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I will try not to take too sanctimonious of a tone here, and probably fail.  I understand why we're gloating at Boehner's failure.  I respect that both as a matter of partisan strategy and good long-term policy, we very well might be better off to just go over the cliff, though the unpredictability of the consequences gives me more pause perhaps than most.

But personally, I can find no joy in tonight, or the coming cliff.  I'm one of the two million or so for whom this really is a fiscal cliff, not a curb.  I'm one of the hostages whose only source of income for the last six months, unemployment benefits, will go poof.  The complete and utter failure of our government to govern doesn't give me much space to go HA HA HA HA HA, to borrow a diary title.

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After years of whispered rumors, in June 1881 Indianapolis began investigating allegations of rampant abuse, negligence, and fraud in its county poorhouse. In spite of fears among the poorhouse’s inmates that “They will be thrown in the dungeon” by the superintendent of the poorhouse, Mr. Wright, if they offered critical testimony, several inmates (and they were inmates, more than visitors or residents) came forward to share their experiences. There were beatings, solitary confinement in the cellar, rancid food and drink, and inadequate ventilation, heating, blanketing, and medical care. Ed Akins accused the resident physician, Dr. Culbertson, of giving him diabetes from “a peculiar kind of tea” and then denying him any medicine. Samuel Churchwell’s two-year-old child was removed from its mother, left so underclothed in winter that “its legs had been frozen,” starved to the point of being unable to recognize its parents upon being returned to them, then caught a cold and died. A newborn died when Dr. Culbertson, who had no professional experience but a legal record with a conviction for assault and battery, waited two days to examine it. Oliver Thomas, an “insane idiot” child unable to recognize his own name, whipped Harry White, another child, several times when Harry screamed after being frightened by a dog. Mr. Wright had also beaten Harry with the cowhide that Wright always kept by his side, since Harry “had used careless language and was full of fun.”

That was just the beginning. The real bad stuff, and some thoughts on our views toward poverty then and now, follow...

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On March 26, 1880, Anna R. arrived at the door of a newly established charity. A widow, often sick, with no relatives in town and few means of employment to support her five children, she had scrapped by for the last five years in Indianapolis with little help from the trustee–– the person responsible for the administration of public relief, or what we now might call welfare. The volunteer who took her statement at the charity society noted in the official record, “She don’t think this a good city for the poor – they don’t look after the poor enough.”

Anna knew poverty.  When she was 11 her family immigrated to America from Ireland, presumably searching for better opportunities. Instead she found more hardship. Her husband died from a workplace accident on a railroad during the Civil War, while she was four months pregnant. By 1874 she had landed in Greencastle, Indiana, destitute, and raising five children ages seven to twelve.

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