It never ceases to amaze me how obtuse the beneficiaries of unearned privilege are about the plight of America’s poor, or to the depth of hatred aimed at the multitudes of their fellow citizens in poverty who have to use food stamps.
This is not solely the purview of conservatives who wear their contempt for poor women, children and the disabled on their sleeves; displaying their classism as proudly as if it were a Congressional Medal of Honor. It is rampant among middle class progressives as well — except they’re more duplicitous about it. They hide it within the matrix of pet liberal causes under false pretenses of promoting healthier eating habits among the poor.
They aim their malevolence at the poorest of the poor who rely on food stamps and unhealthy donated non-perishables from food pantries. Those foods are loaded with starch and carbohydrates, which causes Type II diabetes and obesity.
Rather than target “Big Ag” conglomerates who are heavily subsidized with “welfare handouts” twice — first by taxes, and second by taxpayers’ food purchases — middle class progressives and conservatives act in concert to push punitive policies to make the poor even more miserable. Punishing the poor is easier than promoting policies that would enable poor food stamp recipients to buy fresh produce from local farmers, whose prices are three times as high as the chemical and starch loaded foods from Big Ag conglomerates that you can buy at Wal-Mart’s.
Local farmers do not accept food stamps for their expensive “free range” chicken and eggs, and their organic produce that the poor can’t afford at prices which are three times as high as the less-healthy foods in the local Wal-Mart’s — not that the middle class ever cared about that.
But instead of addressing those issues, middle class liberals aim to punish the poor by further curtailing their already restricted food options, which are really a Hobson’s Choice. The time-honored middle class tradition of “let’s make the poor even more miserable” was openly embraced in Alternet’s recent article, “Should Food Stamps Be Used For Soda?” The gist of the article was that poor people on food stamps shouldn’t be allowed to buy any cheap snacks or beverages with the SNAP benefits. Poor people get nothing to enjoy as it is, but it’s OK to deprive them of even cheap beverages and snacks because “it’s for their own good.” Having any solace in the enjoyment of any small comforts is not.
Someone getting food stamps doesn’t get enough to be able to buy a month’s worth of groceries, even when stretching their food stamps by buying the 2-day old stale baked goods and 2-liter bottles of soda on sale at 3 for $5. The overwhelming response among Alternet’s largely middle/upper-middle class “progressive” posters was along the vein of “let the poor drink tap water if they can’t afford healthier and tastier beverages”, which is really nothing more than a polite form of Rush Limbaugh’s “let the poor learn how to dumpster dive if they’re hungry.” My all-time favorite is from South Carolina’s “pro-life” Lieutenant Governor, Andre Bauer, who proposed eliminating the school breakfast and lunch program for poor children in his state, saying that feeding the poor was like “feeding stray animals and encouraging them to breed.”
Those who hate the poor come in all political stripes, but are overwhelmingly from one socio-economic class: the middle and upper-middle classes who have unjustly benefited from a legacy of unearned privileges that are the hallmark of the capitalist paradigm, which was only successful because capitalism relies on a lot of slave labor and devalued work in society in order for it to be successful. Those whose work is the most devalued, who have provided the bulk of “unimportant” work necessary for a capitalist society’s smooth functioning are women. The work women do is under-compensated precisely because it is women who do it. Everybody in society benefits from it, but takes it for granted while invalidating it. And giving moms a box of chocolates, flowers, and a card on one crummy day out of 365 designated as “Mothers’ Day” is an insultingly cheap kiss-off.
Yet, the taxes paid by poor women in this country — which poor women get the least benefit of — go towards disproportionately benefiting fascist militaristic police forces and military whose sole function is to protect capital and preserve this system of unearned privileges. And it is the middle and upper classes that benefit the most from this misogynistic command unit of the national security state which has always been used to brutally repress the poor here and abroad.
The middle class never had a problem with repression and capitalism’s other social ills until it hit them upside the snot-locker and forced them to reduce their own standard of living. They never had a problem with all the repression, inequality and unearned privileges that previously secured their own comfortable seat in the architecture of aggression of capitalism. As long as the rich were throwing them enough bones to mollify them, they didn’t even pretend to care about the well-being of the poor. And middle class liberals are just as selfish, sanctimonious, and self-centered as middle class neocons.
Middle class neocons got laws passed that restrict poor women’s access to affordable reliable contraception and abortion and middle class liberals’ response was tepid at best. Middle class neocons punish poor pregnant women, poor mothers, and poor children with draconian budget cuts to Pell grants, food stamps, LIHEAP, and Medicaid and pushed for the passage of “At-Will” employment laws which serve as a backdoor pass for employers to get away with job discrimination; disproportionately hurting poor women without any economic support in post-Welfare Reform America. Middle class liberals have no problem with that, contrary to what they tell the poor to our faces.
Middle class progressives quietly benefit from their right-wing counterparts’ agenda of pulling the ladder up and out of reach for the poor, including compulsory maternity to ensure poor women are kept poor and enslaved as childbirth chattel. Keeping poor women marginalized and excluded means fewer female PhD’s and well-paid skilled tradesmen — works out nicely for those who don’t want any real merit-based competition for the good jobs.
Poor women without reproductive choice and economic opportunity also make an even more economically desperate pool of prime candidates for exploitation as cheap “rent-a-womb” service — an inconvenient truth illustrated by the New York Times November 28th 2008 article, “Her Body, My Baby” .
White heterosexual middle class couples whose chic, slim and trim latte-sipping “career women” are too posh to trash their bodies and suffer all the discomfort and risks inherent with pregnancy and endure hours of excruciating pain tearing up their own bodies from stem to stern giving birth, benefit from a large pool of poorer and more desperate women whose bodies, lives, and well-being can be sacrificed for a song as cheap under-compensated surrogate reproductive livestock.
Of course, those in the middle/upper classes benefiting from this arrangement deny that it’s all about the money even though they reap all the gain without suffering any of the pain. They convince themselves that they really did all the work of becoming a mother because it was their eggs that were used in the process, even though it wasn’t their bodies getting permanently ruined in the gestation and birth process, which is fraught with unexpected risks — perfectly healthy women with health insurance become permanently disabled or die from childbirth in the US.
Maybe that’s part of what’s behind the latest assault on food stamp recipients by the middle class who justify beating up on the poor by further depriving them of already sparse food choices with this latest push to prohibit food stamp usage for cheap snacks and beverages. Force a semi-healthy diet to ensure that economically desperate women are “fit” for exploitation as cheap childbirth chattel. Increasing the pool of semi-healthy candidates for “rent-a-womb” service drives down the already insultingly cheap going rates for the commodity of poor women’s bodies.
Another sinister purpose is also achieved by the faux concern for poor people’s health: healthier organs to be harvested that only benefit the middle class and the rich. In states like Arizona, the poor on Medicaid and Medicare have been removed from waiting lists for life-saving organ transplants. The poor got a death sentence by budget cuts. Where was the indignant outcry from the officious middle class about that if they’re so concerned about improving poor people’s health?
Maybe it’s time every working class/poor American revokes their organ donor status from their drivers’ licenses and non-driving state photo ID’s. If we’re not good enough to have a real fair fighting chance for anything in this country with a guaranteed right to an education and a living wage job and a guaranteed right to decent health care and access to healthy foods and decent homes, then we’re not good enough for the “haves” and “have-mores” to benefit from our body parts. Fuck ‘em.
The middle class, regardless of political stripe, has never been an ally for the poor. They do not seek equality outside of their own class. They do not want a partnership with poor people. They do not respect poor people. They seek paternalistic control to satisfy their own craven egos, and they often desire to exploit the less fortunate for their own political agenda. They don’t care about whether the poor get a chance in life or not. As far as they’re concerned, the poor are nothing but “useless eaters” that don’t deserve to live, much less have any happiness. The middle class is not ignorant and oblivious to the suffering and misery they inflict on the poor. They’re an oppressor class — just like the rich whom they emulate and aspire to become.