The West/SmileyTraveling Poverty Tour

A recent interview with the wild-haired Princeton professor Cornel West and his eager sidekick Tavis Smiley reminded me of a third-rate comedy act where the performers scrounge for dimes between the beer-soaked floorboards of some strip joint. Unfortunately, these charlatans are for real.

The two millionaires are on a "poverty is the new slavery" bandwagon to pressure Obama to spend "massive" amounts of taxpayer money in the areas of education, jobs, and public housing.

Just before the 2012 election the radical professor and the media personality had a "call to conscience." The team visited battleground states ostensibly to draw attention to all poor people in America.

Smiley & West are going on a road trip to highlight the plight of the poor people of all races, colors, and creeds so they will not be forgotten, ignored, or rendered invisible during this difficult and dangerous time of economic deprivation and political cowardice.

But shortly after Obama's reelection, in the November 9 interview with Amy Goodman, the duo shifted to a more race-based interpretation of the hungry, dispossessed masses. In this rendition it was all about who's poorer, black babies vs. white babies. West said:

...And without no one who's really progressive on the left telling the truth about the suffering. But, you know, the truth is, is that, you know, if 40 percent of white babies were going to bed every night either starving or not having enough to eat, it would be a different discussion. And each baby has the same value, but we've got 40 percent of the babies of color who are going to bed without, and we're told to be silent and somehow capitulate to a debate about deficit, when we know we need massive investment for jobs with a living wage, massive investment for public housing, massive investment for public education, and we're getting privatization on each front.

The activist professor just decreased the grouping of poor people from "all races, colors, and creeds" to black only.

Included in the repertoire is West's self-imposed role of holding Obama's feet to the fire. He said that the president wasn't progressive enough and despite the fact he was "glad there was not a right-wing takeover" Mr. Obama is still "a Rockefeller Republican in blackface."

If a hardcore Chavez-loving honorary chair of the Democratic Socialist Party of America like West thinks Obama the redistributionist isn't Marxist enough what's going on? Is there really trouble in paradise between different Leftist factions?

Both West and Smiley have criticized the president in the past even calling Obama a "black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats."

The two, who host a public radio show together, justified their racially charged "blackface" remark by comparing themselves to activists like Frederick Douglass, socialist A. Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Eleanor Roosevelt, who pushed their respective presidents to go from "transactional" to "transformational."

In an October 2012 online magazine interview titled "Cornel West Plans to Vote for Obama in November and Protest His Policies in February" the professor was asked whether he reconsidered going easier on Obama after the first debate. Was he going to keep hitting a man when he was down?

West responded that a "Romney takeover" would be very dangerous in terms of "actual deaths of the elderly and the poor." But when questioned if his criticism would eventually cost Obama the election and make all "that bad stuff happen," West more or less revealed his true motives. It's all just a game to him.

I'm strategic. American politics are not a matter of voting your moral conscience -- if I voted my moral conscience it would probably be for Jill Stein. But it's strategic in terms of the actual possibilities and real options available for poor and working people... A Romney administration would be a catastrophic response to an already catastrophic condition. I still get in a lot of trouble with my left-wing comrades on this -- that I would still support Obama winning while continuing to tell the truth about drones dropping bombs on innocent people... I'm a revolutionary Christian whose calling is to try to tell the truth the best he can and bear witness to love before I die.

West and Smiley talk like this all of the time. The comrades purport to love the poor while voting for a candidate who, after four years, has hung them out to dry. They scorned Romney for making "big cash" while West is worth $3 million (maybe more) and his cohort Smiley $10 million, not exactly chump change. Try to imagine a Venezuelan or North Korean making that kind of money trashing his country.

Call it cynical but we are living in strange times when two race-baiting millionaires go on a Poverty Tour in the United States of America to promote their book on poverty and rail against the guy they voted for. The contradiction is enough to make one's head explode.

The pair hit the road performing the same old utopian song and dance routine the socialists were selling in the 19th century. Except that in the 1800's, the definition of poverty included conditions like rickets, premature births, malnutrition, no electricity, and no indoor plumbing. Photos of crowded tenements and malnourished children from the late 19th and early 20th centuries offer a stark contrast to pictures of obese children holding the latest iPhones in 2012.

Regardless of the absence of a viable 21st century definition of poverty, anyone not in a coma can check the stats. After fifty-plus years of pouring trillions into poverty programs, con men like West and Smiley are still asking for more.

When Jesus proclaimed "the poor will always be with us" did He know hucksters like West and Smiley would be elated? They and their ilk jumped on the chance to champion a demographic with infinite possibilities and a high ROI. If they're such selfless Christians, why not take a vow of poverty and reject all that sweaty, dirty capitalist money? Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity, an exemplary order when it comes to tending to the sick and the poor, are allowed a room with a working refrigerator, that's about it.

In all fairness to West's hero Karl Marx, the revolutionary socialist wasn't as phony as these two. Marx had nothing but disdain for those who sought to merge socialism and Christianity. He contended, "Christian socialism is but the holy water with which the priest consecrates the heart-burnings of the aristocrat."

Chances are we won't find Smiley and West, who call themselves Christians but have a definite fondness for Marxist principles, giving up their "aristocratic" ways to live among the destitute in subsidized housing complexes.

No -- they're too busy planning "a January 17th symposium in Washington D.C... to discuss poverty with participants [radical activists] such as Jonathan Kozol, Jeffrey Sachs, and Marian Wright Edelman." The pair hopes Obama will convene a conference to devise a plan to cut poverty in half in ten years.

Both men vow to keep pushing the president to spend on programs for the poor, insisting that they themselves would have to be "crushed to the earth and introduced to the worms" before they will be "silent." Somebody please give these guys the hook.

Read more M. Catharine Evans at Potter Williams Report