A few months ago, The Nation ran an article about the disenchanted Americans struggling in Third World poverty who have been left behind by the very political party that promised “change.” Liberals (who received hefty funding from the AFL-CIO and other unions) fear they lost their support and vote from America’s Underclass — those of us struggling in deep poverty who have been economically excluded and socially marginalized — who got thrown under the bus for the benefit of middle class workers and their Democrat political candidates.
Of course, the problem is that in America, there is nothing but increasing apathy from the luckily employed lower-middle and middle class workers towards the horrendous poverty they are confronted with in their own backyard every day. There’s no sense that “we’re all in this together.”
Now, Democrats are worried that they will be unseated in the upcoming November elections and replaced with ultra-right-wing theocratic fascist candidates supported by big money and well-paid shills; the Tea Pottyers. My response was as follows:
If we’re going to starve, suffer from lack of access to medical care, suffer without housing and life-sustaining utilities, and be further punished for being poor by being denied access to education and jobs that pay enough to live on; what difference does voting really make if, either way, we get nothing but our faces ground deeper into the dirt?
Affirmative Action isn’t the answer. All that ever did was pit men against women, whites against non-whites, and young against old in an artificially limited opportunity pool where college admissions, union apprenticeships, and jobs with dignity were rationed. Because in capitalism, somebody always has to be at the bottom! There is no way to make that “fair” in any true sense of the word.
The Democrats haven’t just turned their backs on us after the most recent election of President Obama and an overwhelming majority of Democrat Congressmen. This has been going on for over 30 years since the Reagan Revolution. The Democrats didn’t just sit on the sidelines hand-cuffed to the bench as helpless bystanders while conservatives in Congress and the Reagan administration played a game of “let’s make the poor even poorer and more degraded and miserable.”
Reagan had to work with a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives in Congress in order for his trickle-down policies and draconian cuts to social programs to get passed and enacted. There were no policies enacted during Reagan’s two-term presidency that did not first meet the approval of the Democrat-controlled House.
And these guys were not elected by some Fairy Godmother — middle class votes, many from middle class white males in good-paying union jobs (that were and still are denied to poor women) put them in office based on their promise to cut already meager and inadequate welfare benefits, which disproportionately hurt poor women and children and the disabled. Blue-collar middle class union men who drank the Kool-Aid as they sucked up every word of Rush Limbaugh, an over-privileged gas bag who made his pile by peddling his gospel of hate for the poor, for “illegal” immigrants, and for women from his media pulpit.
The middle, upper-middle, and upper classes were Reagan’s electoral foot soldiers. The 1980’s was a time when the young (Gen-Xers) comprised a greater proportion of people living in poverty than at any point after the Great Society programs of the 1960’s. Why is that?
Reagan, Republicans in Congress (along with Democrat conspirators) dismantled the Great Society programs — beginning with CETA, the federally subsidized jobs program that provided employment opportunities for the most socio-economically disadvantaged groups of jobless people. CETA gave them a toehold on the jobs ladder.
Following the elimination of CETA were cuts to HUD Section 8 subsidized housing. These cuts took place during a brutal recession in which high school graduates from poverty and the working class were entering a job market that was fraying with the massive de-industrialization of America. The only jobs available required several years experience and/or a college degree in the new “Information Age” based economy.
But the passage of the Gramm-Rudman Bill slashed student aid for the needy, putting college and grad school out of reach for those from poverty in the mid to late 1980’s — all the while college tuition began to soar, outpacing inflation, as more and more jobs began requiring college degrees.
Those of us in poverty got denied opportunity, and then denied even the most miserly meager safety net in order to pay for some relief for the middle class — an entire group of Americans who never gave a shit about our problems so long as they got their piece of the pie, while never allowing us to join their ranks. We do not forget this.
They got their tax cuts paid for with cuts to LIHEAP (which had never been fully funded) so they could live comfortably while we freeze to death, or die in house fires from having to use candles and kerosene space heaters.
They got their unemployment benefits extension (the average amount being far more than what someone working for minimum wage or less gets working 40 hours a week) paid for with cuts to food stamps — the only “income” of the poorest of the jobless poor — so they can maintain their middle class standard of living while those of us in poverty are left to starve to death.
The middle class got tax breaks so they could buy nice homes while we are left to struggle without any homes of our own other than “tent cities”, our cars, a friend or relative’s couch, or a cot at a homeless shelter — if we can even get that. Then they have the temerity to tell us to buy organic locally grown food (which we can’t afford), and honor their picket lines and vote for their Democrat candidates.
And these same people have the moxy to call this a “democracy” while they tell those of us who are jobless without ANY income, who are destitute, hungry, without access to medical care, and without utilities (or even a home) to “stop whining”, that our turn will eventually come. Well, Halley’s Comet will eventually come too, but we can’t wait 75 years for our turn. We can’t afford to wait even one more year!
We’ve heard this same trickle-down spiel for the last 30 years. We’re not going to wait another 30 years, because we can’t. And we won’t. We’re no longer buying it. Instead of real change, all we got was chump change — if that.
It is obvious to us what all of our time volunteering for political candidates’ election campaigns and our votes gets for us in a capitalist, class-stratified society that never benefited us poor people because our needs never seem to matter. We see just how much petit bourgeois middle class “democracy” has done, and will do, for us.
When poor single mothers like Sylvia Young have to lose what little bit of nothing she had in a deadly house fire that also claimed the lives of three of her seven children because her utilities got cut off, and Michigan’s Democrat lawmakers and governor add insult to injury by persecuting her (a victim of capitalism) with trumped up bullshit charges of child neglect when the real criminals are DTE Energy — we know exactly what supporting faux democracy under capitalism (which ensures the poor never benefit in society) ultimately means for us.
When that man working for DTE Energy, enjoying his middle class union job with benefits enabling him to afford health care, a home, enough food, and his utilities, went to cut off Sylvia Young’s gas and electric on March 2, 2010 in Detroit’s freezing winter temperatures, he spoke with her less than two hours before her children died in the fire from a faulty space heater.
He saw her children.
He knew that cutting off her gas and electric was a death sentence for her and those children.
And what did he do? What was his response to the pleas from a poor single mother? “Sorry, I’ve got a job to do.”
How nice for him that he’s got a good union job and that it’s not him being slapped with a death sentence for the status crime of living while poor and female in our wonderful “democracy.”
I hope the burned and lifeless bodies of Sylvia Young’s three children — whose tiny pink and blue caskets and burial had to be paid for through community donations — are worth it to him, and all the other men with middle class union jobs at utility companies who got theirs while countless poor women across this country never got anything but shit and shoved in it with a backhand instead of a helping hand.
This labor day weekend while he and millions of other more fortunate middle class workers enjoy a paid holiday with cook-outs and plenty of food and entertainment, the three little children of Sylvia Young lay six feet under — never, ever able to enjoy a Labor Day holiday with hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill. In fact, many of us in poverty (who are still alive) have no food at all this weekend and won’t be able to get any until the 10th of the month (five days from now) when our food stamps come.
It should be noted that not too long ago in central Europe, it was the trade unionists and social Democrats who allied themselves with Germany’s industrial petit bourgeoisie. They squeamishly distanced themselves from the German Communist Party (the KDP). Their support for “reform” of a deeply flawed capitalist and imperialist system allowed the Nazi horrors to unfold on European soil, culminating in Hitler’s “Final Solution.”
When three middle class engineers — Fritz Sander, Kurt Prüfer, and Karl Schultze — working for Topf and Son designed, patented, built the continual feed crematoria specifically for use in Nazi death camps; and willingly installed and maintained those ovens of hell on site, they were “just doing their job.”
After the war when these three men testified at the post-war trial in Erfart and were asked why they built those devices for human liquidation, knowing that innocent people were being destroyed, they said they were just being good German citizens supporting and obeying their government and they didn’t want to lose their middle class jobs and all the comforts, social prizes, and rewards that money can buy.
Funeral for Sylvia Young’s children who died on March 2, 2010 in a house fire — photo courtesy of wsws.org.
Jacqueline S. Homan, author: Classism For Dimwits