration official asserting that black children are well fed as evidenced by the number of black athletes.

This Administration is either perilously ignorant or unable to disguise a vicious prejudice against the poor in America.

LANNY BUETTNER

Los Angeles

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