By Jacqueline S. Homan, author: “Classism For Dimwits”
As someone who came from the underclass, this is not a new fight for me and the other 38 million Americans struggling to survive below the antiquated federal poverty guidelines. It is a bit of a shock for many of the formerly middle class that are nouveau pauvre who are now “feeling the love” that those of us who have struggled with poverty for most (if not all) of our lives have received.
Here’s how those of us from poverty who have been poor all along have experienced life (including shabby treatment from the middle class) and how we’ve seen things these past 30 years since the Reagan Revolution began in 1980.
One of the most common memes thrown in our faces since then has been and still is “Have you ever been employed by someone who is poor?” (i.e. it’s the rich who create the jobs)
The rich do not create jobs. they create profit and wealth for themselves by eliminating jobs, slashing/suppressing wages and benefits. This is referred to as “cutting costs” or “increasing the bottom line” (which benefits CEO’s and increased portfolio appreciation and dividend payouts for those able to afford to invest in equities through 401(k)’s and the like).
And as a matter of fact, the poor do create jobs and other forms of profit/income generation for the middle and upper classes who don’t even have to break a sweat for it.
The poor are deprived of access to living wage jobs in a jobs market in which there never, never, never were enough living wage jobs to go around for everyone in need of a job and who wanted one. The poor are denied access to living wage jobs with health benefits through credentialism (established by the owning class with collaboration from the middle class) while being denied access to the education and training they need to be employable at living wage jobs.
Employers use the credit report and FICO score and work history gaps to deny the poor jobs (even menial, poverty wage Wal-Mart jobs). This ensured that the middle class got all the jobs in our depleted jobs pool (which had been shrinking since 1980) while the poor — the underclass from the trailer parks and ghettos — got 100% economically excluded (with poor women being at the very bottom of every pile); and then demonized for our “lack of work ethic” — making us “undeserving” of even any paltry inadequate welfare benefits for being such jobless “losers” and “lazy bums.”
Meanwhile, middle class state employees — the bureaucrats at unemployment offices across the US — told socio-economically disadvantaged job applicants in the most dire need of living wage jobs that “no one owes you a job” and have outright refused to even give us a job application for one of those union jobs as an $18/hr meter reader for the local utility companies.
The poor also provide middle class bureaucrats with comfortable office jobs as welfare caseworkers, children & youth social workers, detention center counselors, non-profit charity administrators, prison staff, and the list goes on. The middle class enjoy civil service jobs with benefits and job protection in all areas of employment centered on managing the poor — whom they despise, even though they’re getting their nice, secure, economically stable jobs and income off the backs of the very people they look down on with scorn and deride with contempt.
The poor overwhelmingly comprise the US prison population. Prisons are the largest “subsidized housing” program in the country that provides local, state, and federal middle class jobs in running the prison-industrial complex. The rich benefit the most from this via the civilian inmate labor program (AR-210-35) which is inmate slave labor — paid 22 – 47 cents an hour for making Victoria Secret lingerie, computer motherboards, and even data entry work and taking telephone reservations — all with no workers’ comp, no federal minimum wage, no social security withholding, no unemployment insurance, and no pesky unions or workers’ rights agitators.
The middle and upper classes are also subsidized by the poor by the Welfare Reform Act through its component known as Workfare in which the government subsidizes corporations for any Workfare labor. It’s a no rights, no minimum wage involuntary workforce of mostly desperately poor women that provides this cheap labor. Workfare employers pay only a fraction of the paltry federal minimum wage for each worker that is a poor welfare recipient on TANF. The rich get richer off of subsidized slave labor and the middle class benefits from cheap goods and better paying supervisory/managerial jobs overseeing the poor Workfare workers.
The poor who are disabled who are the lucky ones that weren’t denied disability benefits — those who are struggling to survive on $600/mo SSI, which isn’t enough to live on anywhere in the US — also provide hefty subsidies for the rich through exploitative “special minimum wage waivers.” These are “workshops” that do the jobs subcontracted from some of our biggest corporations and the jobs are mostly assembly line or piece work.
Any disabled person who ends up in one of these workshop jobs can be paid as little as $1.50/hr. Technically, the wages are supposed to reflect the actual rate or prevailing wage a non-disabled worker doing the same job would be paid. But in reality, the employer gets to decide whatever wage he wishes to pay.
The formula used by the government by which these slave wages reduce a disabled worker’s monthly SSI/SSDI benefit is such that if the disabled person’s job (paycheck) stops abruptly, there wouldn’t be enough left in SSI/SSDI benefits alone to even cover rent for a place to live. After a disabled worker’s employment ends at one of these “workshops”, it takes up to 6 months before their full SSI/SSDI benefits are restored — which very effectively keeps the disabled trapped in slave wage jobs programs.
America’s poor today have higher disability rates, lower life expectancy rates and higher maternal and infant mortality rates than people in many Third World countries due to a real lack of access to health care and any real safety net. Compounding the problem is that access to abortion and reliable contraception for poor people has dwindled greatly over the last 15 years, even though a destitute woman on welfare gets no prenatal care, no dental care (which is critical because the fetus harnesses all the woman’s organ systems and drains her body of calcium which leads to bone and tooth loss) , or additional help from welfare for a baby born while she’s already receiving paltry TANF benefits.
But the working class and the poor (you know, us “stray animals that will only breed if fed” while we’re denied abortions) aren’t reproducing a large enough reserve army of surplus labor and aren’t dying off fast enough to suit capitalism’s “winners.” And there are fewer and fewer “winners” and more and more “losers” in this No Pea shell game of a Serengeti economy than at any other point in American history since the Great Depression officially began 81 years ago.
The needs of the poor and working class are always disregarded, ignored, and shoved aside while political candidates fawn over the middle class. The middle class has gotten (and still gets) all the attention paid to their grievances while the poor get nothing except told to “shut up and stop whining.”
Time after time these last 30+ years, the poor have been made to “take one for the team” by both political parties with the full blessing and support of the middle class.
Every time there’s sacrifices and compromises to be made, it’s always the poor who get offered up as the sacrificial lamb on the altar of capitalism with lots of hand-wringing and excuses by “progressives” and their organizations of “We’re sorry, but we had to compromise your needs otherwise we would have gotten nothing to address ours. Sorry if some people have to be left out, but if you wait your turn while we get our agenda met first, we can eventually negotiate for your needs next time.”
But there never is a “next time” and our turn never comes.
It’s extremely offensive and classist that the concept of “Joe the Plumber” and “Main Street” is used to insulate the middle class from the suffering of those who are far worse off. We always hear the battle cries of “Why is the government destroying the middle class?” and “The middle class is under attack!” and variations thereof — implying that “destroying the poor is perfectly OK, but threatening the middle class is going too far.”
The political elite, who are elected by middle class voters, aspire to be part of the owning class — the very same class that view the needs of the common people as an economic nuisance. (Note that the word “entitlement” is used as a derogatory weapon that is never applied to FEMA’s black budget or the Pentagon budget.)
Tax breaks essentially pay corporations to ship jobs out of America to the lowest and sleaziest bidder to places like Indonesia and El Salvador where workers are paid 15 cents an hour; lowering the tax base and stressing the social safety net (what’s left of it) and adding to the deficit.
There’s a double standard: the Golden Parachute for the rich and their whores in Congress, the Oval Office, and the US Supreme Court near the top of the economic ladder, and the Lead Anchor standard for the 98% on the lower and bottom rungs.
So why is it OK for the poor to be crushed underfoot, suffering in misery and deprivation with higher disability rates, maternal and infant mortality rates, and lower life expectancies — all due to lack of access to medical care and other basic human needs — than people in many Third World nations while only the grievances of the middle class matter?
If it’s not acceptable to destroy the middle class, then it’s not acceptable to destroy the poor.
If it’s not OK for middle class women and girls to be forced to work in the seedy sex industry under exploitative, dehumanizing and degrading conditions with no social security credits and other benefits due to job discrimination and lack of equal opportunity for jobs with dignity, why should it be OK for poor women and girls? If it’s not OK for your wives and daughters, it’s not OK for us.
If it’s not OK for middle class boys and men to fight in imperialist wars (that only serve the interests of the very rich) only to get blown up, maimed, and killed; then it’s not OK for our men either.
For over 30 years that fascist right-wing politicians (whose generous salaries, perks, travel expenses, Cadillac health care, and $90,000/yr retirement benefits are paid for by the public) worked to dismantle laws and social programs and safety nets that benefited the working class and the poor; the poor were promised a share of the pie if only we’d quietly wait our turn, hats in hand, after Reagan’s trickle-down economics first benefited the rich and the middle class.
But we never got our turn.
During every debate and discourse on universal health care, provisions in health care reform bills that would have helped the poor were jettisoned in the name of “compromise.” Those of us in poverty never got our turn after the middle class got what they wanted. We’re fed up and we’re through being polite because we can’t wait anymore. And we won’t. We’re sick and tired of being appointed to “take one for the team.” (And no, we will not “shut up and stop whining”, thank you very much.)
We stand on the precipice of irreversible catastrophe to humanity. We have an over privileged overclass of economic terrorists on Wall Street pulling the strings of their stooges in Congress and in the presidential cabinet like Steny Hoyer (D-MD) who wants to cut social security and his partner in crime, the head of the Catfood Commission, Al Simpson, who called the social security program a “milk cow with 310 million tits.”
Of course, both of those scumbags (along with every other Congresscritter), enjoy the high life off of the public tit. I don’t know about you, but my tits are starting to hurt. Maybe it’s time we pry our greedy arrogant lawmakers’ mouths off of our tits and let them go try and make a living selling overpriced detergent for Amway.
This is about social class justice and human rights. Do you stand on the side of human rights and dignity for ALL, or do you stand on the side of maintaining the same broken system of unearned privileges that brought us to this point in the first place in order to hopefully win some token scraps from the filthy rich just so you can preserve what’s left of your middle class privilege? The choice is yours. Be the change!