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Today, the poor continue to enter politics as ideas more than as people. During the new legislative session, Republican lawmakers intend to repeal the Affordable Care Act, stripping millions of poverty-class and working-class Americans of the right to health insurance without exorbitant deductibles and exclusions for pre-existing conditions. The move is unpopular, according to polls, but the actual will of poor voters and the actual lives of the soon-to-be uninsured appear as mere abstractions in American public discourse, whether they are summoned by the Left or deflated by the Right. Indeed, despite his rhetoric, Obama has arguably accelerated wealth inequality in the United States since taking office. Needless to say, Americans raised in poverty are severely underrepresented in national politics and mass media.

All the while, Milos and Markoses churn out stories that use the idea of poor people to score points with partisan readerships. During his campaign, Trump demonstrated an eagerness to aggravate the divisions that Obama had promised to heal. The continuing appetite for moralizing narratives about the poorest members of society is both a cause and a symptom of the violence of class politics, which implicates everyone – presidents and medieval poets alike.

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