Posts Tagged ‘capitalism’

Where’s the Help For Pre-Anti-Trafficking Movement Survivors?

June 3, 2014

Where’s the Help For Pre-Anti-Trafficking Movement Survivors?

“I am hoping that you will all do your best to look into your hearts and ask “what would I do if this happened to me?” To tuck your judgement away and to discover what gifts you have to contribute to fighting this horrible, destructive trade. The truth is that no one has the right to pay to have access to another human being. This is exploitation and it is not okay. We all have our causes, and this is mine. I promise to do all that I can with all of the gifts that God has blessed me with to fight for justice and stability for Jacqueline and people like her. They are human beings and deserve all of the rights and respect that any human being deserves.

They did not deserve what was done to them. And they don’t deserve to have to continue to struggle to get even their basic needs met in a society that didn’t protect them in the first place.” ~ Lucinda Ulrich

Lucinda Ulrich is the VERY talented and hard-working filmmaker/documentary maker that set up this (now expired) fundraiser on my behalf after a significant number of women in feminist groups sabotaged the first one set up on YouCaring by Marley Cote.

But apparently, nobody cares about this country’s poorest and most marginalized and disprivileged women—as evidenced by the LACK of donations this fundraiser received, despite getting well over 800 Facebook shares and thousands of views from people lucky to have incomes to live on who are getting their basic needs met because they weren’t denied any and all job opportunities their entire lives due to discrimination and the added oppression of deep, lifelong stigma and unjust criminalization for being victims of commercial sexual exploitation.

Would it really kill anybody fortunate to have a job to give up the cost of just ONE latte to help poor sex trafficking survivors who are NOT being served and helped by all the new “non-profit” NGO’s springing up like weeds that completely overlook the unmet economic and medical needs of survivors who had been trafficked and managed to escape BEFORE there even was any anti-trafficking movement?

Would it really kill those who have high paying jobs to participate in some job-sharing—i.e. share some of their paychecks and work opportunities with disadvantaged women who have nothing, struggling to NOT die from poverty and economic exclusion due to a legacy of oppression and discrimination—rather than offer poor formerly sexually exploited women nothing but unpaid internships and calling that an “opportunity”, while having the nerve to bitch about begging through fundraisers for that same poor woman who is a sex trafficking survivor that got held back her entire life because of it?

As an impoverished trafficking survivor with NO income, fighting for human dignity to abolish slavery and fighting for restorative justice for those of us who are struggling for our lives and basic human rights as victims of an industry of sexual torture, slavery, and the added oppression of stigmatization which has barred me from any employment in post-Welfare Reform America, your support is desperately needed so I may have a chance to rebuild my life, mentor other poor trafficking victims who want to learn software development, and continue my work in educating the public about this very important human rights issue. Please donate to support my work and my quest for restorative justice. Thank you.

Jacqueline S. Homan

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How the Middle Class is its Own Worst Enemy

June 19, 2011

By Jacqueline S. Homan, author: Classism For Dimwits and Divine Right: The Truth is a Lie

Pseudo-progressive group MoveOn.org posted on its site a 2 minute video featuring Robert Reich, the former Labor Secretary under the Clinton presidency. The video, titled “The Truth About the Economy”, gave a very abbreviated half-of-the-story illustration of the cause for the middle class’s current plight. But it completely whitewashed and ignored the role that the middle class played in its own demise by deliberately hurting the poor during the “better times” of the Reagan Revolution followed by the Clinton-era of prosperity.

The middle class suburban-dwelling voters — most of them white males with “soccer mom” wives — literally drove the Welfare Reform engine which eliminated what miserly inadequate safety net there was for the poorest of the poor on the very bottom economic rung (most whom are women).

Now that many in the middle class are falling into poverty as the long-term unemployed middle-aged are jettisoned and left on the permanently unemployable scrap heap, the middle class is outraged. They’re demanding a bigger share of the pie for themselves while still begrudging the very poor even the tiniest morsel. They never learn. You’d think that the middle class would “get it” by now, but I won’t hold my breath.

Almost all of the posters commenting on the Robert Reich video whined about the loss of their middle class living standards. But they refused to see that what is now being done to them they first did to the poor, and therefore set the stage for their own demise. Karma is a bitch.

None of them cry “restore the safety net for the poor” — it’s all about the middle class, as if they’re the only ones with valid economic claims. They refuse to admit that in order to “save America” by “saving the middle class”, they first needed to start by defending the least empowered and most vulnerable citizens at the very bottom economic rung that were targeted by the Reagan Revolution. But instead of saving the poor, they destroyed the poor and they’re still doing it. And by the evidence in the voluminous comments stream on MoveOn’s site, no one in the middle class has any remorse about that.

Major Disconnect is What Happened to the Middle Class

Between 1990 and 1997, the National Student Loan survey by Nellie Mae reported that students borrowed $140 billion to meet their college education expenses. Over 25% used credit cards to help augment their education costs. All of the surveyed respondents had non-education related debt, too. The majority of respondents also said that unaffordable student loan debt caused them to do one or more of the following: drop out of college, delay or forego homeownership and buying a car, or having children.

According to Business Week in 1994, “Tuition and fees have risen 94% since 1989, nearly triple the 32.5% increase in inflation. Even as a college education has become the litmus test in the job market, the widening wage chasm has made it harder for low-income people to go to college. Kids from the top quarter have no problem: 76% earn bachelor’s degrees today vs. 31% in 1980. But less than 4% of those in the bottom quarter families now finish college vs. 6% back then [in 1980].”

While job opportunities rapidly disappeared for women without college degrees, wages for the working class were falling and college costs surpassed the cost of living index — leaving America’s poor marginalized and economically excluded from the dot com prosperity of the Clinton years — former president Bill Clinton didn’t lift a finger to help the poor who had been devastated by the previous 12 years of Reaganomics as the Reagan Revolution machine mowed down the poor and crushed the underprivileged underfoot. Reagan was twice elected by a middle class voting majority.

During Clinton’s two-term presidency, not one of the budget cuts to the now-eliminated social programs for the poor (including restoring the funding for Pell grants that the Gramm-Rudman Bill slashed) had been reversed. While the poor suffered from being trapped in miserable poverty with no way out, the middle class was living large; buying suburban McMansions, mutual funds, stocks and bonds — while criminalizing the homeless and scoffing at the poor who weren’t making it, telling us that our conditions of poverty and deprivation were our own fault for “not trying hard enough.”

How the poor were supposed to “bootstrap” their way up out of poverty and into mainstream middle class America remained unanswered and ignored. All was well in white male dominated middle classdom, to hell with poor women who had no chance at all of ever being able to make it thanks to a legacy of sexism, job discrimination, and pervasive misogyny on top of the additional systemic barriers of classism. It was the middle class majority voting constituency that voted for Reagan (twice), George Bush I, George Bush II (twice), and former-House Speaker Newt Gingrich and shaped economic and social policy during Clinton’s presidency.

Public opinion polls and Freudian psychoanalysis techniques were used by Stanford researchers to help the Clinton administration get a feeling for the political pulse among the middle class majority. The feedback provided by those research polls shaped social and economic policy and dictated the language of the draconian Welfare Reform Act of 1996.

Now in 2011, many who had previously enjoyed middle class comforts and security are crying foul. They wonder how the government could let things get so out of hand and ask how a regime of inverted totalitarianism could sneak up on them. Wiping the Rip van Winkle sleep dust from their eyes, they angrily blame the Republicans and sell-out “Blue Dog” Democrats for the assault on unionized public sector employees. But where were these same disgruntled middle class voices these last 30+ years that the War on the Poor was launched in full swing? What did they think would eventually happen to the middle class after three decades of destroying the poor? The writing was on the wall in 1985, in 1996, and in 2001.

The red flags were raised repeatedly throughout the late 1980’s and 1990’s by scholars and researchers like the folks at United for a Fair Economy, the Brookings Institute, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities; homeless activists like Marian Kramer and Cheri Honkala with the Kensington Welfare Rights Union, and Keith McHenry who founded Food Not Bombs.

Scholars and authors like Dr. Michael Parenti, Jonathon Kozol, Vine Deloria, and indigenous law professor Robert A. Williams had all in their own ways made multiple contributions to the literary world highlighting the mounting despair, injustices, inequality and poverty. How many educated middle class folks read their works? It’s not like all the warnings weren’t there. The middle class knew. They chose to ignore it when all was fine in their own little worlds.

In Michael Parenti’s 1997 book Blackshirts & Reds, everything was practically drawn out in crayon for middle class Americans who love to boast of their superior literacy and academic achievements while praising the unparalleled value of their “print culture.” Too bad most of these educated high achievers didn’t read Parenti, who eloquently mapped out for them how “rational fascism” renders service to capitalism and how corporate power undermines democracy because plutocrats always choose autocrats. They put their literacy on a permanent vacation as they swayed to the seductive tempo of the “ownership society” song that the klepto-plutocracy sold them.

When the Chickens Come Home to Roost

In 2011, public sector employees in Wisconsin — from teachers to police to firefighters to welfare caseworkers — howled in protest at the looming specter of more measures assaulting what remained of unionized workers’ rights. They’re up in arms that Democrats operated in cahoots with Republicans and powerful union bosses to sell them out.

But who did these disgruntled middle class workers vote for during these past 30+ years? Did they vote for some of the same elected officials and lawmakers that built lucrative political careers by hurting the poor, particularly poor single mothers? Did they heed the previous warnings of creeping fascism and the rise of inverted totalitarianism?

Instead of being too preoccupied with reading their 401(k) statements and the latest issue of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, they should have read Michael Parenti’s Blackshirts & Reds. Everything now being visited upon the middle class now was done before in history; workers and the poor were crushed underfoot to protect the interests of capital, which finally turned with rending claws on the middle class.

In 1924 in Germany, Social Democrat officials in the Ministry of Interior used Reichswehr and Free Corps fascist paramilitary groups to attack leftist demonstrators. They imprisoned 7,000 people. In 1932, three candidates ran for president in Germany: Conservative Party candidate Paul von Hindenburg, Communist Party candidate Ernst Thaelmann, and Nazi candidate Adolf Hitler. In his campaign, Thaelmann argued that a vote for von Hindenburg was a vote for Hitler and Hitler would lead Germany into war. The bourgeois press, including the Social Democrats, denounced Thaelmann’s claims as “Moscow inspired.”

Right-wing governments have always been about maintaining the existing order of unearned privileges and calling it a “free market”; keeping the world safe for the empowered hierarchies and wealthy classes of the world which overwhelmingly have a white male face. Meanwhile, leftist “totalitarians” wanted to abolish exploitative property systems and create a more shared and egalitarian economic system. The left’s favoring the have-nots over the haves made them the hated targets of the unjustly enriched beneficiaries of unearned privilege.

That’s why any real democratic movement that tried to relieve the misery and suffering of the poor has been villainized over and over; having to defend their position. And when the majority of that public is comfortably middle class, they’re not interested in rocking the boat to save the poor whose life chances and human rights they’ve jettisoned. Even the most sincere anti-communist progressives wilted in fear of being accused of being “Communist” or a “socialist.”

Many of the so-called leftist intellectuals cheered the undermining and overthrow of communist and socialist governments in the former Soviet Union and the East Bloc nations throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s. They thought that democracy would finally have its time in the sun. But they knew better because among these left-leaning intellectual circles it was widely known that the IMF and the multinational corporations of Western Europe were the prime forced that actively undermined and overthrew Soviet communism and socialist economies in the former East Bloc. The pseudo-left thought they would finally be free of the communist albatross, or, as Richard Lichtman put it, “liberated from the incubus of the Soviet Union and the succubus of Communist China.”

As part of the overthrow of communism, “free market” right-wing forces in various Eastern European nations received financial backing and organizational assistance from US-financed agencies such as the National Endowment for Democracy — the AFL-CIO’s Free Trade Union Institute, which was in bed with the CIA.

Meanwhile, capitalist restoration impoverished the former East Bloc countries and the former Soviet Union and undermined many Third World liberation struggles against the tyrannical yoke of colonialism. Those Third World nations no longer received any aid from Russia and the fall of Soviet communism and East Bloc socialism opened the door for a whole new crop of neo-fascist right-wing governments to spring up; ones that worked hand-in-glove with US/Western Europe counter-revolutionaries and trans-national capitalist interests around the world.

In the immortal words of Richard Levins, “Capitalism with a human face has been replaced by capitalism in your face. So, in the new exuberant aggressiveness of world capitalism we now see what communists and their allies have held at bay.”

That Dreaded C-word

Because American-style cowboy capitalism has enjoyed cult status, it was taboo to utter the C-word (“class”). The only times the C-word may be used is in its linguistic power to reaffirm the rights of the exploiter classes and defend the system of unearned privileges that serve to guarantee a permanent pool of exploitable surplus labor — most whom are members of oppressed groups, women and racial minorities.

The C-word is allowed to be used when prefaced with the word “middle” or as a suffix on the word “under” — as in “underclass”, the desperately poor struggling on the margins of society on the very bottom economic rung, who get the least of everything while being blamed for their victimization. Political pundits, poverty pimps, talking heads, and right-wing hacks in the media and well-heeled “experts” get offended at any reference to an owning class and screech “class warfare” at the most subtle hint that the rich are oppressing the poor.

But references to the negative stereotypes of the very poor in the underclass are acceptable because they reinforce the existing social hierarchy of unearned privileges and justify the abuse and deprivation routinely heaped upon America’s most downtrodden. The savage realities of classism and the oppression of the very poor by the middle class is whitewashed and obscured by an ideology summed up in the following credo: “We’re all middle class and we’re free to be as economically successful in life as we want because America is the land of opportunity.”

What they leave out, however, is “whom.” America is the land of opportunity for whom? In a capitalist society, somebody always has to lose so that someone else wins. Somebody always has to get left out. Somebody always has to be at the bottom. The “opportunity” to escape the crushing stranglehold of deep poverty is nearly non-existent for the majority of the poor, especially for poor women — particularly poor women over age 40 that have been unable to get any kind of job after several years of searching. There just aren’t enough opportunities, jobs, and lucky breaks to go around for everybody. And it is overwhelmingly poor women who are bypassed for what scant opportunities remain.

All conservative ideologies justify the draconian treatment of the poor and discrimination against women and all other existing inequities as “the natural order of things.” But if the rich and comfortably off middle class — who are overwhelmingly white males — are so naturally superior in talent, skills, and social worth, why then must those who already have everything be provided with so many unearned privileges under the law, so many bailouts, tax write-offs, subsidies, price supports, and a host of other special considerations at the public’s expense?

And what exactly are those naturally superior talents of society’s favorite sons? Their naturally superior abilities seem to lie within an array of unethical and illegal subterfuges such as job discrimination, price-fixing, collusion, stock and commodities manipulation, insider trading, fraud, tax evasion, harmful products, unsafe workplace conditions, environmental destruction, and the violent enforcement of unfair competition and stealing credit for others’ work and ideas. At that, the overprivileged overclass is a resounding success.

So what exactly are these self-appointed demi-gods contributing or producing to justify their favored treatment over everyone else? By all accounts, the only things being produced and reproduced are oppression, discrimination, theft, social misery, and injustice. Not exactly the stuff they deserve so many rewards for. Yet, middle class America bought into the “ownership society” lie propagated by rich white men who elected themselves king of the planet. The middle class shut their ears and eyes to the harsh truth about poverty in their own backyards. The middle class has always been part of the problem.

Those who have never gone without medical and dental care, heat in the winter, or hot water to bathe properly because of being repeatedly denied opportunities for a good job due to gender/race/age discrimination on top of the barriers of systemic classism had convinced themselves that bad shit only happens to bad people, that “giving money to the poor only hurts them” (justification for being selfish), and that George W. Bush was right when he said, “We’re all middle class now.”

No Virginia, We Are Not “All Middle Class Now”

In 1999 just three years after the Welfare Reform Act of 1996 was passed, a study by the Urban Institute found that nearly 3 in 10 low-income families were unable to pay their rent or mortgage or utility bills and nearly half of all low-income families had difficulty affording food. Low-income workers increasingly had to turn to food pantries which, like homeless shelters and other charities, could not meet the rising need.

In its 1998 survey, the US Conference of Mayors found that requests for emergency food assistance rose by 14% in 1997 and 1 out of 5 requests for food assistance went unmet. The American Journal of Public Health reported in 1998 that 10 million Americans (including 4 million children) didn’t have enough to eat. The majority were families with at least one employed adult.

In 1999, a team of researchers, scholars and social justice advocates published a 94-page booklet citing all of the growing problems of mounting poverty that was becoming increasingly inescapable, a burgeoning permanent underclass, and a shrinking middle class. The booklet includes 9 pages of credible source citations from reports compiled from the data provided by multiple government agencies and private charities and university studies. Some of those reports were from those who were on the inside of policy-making; not people with a “political agenda.”

A February 2006 report from America’s Second Harvest, the nation’s food bank network, found that 45% of their clients reported having to choose between buying food and paying utility bills.

The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) that is supposed to help the poor with basic utilities has always been underfunded. Since utilities have been deregulated and public protections from price-gouging in the form of rate caps have been removed, the problem has been made worse.

In 2002, the Joyce Foundation reported that in the wake of welfare reform and utility deregulation, those who had left welfare after their five-year lifetime limits were up were still poor, if not poorer. Throughout the American Rust Belt, the following percentages of people whose utilities had been cut off as of 2002 were:

  • 15% of Wisnconsin’s poor
  • 15% of Ohio’s poor
  • 25% of Indiana’s poor
  • 11% of Michigan’s poor

In 1988, only 37% of the poor got energy assistance from LIHEAP and what they got was not enough to stave off utility shut-offs. In 2000, only 20% of the poor got helped due to LIHEAP funding cuts. The middle class convinced themselves that “there is all this help out there” for those in dire straits. But nobody wants to talk about the outcomes for all the poor people who are increasingly turned away: all the hypothermia deaths and residential fires caused by desperate poor people resorting to unsafe alternative heating sources.

In March of 2010, David Fox of the National Low-Income Energy Consortium said that prior to funding $1.8 billion in funding cuts for LIHEAP in 2010; only 20% of all eligible extremely poor households were able to be served. After the funding cuts in 2010, only 10-15% of the poorest of the poor will be able to get helped.

Given the number of long-term unemployed whose benefits ran out in 2009 (only 40% of American workers are eligible to receive unemployment benefits), in addition to the already suffering 5 million jobless poor who were poor single mothers booted off of welfare but unable to get or keep any job and whose sole income is food stamps, the number of US households without life-sustaining utilities reached 10 million as of December 31st 2010. Consequences of utility shut-offs include homelessness, illness, death, poor child development, and the disintegration of families.

According to the annual survey conducted by the National Energy Assistance Director’s Association (NEADA), 60% of LIHEAP recipients couldn’t pay their utility bills because they lost their jobs or had a reduction in income. 92% of LIHEAP recipients had a pregnant woman, an elderly person, or a child in the home.

The truth about unearned privileges, job discrimination, and lack of enough jobs for everyone in need of a job who is able to work, poverty in America with a wealth of information about it has always been out there. This isn’t news. How can anyone lucky enough to be middle class today in 2011 say they “didn’t know” what was going on and where this country was headed? Sorry, I’m not buying it.

Like the “good Germans” 75 years ago who claimed they “didn’t know” what the industrial and financial elite and their Nazi government was doing to the Jews, America’s middle class has always known what was being done to America’s poor. 84% of those struggling below poverty in this country are WOMEN. The middle class didn’t care. They didn’t have a problem with all of the redistributive injustices caused by capitalism (which is, essentially, a gender war) until they found themselves under the firing line of capitalism’s Hotchkiss guns.

And even now, most of the middle class you see whining and howling about assaults on their “rights” are cutthroats and back-stabbers who would stick it to their own less fortunate family members who have fallen on hard times in order to “keep theirs.” Trickle-down economics was supposed to stop at the middle class and never reach the “undeserving” poor whose throats they’ve always been eager to cut to advance their own agenda and class interests — which almost always, without exception, are aligned with the rich whom they jealously aspire to become.

If the poor on society’s margins on the very bottom economic rung harbor any hostility, resentment, and distrust for the now-disgruntled middle class, it is wholly justified.

http://youtu.be/JTzMqm2TwgE

Feeding the Poor — An Act of “Terrorism”

December 30, 2010

Jacqueline S. Homan, author: Classism For Dimwits and Divine Right: The Truth is a Lie

Last week when I had the pleasure of speaking with 53 year-old Keith McHenry, the founder of Food Not Bombs, the true depth and degree of the establishment’s malevolence and contempt for the poor was made vividly clear. Unemployed since 2003, he has been living in his van after all of his resources ran out during his futile struggle against long-term unemployment.

McHenry, a computer graphics designer by profession, was fired from his job at United Way after being blacklisted by Raytheon, a well-heeled defense contractor. He did not know why he was abruptly let go after getting stellar reviews from his superiors for his performance.

It took another year or two before McHenry landed another job — another non-profit organization, Radio For the Blind in Tucson, Arizona. He was terminated from that job, for reasons that had nothing to do with his work performance or ability to fit in with the office culture. His supervisor called him into her office one morning and apologetically told him she had to let him go.

McHenry and other key employees of Radio For the Blind are listed in company emails that routinely go out to the non-profit’s corporate contributors. Many of Radio for the Blind’s corporate donors are the same companies that give to the United Way, one of them being Raytheon.

This apparently led to the phone call from Raytheon to Keith McHenry’s supervisor, the managing director of Radio For the Blind. She explained, “I got this call from the vice president of Raytheon wondering why you work for us when you’re on the blacklist. He said, ‘Didn’t you know he [McHenry] was on the list and you’re not allowed to hire him?’ ”

The “transgression” that landed Keith McHenry on the list was his starting up the secular humanitarian group Food Not Bombs back in the 1980’s. This humanitarian organization is listed by the FBI as one of the most prominent “terrorist” groups in the US, for the “crime” of feeding the poor through direct actions such as setting up a folding table in public parks and offering delicious, hot prepared vegetarian meals free of charge to anybody who is hungry, or simply curious about the friendly activists with Food Not Bombs and their promotion of ethical eating, the humane treatment of animals and sustainable living.

Food Not Bombs was the only group that dared to cross the line by getting food to survivors of Hurricane Katrina when the Red Cross and other “official” charities were denied entrance to the sealed off flooded city of New Orleans. Food Not Bombs volunteers fed everybody, including FEMA personnel, police, and National Guardsmen.

Food Not Bombs gets organic vegetarian food donated from supermarkets and places like Rainbow co-op, and other local stores. Each local chapter of Food Not Bombs is democratically organized and run. There are chapters in approximately 1,000 cities around the world, involved in the humanitarian work of sharing food and community spirit with people. So how is it that the FBI, the CIA, and other components of the national security state decided to target Food Not Bombs for harassment and label it as a terrorist organization?

Simply put, Food Not Bombs embarrasses the establishment by doing what they do: feeding poor people for free without sermonizing them. Even if it means committing an occasional act of civil disobedience, like violating local ordinances capriciously enacted and aimed specifically at the poor and homeless; such as “progressive” San Francisco, the home of Nancy Pelosi — the liberal heart of America — which gentrified its poor out of the only homes they could afford and then criminalized them for being homeless by enacting a law that forbids anyone from sitting or lying down in the public parks.

Three members of the Philadelphia chapter were arrested on charges of terrorism for feeding the poor. Eric McDaniel got sentenced to 19 years in prison on trumped up fabricated charges during a direct action community meal in San Francisco. Bill Rogers died under mysterious circumstances after he was accused of burning down a Colorado ski resort. Keith McHenry was arrested for serving food in San Francisco with Food Not Bombs for “assault” and “criminal conspiracy to serve food in violation of a court order.” He narrowly escaped life imprisonment under the Three Strikes Law after the charges were dropped when Amnesty International and the UN got involved.

When Eric Montanez with the Orlando, Florida chapter cooked up and served vegan cuisine to the hungry homeless “tent city” residents — most whom are middle-aged long-term unemployed casualties of America’s social holocaust — he was arrested for violating a local ordinance that criminalizes the poor as well as those who want to freely share food with the poor.

Food Not Bombs currently operates in 12 countries worldwide without humiliating, patronizing, or lecturing the needy people they serve; but only in America does the group face resistance and repression. That is par for the course in the “land of the free.”

America is a “Christian nation” that wears its “pro-life” patriotic morality as a fashion (fascist?) accessory — like its “freedom” and “democracy” that it peddles to the world the way Hitler sold Nazism. May our Statue of Liberty rest in peace.

Calling Out the Beneficiaries of Unearned Privilege On Their Classism

December 8, 2010

Jacqueline S. Homan, author of Classism For Dimwits and Divine Right: The Truth is a Lie

I belong to several lists and message boards, and one of them is the Humanist List on Yahoo. It never ceases to amaze me as I read others’ posts how many middle class “liberals” look down their regal noses at the poor while claiming a moral high ground over their neocon counterparts who do the same thing. Whenever classism rears its ugly head, I call it out just like I would for racism and sexism.

One pro-Obama Democrat on the Humanist list, “Scotty”, a luckily employed medical professional who also happens to be a much older woman, had this to say regarding America’s poor and permanently economically excluded and the current austerity measures being imposed that will cause the deaths of millions of Americans struggling below poverty in post-welfare reform America:

“It’s a no brainer that people are going to want the rich to pay more rather than themselves. And I can certainly understand not wanting to create welfare parasites.  But I can’t understand the gleeful willingness of the right to let nearly 10% of this countries citizens fall into a pit because they can’t get jobs.”

Scotty

Fighting for social justice means confronting classism and calling people out who are class bigots. This was my response to “Scotty”:

You know Scotty, I really take umbrage to your classism and bigotry against the poor in your referring to this country’s least fortunate as “welfare parasites.” You want to call poor people names who got nothing but beat down into the ground and kept down all their life without ever getting a chance no matter how hard they tried? Here’s some food for thought:

This country, with the help of a lot of middle class voters, DID create a class of “welfare parasites” — the filthy stinking rich. And they did it WILLINGLY because they thought there was something in it for them in this “ownership society!” The middle class supported with their votes a neoliberal corporatist agenda these last 30 years which led us to this precipice.

The welfare parasites are the economic cannibal class on Wall Street — not the poor at the very bottom who had been economically excluded and kept down in a permanent underclass in a country where there NEVER was 100% full employment, NEVER enough living wage jobs to go around for everybody in need of a job.

About 400 government programs qualify as “entitlements.” Most of the recipients are in the middle and upper classes. Yet, middle and upper class people resent meager entitlements for the poor.

It is the middle and upper classes that have benefited the most from entitlements. Telecommunications, the Internet, and other technologies were all made possible through research and development that was funded by public tax dollars which provided the at-risk capital to for-profit privately owned companies that kept all the profits.

Many who have enjoyed good jobs had employers that got “welfare handouts” in terms of tax exclusions, tax credits, price supports, loan guarantees, payments in kind, export subsidies, subsidized insurance premiums, marketing services, irrigation and reclamation programs, “enterprise zone” tax-exempt real estate, and research and development grants — benefiting middle class members of the professional/managerial class by proxy.

When it comes to entitlement attitudes, middle and upper class people think they’re the only ones deserving of health care, educations, good jobs, and decent lives — claiming that nobody ever gave them anything, they “did it all on their own.” Did it on their own my ass.

There’s nothing as obtuse as the blindness of unearned privilege. A society that throws its poor, its excluded, and its discriminated against and marginalized to the wolves while guaranteeing wealth protection for the rich shields a lot of affluent people and corporations from having to compete in order to make money. This has had a deleterious effect on our economy, and on our society.

While middle class voters screech about “socialism” and called for the elimination of what few meager handouts existed for the poor, they conveniently ignored that socialist VA or FHA loan that helped them (or their parents) buy a nice house.

They forgot about that socialist GI Bill that opened doors of opportunity for their fathers that were not made available to poor women and minorities and poor non-veterans who also deserved a chance, and whose claims and needs in this society were equally valid.

They never mention the “handout” of a mortgage interest deduction that puts an average of $1,900 a year into the pockets of those lucky enough to have good jobs to able to afford to buy their own home.

Many were employed by the “Big Three” auto makers and defense contractors like Lockheed Martin which got billions in public “handouts” in the 1980’s and 1990’s, benefiting middle class employees by proxy.

They overlook how social security enables senior citizens to survive rather than forcing them to financially support their elderly parents.

In 1990, nearly one third of all veterans’ benefits went to households with incomes above $50,000, as did one fourth of all unemployment benefits, one third of all federal civil service retirement pensions, and one half of all military pensions. Meanwhile, only one fourth of federal entitlements went to those at the very bottom who were economically discarded and unable to sell their labor in the market— the poor.

Slightly more than half of all US households have at least one member who is receiving a direct entitlement benefit from the federal government in the form of federal civil service pensions, veterans’ disability benefits, and veterans’ pensions. These households will collect on average about $2.4 trillion by the end of 2010.

They complain about paying for poor kids’ subsidized school breakfasts and lunches, but they’re silent about everyone else’s taxes funding school choice vouchers for theirs.

"Classism For Dimwits" by Jacqueline S. Homan

They object to subsidized housing for the poor who are financially excluded from the housing market, but have no problem reaping the benefits from taxpayer-subsidized federal flood insurance for their beachfront homes that no private insurance company would insure. Former president George Herbert Walker Bush benefited enormously from the federal flood insurance program when his vacation home in Maine sustained approximately $400,000 in storm damage in 1991.

The “entitlement” or “welfare handout” that everyone ignores is the $250 billion dollar a year tax subsidy for employer-sponsored health insurance. This history of tying health insurance to employment goes back to World War II when the government enacted wage controls. Employers were competing for workers and began offering health insurance because they couldn’t offer higher wages than a competing employer. For some reason, this was not treated as taxable income to the employee.

Middle class people who stockpile money in Healthcare Savings Accounts (HSA’s) also get a line item tax deduction on their income taxes. So those who have their good jobs with health benefits and/or HSA’s are getting theirs at the expense of all citizens — including the poor who aren’t getting any access to medical, dental, and vision care.

The idea that someone’s misfortune stems from a lack of personal responsibility assumes that everyone has the same opportunities in life and that the poor squandered theirs. This is a common sentiment among right-wing middle and upper class white males that have always gotten everything by making damn sure that POOR women and minorities got nothing, while having the moxy to crow about how “they worked for it.”

Middle class Tea Partiers and “patriots” brandishing expensive assault rifles terrorized other citizens at Townhall meetings during the healthcare reform discourse, yelling that they refused to “pay for someone else’s” health care. Those who begrudge the “undeserving poor” access to health care because they don’t want to “pay for someone else” are getting subsidized while depriving the poor by refusing to extend that subsidy to everyone in the name of “freedom.” Freedom to starve or freeze to death, or become disabled or die from being unable to afford medical care is no freedom at all. The backlash against real healthcare reform was never about “freedom.” It’s really about a false sense of superiority and classism.

Belligerent middle and upper class spoiled brats denouncing “socialism” and “welfare handouts” for the poor have benefited far more from “socialism” than the poor ever have. And not one tantrum-throwing “self-made man” squawking about entitlements for the poor is willing to give their middle class job to someone in poverty that never got a chance so they could have a good job, thus reducing the number of those on the public dole whom they denigrate as “welfare parasites.”

Corporate executives feel entitled to the tens of millions of dollars in salaries, stocks, and “golden parachutes” even if they steal from their companies and cause a national, or even a global, economic collapse. Poor people who kite checks to buy food or rob a 7-Eleven go to prison. CEOs get rich; poor people get the stinky finger.

Banksters and Wall Street crooks walked away with fortunes during the 1980’s S & L scandal while the taxpayers paid the $500 billion dollar bailout tab. Thanks to Reagan’s deregulation of the S & L industry, S & L’s were allowed to take any investment risk they wanted with depositors’ money with the understanding that any failures or bad debts would be subsidized by the public. 90% of those who were depositors had accounts worth more than $100,000.

US companies got $1 billion from the public dole through USAID from 1985 – 1995 to pay for shipping US jobs overseas to cheaper labor markets. USAID provided low-interest loans, tax exemptions, travel and training funds, advertising, and “black lists” to weed out union sympathizers and organizers in other countries.

In 1995, over 40% of USDA subsidies and farm payments went to farmers with a net worth in excess of $750,000. Meanwhile, those of us on food stamps and/or WIC are begrudged nutritious food.

While Congress held hearings on “welfare dependency” and the impact of the “culture of poverty” on unjustly enriched “welfare queens”, no hearings were held on the middle and upper class entitlement mentality regarding all the handouts they benefit from.

Do you have a 401(k)? If any of your portfolio’s holdings include bank instruments, municipal bonds, Ginnie Mae’s, or CD’s, you’re being enriched directly as the result of entitlement programs that have supported and bailed out those “malefactors of great wealth” that are privately owned. “Self-made” members of the investor class did not get theirs on their own. They got it off the backs of everyone else.

Any appreciation in your retirement portfolio’s value from capital gains and increased dividend payouts on stocks came directly as a result of corporations realizing huge profits by “cutting costs” — a euphemism for slashing wages, benefits and permanently eliminating jobs.

Those most likely to suffer from job loss, reduced wages and lost benefits are workers over age 40, who have been rendered permanently unemployable and have fallen into poverty after long-term joblessness due to age, gender, race, looks, and socio-economic class discrimination. Did you snipe at them for being on food stamps because you “worked for everything you got?”

Newsflash for the middle class: You didn’t “earn” that wealth in your 401(k) or other stock portfolio. You got it at the expense of others’ loss.

Have you thanked capitalism’s “losers” for your economic success? No need for accolades, just support the restoration of something resembling a real safety net for those at the very bottom who got the least in terms of opportunity and societal benefits in “free enterprise” America — and whose exclusion ensured your place on the socio-economic ladder.

Middle class voters were silent about welfare for the rich while they elected politicians who slashed meager subsistence benefits and other social programs that helped the poor. They cried foul about preferential jobs placement programs for the disadvantaged under CETA and Affirmative Action while they benefited from the biggest preferential job placement program of their own: middle class “good ole boy” nepotism.

The middle class supported Welfare Reform because they wanted to force poor women with children to get jobs, so long as it wasn’t their middle class jobs.

The rich, who clamored for “free market” capitalism in a competitive society, resorted to calling upon government to enrich them through tariffs, public subsidies, land grants, government contracts, and other “welfare handouts.”

But hey, the poor mother raising a child or two without getting a goddamn dime in child support from the co-conceiver isn’t doing anything (because we all know that caretaking, raising the future generation, and homemaking isn’t “real” work, right?) while some guy day-trading stocks or speculating on commodities, spending a couple hours a day on his laptop flipping securities “earned” his wealth because THAT is somehow “real” work while what POOR WOMEN do is not.

Harvard and Princeton Sociologists Resurrect the“Culture of Poverty” During the Worst Recession Since the 1930’s

October 22, 2010

Jacqueline S. Homan, author of Classism For Dimwits and Divine Right: The Truth is a Lie

In the October 17th, 2010 New York Times article, Culture of Poverty Makes a Comeback by Patricia Cohen, labeling the poor as “the Other”, as “less than” and as morally and socially defective by Princeton and Harvard sociologists and various other poverty pimps has made a resurgence and is now once again in vogue. The article cited former Assistant Labor Secretary Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s description of urban poverty in terms of race and a culture that was a “tangle of pathology” of unmarried mothers and welfare dependency couched as moral deficiencies to blame the poor for their own misfortune.

Moynihan’s analysis appeals to politicians who bandy the poor around like a political football, especially conservatives and moderates (Reagan Democrats), and led to the passage of the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, which placed a lifetime limit of five years, regardless of one’s ability to get a living wage job. This was more generous than the draconian measure that Clinton initially proposed: limiting welfare to two years.

Neither proposed welfare reform bills, including the one that was passed in 1996,  came with the guarantee of a right to a living wage job; or any job at all.

Clinton, like his predecessors Reagan and Bush the Elder, and both parties of Congress declared war on this nation’s poorest, most economically vulnerable and socially disadvantaged citizens: poor women and children and the disabled. These measures were largely the result of the influence wielded by purveyors of the “culture of poverty” school and all its tangential deficit theory views about the poor.

The article quoted coddled Ivy League members of America’s selfish class, as if their bovine excreta passing for “research” were some sort of infallible gospel.

Princeton sociologist Douglas S. Massey argues that Moynihan was unjustly maligned, saying, “We’ve finally reached the stage where people aren’t afraid of being politically incorrect.”

Cohen’s article mentioned that at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, attendees broached the subject of the “culture of poverty.” In Spring of 2009 in Washington DC, social scientists participated in a Congressional briefing on the “culture of poverty” linked to a special issue of The Annals, the journal of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. The introduction proclaimed, “Culture is back on the poverty research agenda.”

How convenient for the resurgence of this deficit theory view of the poor to come on the heels of the worst economic depression since the 1930’s where we now have one in seven Americans living below the federal poverty level. How convenient, indeed, that the entire discourse shifts the burden of poverty from government and the most privileged members of society onto the backs of the poor.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) said that the “culture of poverty” views “play an important role in shaping how lawmakers choose to address poverty issues.”

This blame-the-victim claptrap is propagated by those with the most interest in preserving a system of unearned privilege. Blaming the poor for their misfortune is nothing new, but such views that shape social and economic policies never include the views, experiences, and voices of the poor at whom said policies are aimed.

Also quoted in the article was Harvard sociologist Robert J. Sampson who conducted a well-funded and large study of the poor conducted in a way to assign personal value judgments against the poor and confirm his own class bias using the “culture of poverty” school of thought. His experiment entailed dropping fake letters on the streets of a poor Chicago neighborhood to see if anyone would pick them up and return them. Sampson said he studies inequality and that the dominant focus is on structures of poverty, and suggested that the poor are amoral with no respect for the rule of law because they “believe that laws were made to be broken with impunity.”

It is beyond arrogant for those who have received the most advantages and benefits from an entire system of unearned privileges to authoritatively proclaim that it’s the undeserving, defective poor who need to be “fixed” and taught how to get with the middle class program, and then call such ideas “scholarship.”

There is nothing that remotely passes for intellectual and academic honesty in a study that was undertaken with confirmation bias reeking with the stench of classism.

Poverty pimps who advance the “culture of poverty” school despite knowing better, do so to curry favor and receive social prizes and rewards from the corporate ‘Massas’ who endow their academic department chairs, fund their research, and pay them to serve as “policy experts” in right-wing think tanks.

Capitalism is based on entitlement, and as you go up the economic ladder, attitudes of self-importance and entitlement increase. But we never talk about the culture of greed and getting ahead at all costs that is so prevalent among the middle and upper classes who think they have a “divine right” to come first.

The notion that the misery and deprivation commensurate with grueling poverty is merely the “undeserving poor” getting their “just desserts” for being morally defective is not an original idea. It is rooted in Protestant Calvinism — the Calvinist deficit theory view of the poorest and most downtrodden people is predicated on the ideologies of predestination.

The argument for the “culture of poverty” has been internalized these past 30 years by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle who say that social security is a “milk cow with 310 million tits”; that unemployment benefits (which only cover about 40% of the unemployed) makes the jobless “lazy” and encourages them to buy drugs; that the miserly inadequate food stamps allotment in post-welfare reform America makes the recipients rich and causes obesity; and that the solution for 50 million uninsured Americans, 44 million struggling in unrelenting misery below the poverty level, and for the 35 million ill-housed, are more vouchers, more “free market” capitalism, and more budget cuts for food stamps, Medicaid, and Medicare to pay for middle class unemployment benefits extensions — leaving the poorest of this nation’s jobless to starve to death given that food stamps is the sole income for six million of the most disadvantaged and unemployable jobless.

As it stands, deregulation of utility monopolies in tandem with deep cuts to the already underfunded LIHEAP program, which provides very stingy and inadequate help to only 20% of the eligible poor while 80% of the poor are turned away, has resulted in nearly ten million US households suffering without at least one life-sustaining utility. The increasing number of casualties among the poor from freezing in unheated homes and apartments or fatal residential fires caused by unsafe alternative heating methods in a desperate attempt to avoid freezing to death, evidences only some fruits of the “culture of poverty” school’s bitter harvest of classism.

The past three decades of abusive social and economic policies justified by the “culture of poverty” amount to one sordid continuum of human rights violations against the “undeserving” poor. For those who have unfairly benefited from a legacy of unearned privileges, including advanced educations at prestigious universities, to use their privileges like a cudgel to beat the poor into the ground and crush them underfoot for personal gain and accolades under the guise of “scholarship” is sociopathic.

We don’t have a “culture of poverty.” We have a culture of capitalism that promotes, perpetuates, and maintains classism — the least challenged bigotry that is responsible for the most social harm. We have a capitalistic society that touts greed and self-centered entitlement as a virtue. We have an architecture of aggression in which capitalism’s biggest losers (poor women) are set up and labeled as “the Other”; devalued and unacknowledged.

"Classism For Dimwits" by Jacqueline S. Homan

This culture of capitalism is centered on the idea that wealth and privilege is sacrosanct, that only the “fittest” deserve anything and to hell with those of us who have been socially excluded and economically marginalized in order to make way for the spoiled, overprivileged alpha dipshits of this society to grab everything they can latch their greedy grasping meat-hooks onto; without a shred of remorse for the human casualties they leave in their wake.

Since cultural norms, mores, and trends are largely defined by the higher status and more affluent classes, this “culture of poverty” was created by the privileged. The injustices and social ills framed by deficit theory thought are not caused by “just a few bad apples.” They’re caused by a cultural ethos; a sociopathic one that is reflective of the dominant class’s “values.”

It has not escaped the notice of those of us who struggle in poverty and who agitate for social justice that the government is described as “democratic” when it serves only the interests of the privileged and economically powerful elements of our society. In the words of Michael Parenti: we have a “democracy for the few.” And whom this “democracy” serves was made painfully obvious by the absence of poor people’s voices.

When poverty is couched in euphemisms that really mean race and gender, it’s a deliberate attempt to justify classism and legitimize the economic terrorism and social repression visited upon the poor of all races and genders. Being black, being a woman, or even being a single mother doesn’t make one poor — abusive social and economic policy and discrimination does.

Raising rhetorical questions associating crime and poverty in terms that label the poor as “criminals” is a deliberate promotion of prejudice. The poor are routinely denied employment opportunities because there is now a widely held view among human resources personnel and corporate employers that the poor are a bad risk for hiring because they’re likely to steal. Asking why the poor “break the law with impunity” implies that they’re not punished — an outright fraud when everyone knows that the poor overwhelmingly comprise the US prison population. It further ignores the fact that when people see those with lots of money and privilege breaking the law on a grand scale with impunity, there is a loss of respect for any law.

The “culture of poverty” claptrap also led to the assumption that poverty can be reduced to a lifestyle choice — something former House Speaker Newt Gingrich claimed from his bully pulpit during the Clinton administration as he cheered the Welfare Reform Act of 1996. The Welfare Reform Act of 1996 threw this nation’s poorest and most socially disadvantaged families and individuals under the bus; 99% whom were women and children (only 1% of AFDC recipients were able-bodied men) under the guise of “personal responsibility” — a unilateral social contract best described as a policy of Benign Neglect in which the entire burden of poverty was dumped on the poor while society and government did nothing to guarantee poor women living wage jobs with health benefits, child care help, and assistance in obtaining reliable transportation.

Former Wisconsin governor and US Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson provided the template for the Welfare Reform Act of 1996 is one of the “pro-life” religious conservatives who would deny poor women access to birth control and abortion while cruelly leaving poor single moms and their babies utterly destitute if society failed to provide the supports required for poor mothers to enter the workplace and guarantee them living wage jobs with health benefits.

Since the enactment of Welfare Reform, Tommy Thompson (and other political leaders who swallowed the “culture of poverty” pablum spoon-fed by Ivy League “poverty experts”) defeated measures to track the outcomes of all the poor women and children thrown off of welfare after exhausting their five year lifetime limit, regardless if they were able to get a job.

Are the promoters of the “culture of poverty” school proud of these “scholarly” achievements that encouraged nationwide mother-mugging and framing poverty as a “choice?”

There is a fundamental mathematical theorem that has been proven over 200 years ago, named after mathematician and clergyman Thomas Bayes, who studied how to compute a distribution for the probability parameter of a binomial distribution. Bayes’ Theorem treats conditional probability and the outcome based on the relationship of the conditional and marginal probabilities of events. One of the most simple and basic mathematical statements of Bayes’ Theorem is:

P(A|B) = [P(B|A)*P(A)/P(B)]

{Read as: “The probability of A given B is equal to the probability of B given A times the probability of A, all divided by the probability of B.”}

where :

P(A) is the marginal probability of event A. It is “prior” in the sense that it takes nothing into account of anything known about event B.

P(A|B) is the conditional probability of A, given B.

P(B|A) is the conditional probability of B, given A (also called the “likelihood”)

P(B) is the prior or marginal probability of event B and acts as a normalizing constant.

Theorems analogous to this one cover situations entailing more than two events. Applying Bayes’ Theorem to the existing axioms and theorems of calculus, we can describe the marginal probability distribution of a variable to a data set where the likelihood function is the probability of “y” successes in “x” trials for a binomial distribution, in the set of all real variables. (The most common application being in the study of voting patterns and employer drug testing).

More famous applications of Bayes’ Theorem are the Monty Hall Paradox and the Principle of Restricted Choice, which proves with a mathematical certainty that making the “right choices” 100% of the time is impossible. It is therefore intellectually dishonest and morally bankrupt to frame the discussion of poverty in terms that blame the poor for their poverty by reducing it to “lifestyle choices” and the “culture of poverty.”

It is no secret that middle and upper class people also frequently screw up and make the same “poor choices” as poor people. But the difference is that the outcome is totally different; such that it does not punish them with lifelong destitution and misery. It is also known that the middle and upper classes have a lot more options available to them while options for the poor are really a Hobson’s choice (either way, you’re screwed). Any well-funded and large “study” of poverty that makes personal value judgments about the poor based on whether or not anyone in a poor neighborhood picked up fake letters deliberately dropped on the street is shambolic. So here’s a thought for future “poverty studies”:

Being poor is being fetishized, demonized, and infantilized by teams of “poverty experts” from the middle and upper classes.

Being poor is hoping you and your disabled spouse make it through winter alive without freezing to death, or dying in a house fire from a space heater mishap after your gas got cut off because they raised the rates by 20% and you can’t afford the bill.

Being poor means nothing around your run-down home ever works and everything is in serious disrepair because there’s no money, or way of getting money, to fix what’s in disrepair.

Being poor and white means being an invisible non-person.

Being poor means you have no pictures of your “ancestors” — or even of yourself and your sister — after being evicted where anything you might have had got taken away from you when your roach-infested ghetto apartment got padlocked.

Being poor is a lifetime of everything always getting taken away from you.

Being poor is being wrong even when you’re right.

Being poor is never fitting in.

Being poor is guilty until proven innocent and still getting slapped with unaffordable fines or a criminal conviction regardless.

Being poor means never getting a chance your entire life, and then having some self-centered privileged person tell you how poor they are when they enjoy far more economic opportunity, comfort, and security than you will ever get a chance to have — especially if you’re still poor by the time you’re middle-aged (and therefore unemployable) after an entire lifetime of never getting a chance for a good job, no matter how hard you tried.

Being poor means going hungry at least two or three days out of each month for years.

Being poor is living in a neighborhood where you can’t put chairs or a couch near the window because of the drive-by shootings.

Being poor is dying or becoming permanently disabled from pregnancy and childbirth complications.

Being poor is facing having to go blind from glaucoma because there really isn’t “all this help out there.”

Being poor is losing a leg from diabetes complications because you couldn’t get the help you needed to afford diabetic supplies and the low starch/low carb low MSG diabetic-friendly foods so you could manage your diabetes better in the first place.

Being poor means that your only interactions with middle class “professionals” are through bullet-proof glass windows at government agencies and welfare offices after waiting all day to be “served”, and then being told “sorry, we can’t help you.”

Being poor is everyone who isn’t poor wondering why you went back to the abusive asshole (whom you hope won’t kill you) who gave you that black eye when it’s either that or live on the streets with NO way to get a living wage job and get on your feet and support yourself after your 30 day time limit at the battered women’s shelter is up.

Being poor means you have to choose whether you have electric or gas, or food or a roof over your head.

Being poor means you don’t get the early preventive glaucoma treatment options to save your eyesight, while being told that you don’t deserve your eyesight because you’re just a “loser” who “blames everyone else for your problems” — it’s never the fault of employers who refused to hire you at a good job with health benefits, and it’s never society’s fault for being too selfish and punitive to have a safety net for the economically excluded.

Being poor means access to dental care is a luxury that is as far out of reach for you as a day trip to Sedna.

Being poor is getting denied even a minimum wage job in retail or as a supermarket cashier where you must face the public because of your visibly decayed/broken/missing teeth as a result of never having access to decent dental care — while everybody else who has never been anywhere near as poor as you or for as long as you, tells you that it’s all your own damn fault that you don’t have any teeth and lack the “right image” to be “deserving” of a job because you were “too stupid to brush your teeth properly.”

Being poor means dying a lot younger than those who lived in middle class comfort for most, if not all of their lives.

Being poor means suffering with an untreated UTI until it goes into your kidneys because you couldn’t afford antibiotics.

Being poor means you can’t even get a chance for a minimum wage job at Wal-Mart because your credit is poor due to poverty — which is, by definition, not enough income to afford your basic needs, including utilities, let alone afford an expensive emergency room bill because you didn’t have a good job with health insurance when you got that UTI or that abscessed tooth.

Being poor means that even if you go into unaffordable debt for a Bachelors degree from a state college in order to be “worthy” of a chance for a job, you still won’t get one because your visibly decayed/broken/missing teeth, a big gap in your work history of menial jobs, your lack of the proper clothing and a car, and your address is in the “wrong” side of town — all which serves to alert the employers’ middle class gatekeepers that you’re “not a good fit” for the office culture and that you “lack work ethic.”

Being poor means that nobody cares about you, your problems don’t matter.

Being poor means that no matter how hard you try and whatever you try, you never get a break but you sure get a generous helping of middle/upper class social Darwinist lip service, condescension, and personal value judgments that they call “advice.”

Being poor is always being told that it’s your own fault you had to suffer without getting your needs met your entire life because you’re nothing but a “loser.”

Being poor (if you’re white and female) means that decent paying blue-collar “men’s jobs” are never afforded to you so you can support yourself without having to resort to prostitution or stripping.

Being poor (if you’re white and female) means you’re never good enough to be wanted, loved, married and supported by some middle class mother’s grad school bound son because everybody knows that poor white women are all nothing but “whores who get pregnant only for the welfare check” — or “gold-diggers” who have no social status and cultural capital to bring to the table.

Being poor (when you’re white and female) means never being wanted or accepted. It’s getting left on the shelf since poor white males either see you as a burden they can’t afford/don’t want, or if they DO commit, you frequently become a punching bag for them to take out their own frustrations and resentment at their own oppression.

Being poor is being begrudged any pleasure in life; even the most basic human need to have sex because your birth control options are very limited and if you get pregnant, you have no money to travel to get an abortion and pay for the procedure.

Being poor means any hopes, dreams and aspirations you might have once had got crushed out of you and ground underfoot.

Being poor means you don’t get to have any hobbies because all the cool stuff costs a lot of money — which you don’t have.

Being poor means owing a lifelong debt of nothing but misery and deprivation to the comfortably off for the status crime of being born into “their world.”

Being poor means your suffering and misery doesn’t matter, only those who are poor in other countries are worthy of middle/upper class concern.

Being poor is when middle class people with advanced educations read what you write, they act shocked that you’re actually smart and educated too.

Being poor is having scars that will never heal.

I cannot speak from the perspective of a poor white male or a poor person of color. I am a poor white female that was a homeless orphaned teen who endured danger and deprivation on a daily basis on the streets in a Philadelphia ghetto, so my experience is a white female urban one. I am a 43 year old woman who did “all the right things” and who has no criminal record, but I never made it out of poverty because I never got a chance.

I can count the number of times on one hand that I’ve had access to medical and dental care throughout my entire life. I saw one of my neighbors lose her leg to diabetes for lack of help. I saw another neighbor die at age 37 from an abscessed tooth. I face possible blindness from glaucoma that I got diagnosed with three weeks before my 43rd birthday this past May for which I have yet to get any help outside of universal health care to afford the routine monitoring and possible future treatments in order to preserve my eyesight — a cruel blow for someone in poverty whose life is already difficult enough and whose only outlet is reading books and writing.

I could certainly go on with more on what being poor is, but I think I’ve illustrated enough for you to get my point. I have over 40 years worth of life experience in the trenches of poverty, suffering because of inequality and classism in addition to all the “gender taxes” too. You don’t get to be more of a poverty expert than that.

Jacqueline S. Homan,

Author: Classism For Dimwits

Classism and the Final Solution For the Poor

October 17, 2010

 

"Classism For Dimwits" by Jacqueline S. Homan

 

We have the best democracy that money can buy: a democracy for the rich, that is. Since the rise of corporations as private for-profit entities, our system operates for the benefit of the rich at the expense of the poor and the working class. Throughout the 1960’s through the 1990’s, the US viz-a-viz the national security state, either directly fomented or backed bloody insurrections against popular reformist movements here — such as the American Indian Movement (AIM), MOVE, the Black Panthers, and the Nation of Islam (NOI) — as well as abroad against the people in El Salvador, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, San Salvador, Nicaragua, Angola, Mozambique, East Timor, and other lands.

The common denominator was that all these victims of capitalism were striving for social reforms and economic justice.

The nations that were brutalized by the national security state had popular reformist regimes that were attempting to redirect and redistribute some of their nations’ resources towards meeting the needs of the people instead of into the already overflowing coffers of exploitative multinational corporations. They were trying to develop a class order that posed a threat to the global capitalist economy and the existing class order within the US itself.

When we hear talk about “national security interests”, what we’re really hearing is talk of policies that favor the interests of the most privileged and powerful and making the world a safer place for that klepto-plutocracy at the expense of the masses of working class people at home and abroad.

The American poor and working class bears the heaviest burden of taxation that disproportionately supports the elite’s capital accumulation machination through subsidies, tax loop holes, and deficit spending that enriches a huge defense industry and sustains economic imperialism of global corporations through a brutal military apparatus and the CIA — but little to zero government deficit spending is directed to meet the social and economic needs of the poor and the working class.

Government assistance for the poor rarely reaches the neediest people. In the 1960’s, the Great Society programs saw $7 billion invested by federal, state, and local governments in the pockets of Third World poverty in the Appalachian region. But the majority of Appalachia’s poor remained unhelped because these anti-poverty measures served as a boon for the entrenched petit bourgeoisie interests — the merchants, banks, coal operators, and contractors. [Office of Economic Opportunity report quoted in the New York Times, November 29, 1970]

Workers’ comp, social security, unemployment benefits, and disability benefits distribute a lot more money to people from the middle class than to those with the most need: the poor. Social programs, before they were eliminated entirely or their budgets drastically cut, only reached a small fraction of those in need. In 1990, the $2.1 billion that went to the Supplemental Food Program for pregnant women, nursing mothers, infants and small children known as WIC, helped only half of those who were eligible. But nobody ever talks about the poor who have been turned away. Nobody even thinks about them. Nobody even cares.

The middle class and the decently paid unionized working class who aren’t badly off think that because there are government programs and charities, that there must be “all this help out there” for the poor and destitute. They never hear about the majority of the poor who are turned away, who aren’t getting helped. And truth be told, they really don’t want to know about it either.

Nobody cares about the poor. We are invisible. No one even acknowledges that we exist until we become a threat to the social order and pose to upset some middle class apple carts — or until enough middle class people fall into poverty and start to “feel the love.”

From 1980 – 1991, social programs (as miserly and inadequate as they were) for the nation’s poor and most disadvantaged were defunded and subjected to brutal budget cuts:

14.7% from maternal and child health care

69% from job training and subsidized employment programs (CETA) for the socio-economically disadvantaged of any race or gender

94% from rural and urban community service grants

81% from subsidized housing (HUD) for the poor

100% blanket denial of SSI benefits to needy applicants eligible for SSI

Benign Neglect and Welfare For the Comfortable

While the poor got begrudged decent safe housing by the middle class, the most affluent 20% of the American population received 60% of the federal housing subsidies in the form of property tax exemptions, mortgage interest deductions, and capital gains tax deferrals on home sales.

According to a 1990 report by the National Coalition for the Homeless, over half of all federally subsidized mortgages went to affluent people who could afford to buy homes without any help. Wealthy people who own beachfront properties that no insurer will insure due to hurricanes and coastal plane erosion, receive federally subsidized insurance — meaning that the taxpayers are liable for billions of dollars in insurance claims for property and casualty losses.

One of the beneficiaries was multi-millionaire George H. W. Bush, who regularly preached free market self-reliance. Most of the $400,000 worth of storm damage to Bush’s Maine vacation home was covered by federal insurance in 1991-1992.

Under the fearless direction of “Silent” Sam Pierce, Reagan’s HUD appointee, the lion’s share of HUD funds were redirected from low-income housing to the private sector for the enrichment of developers, banks, and real estate investors while the poor didn’t get any affordable decent housing at all.

Contractors and developers used federal assistance from HUD to build housing slated for the poor for merely a year or two in order to qualify for HUD funds, then flipped the properties to other buyers who were not held to the original contract under HUD; who evicted the poor and converted the units to upscale luxury rentals and condos for the middle and upper classes. Thus, the poor were shoved out entirely. Many were left homeless.

By the end of Reagan’s second term in 1988-1989, only one quarter of all poor US households got any kind of housing subsidy. Of the very few poor who get rent vouchers, half of them returned the vouchers unused because they couldn’t find any affordable housing.

Suckling from the public tit is apparently OK for the haves and have-mores, while those of us in poverty with no hope and no chance for any resemblance of a decent life are undeserving of anything — we’re just a social and economic nuisance who owe the middle and upper classes a debt of unrelenting suffering and misery for the “crime” of being born into “their” world.

Billions of dollars were cut from the food stamp program, college aid and other educational/training funding under Title IV (thanks to the Gramm-Ruddman bill passed in the late 1980’s), and from SSI — the miserly inadequate, but often the only, safety net for low-income disabled and elderly people otherwise ineligible for regular social security disability (SSDI) due to lack of enough prior earnings and social security credits.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was supposed to give disabled people a toehold in the job market so they could become economically self-sufficient and live with at least some dignity. But all the ADA ended up doing was dumping disabled people off of SSI while failing to require employers to hire them.  As of 1995, over one third of those needing SSI were no longer getting helped.  The ADA is more appropriately the Americans Who Have Been Discarded Act, because discarded is precisely what was done to millions of disabled Americans who are utterly destitute and homeless with no means of support, other than begging on the streets under constant threat of police brutality, harassment, and arrest.

Democrats in Congress throughout the Reagan-Bush I regimes and under the Clinton administration did absolutely nothing to abate or reverse these cuts, even after signing the Welfare Reform Act of 1996 into law; which put the onus of economic self-sufficiency squarely on the shoulders of those least able and least likely to get any opportunities at all.

The hunger, homelessness, malnutrition, and casualties of lack of medical and dental and vision care that skyrocketed in the Reagan Revolution was not abated under Clinton’s two terms in office.

The reductions or elimination of all these social programs under the guise of “tough love” and “personal responsibility” really amounted to a social Darwinist War On the Poor, with an agenda of “extermination by imposed destitution.” In more polite circles, this is called “Benign Neglect.” But make no mistake, there is nothing “benign” about it.

Those with the least opportunities, resources, and political clout were deliberately made to suffer the most while being kicked in the teeth by a large comfortably complacent middle class that consistently told the poor that if we weren’t making it, it was our own damn fault.

We got told that it’s our own fault for failing to be good enough, able-bodied enough, smart enough, educated enough, thin enough, young enough, physically attractive enough, and hard-working enough.

We got told to “shut up and stop whining” — nobody wanted to hear about our problems, and that the poor in far away lands have it so much worse than those of us here who go hungry, homeless, jobless, and without health care here on American soil.

We got told that “there are plenty of jobs out there for anybody willing to work” — yet no one stepped up to the plate and offered us their middle class jobs while they easily got another one, or expressed a willingness to hire us in entry level jobs at a living wage with health benefits.

On the eve of the signing of the Welfare Reform Act in 1996, there were 14 million recipients of AFDC. Of those, 5 million were families, almost all of whom were single mothers and children with no other means of support, no access to abortion (thanks to the Hyde Amendment) in the event of contraception failure, and no equal opportunity for good-paying “men’s jobs.” Less than 1% of the AFDC recipients were able-bodied men.

Yet, reductions in benefits and the elimination of “welfare as we know it” was defended as a way of throwing “baby makers” and lazy “leeches” off the public dole.

Moving people off of welfare and into jobs is a noble idea — if society and government is committed to equal opportunity employment, a living wage, health care for all, and the guarantee of enough jobs for everyone in need of a job. Anything less than 100% employment — not 95%, but 100% — cannot deliver that.

The “Final Solution” For the Poor

After the five year lifetime limits under Welfare Reform were implemented, millions of poor women with children were booted off. Even during the “good times” of Clintonian prosperity, not all of these poorest and neediest hard-to-employ women were absorbed into the labor market and given jobs. But the government never bothered to track the whereabouts and situations of those women with the least chances of getting hired in jobs that pay a living wage.

Welfare was never an adequate solution to the problems inflicted on the poor by capitalism and eliminating “welfare as we know it” without providing alternative and reasonable economic opportunities is not merely a worse solution, it is the “Final Solution” for the poor. Anyone familiar with the politics of genocide knows what “Final Solution” means.

The War On the Poor was part and parcel for the implementation of a wholesale pogrom of “extermination through imposed destitution.”

Just like the fascist Nazi forebears of today’s corporatist class, the elite gained the support of a sizable portion of the middle class (who were overwhelmingly white males in male-dominated lucrative industries) via the ballot box in the carrying out of the “Final Solution” against the poor — 84% whom are women, children, and unborn fetuses that the “pro-life” arbiters of morality feign shambolic concern for.

Jacqueline S. Homan, author of Classism For Dimwits and Divine Right: The Truth is a Lie

Democracy vs. Plutocracy and the Catfood Commission’s “Milk Cow With 310 Million Tits”

August 28, 2010

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.

"Classism For Dimwits" by Jacqueline S. Homan

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!

Fox’s Fake Liberals Are Neocon Lapdogs

July 23, 2010

 

Jacqueline S. Homan, Author: "Divine Right: The Truth is a Lie", "Classism For Dimwits", "Eyes of a Monster", and "Nothing You Can Possess"

The “American Dream” was always a nightmare. You cannot get ahead unless others around you are poor — often directly as a result of your efforts to get yours. They say democracy is two wolves and one sheep deciding what’s for dinner, but capitalism is a few wolves deciding how many captive sheep to devour. It is against this backdrop of faux democracy that corporate-owned media trots out its own “favorite son” wearing the liberal label on his sleave: Alan Colmes, the “liberal” star of Fox’s Hannity & Colmes, and his new Internet site, Liberaland.

But is Alan Colmes really liberal? He admitted having a personal liking and admiration for Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter.

I’ve been told by affluent pseudo-liberals that “I’m not being fair” in stating that Alan Colmes is really a flavor of neocon-lite and criticizing him for lacking the balls to admit it. I’ve been told that since I’ve never worked in TV or talk radio, I couldn’t judge Alan Colmes for being either a wimpy excuse for liberalism or a neocon apologist. But how does a self-proclaimed liberal working in TV and radio justify liking Rush Limbaugh — a misogynist class bigot who made his pile beating up on the poor for the last three decades; especially on poor women whose advocates he labeled as “feminazis?”

Alan Colmes likes neocon religitard Ann Coulter, too. Maybe that’s because she’s thin, blonde and has big boobs. And maybe that is somewhat excused for a rich, successful, famous male “star” — affluent men finding hot-looking, thin, WASP blonde Barbie types physically attractive. It’s the upper class WASP Barbie ideal of thinness, big boobs, and perfect hair that is our nation’s standard of beauty and “worthiness” in a society where women are valued only on looks. Ever wonder why that is, and why only affluent women can afford cosmetic surgery to fix what genetics, nature, and life’s circumstances bestowed?

Classism, like religion, is a memetic viral infection

We all know how invidious the whole system of unearned privilege and class stratification is, and that it is set up to promote a pretentious sociopathic middle class who is willing to stomp on the poor and keep the poor at the bottom and censor their voices. We all know that selling out on one’s principles plays a role in winning life’s comforts, class status, social prizes and rewards in this country.

For the past 30 years, the media and academia launched a multi-pronged assault on those at the bottom of the pile: poor women. This has gone unchallenged because everyone felt it was perfectly OK to beat down poor women with the “personal responsibility” cudgel…until now. The sudden change in tide is largely due to the fact that a lot of downwardly mobile middle class people are now “feeling the love” of the same victim-blaming that has always been disproportionately meted out to those on the very bottom socio-economic rung. The Underclass have always been on the receiving end of this backhand of “tough love” as opposed to a helping hand up.

"Classism For Dimwits" by Jacqueline S. Homan

The corporate media shamelessly peddled classism like a drug dealer hawking his wares, enticing the unwitting masses into a collective addiction.

The corporate media’s talking heads of questionable credibility and biased pseudo-intellectuals paid by billionaire-funded conservative think tanks have all set the “undeserving” poor up as the enemy, as “less than”, as “the Other, and as “trash” who are living undeservedly large off the largesse of good, hardworking middle class people that played by all the rules (that the rich contrived).

The sea of professionals who romanticize, fetishize, and demonize the poor took up the baton on cue and led the parade in poor-bashing. Their Ivy League PhD’s gave them credibility, quasi-celebrity status, and public worship for every word of their insipid drivel amounting to how we need to “fix” the defective poor and whip them into line to get with the middle class program and not look, sound, or act so…well…poor.

Who turned the tide of public opinion of compassion and support for the poor with social reforms such as FDR’s New Deal and Johnson’s Great Society programs into sentiments of social Darwinism culminating in the Welfare Reform Act of 1996 — the crowning achievement of the Reagan Revolution, which epitomized and legitimized the idea that “greed is good?”

Whose fault is it that the majority of the American public got conned into the myth of the “ownership society” where stepping on others’ necks to get ahead was OK, and that the “undeserving” poor should just go suffer quietly out of sight and dumpster-dive for food  as social safety nets were gutted?

Who spoke out for poor people’s economic human and civil rights these past 30 years while poor women and children were offered up like sacrificial scapegoats for misery and pain on the altar of the Almighty Dollar by pundits, clergy, and TV personalities? Who popularized the practice of stigmatizing the poor and calling that “entertainment”, and what do you think happened?

The result is a society of “Me, I, Mine” that emerged, producing a class of sell-outs, cheaters, liars, and backstabbers who will screw over anyone else they can in order to get theirs because they’re expected to have the “right” image and the “right” homes in the “right” neighborhoods where they/their progeny can make the “right” friends in order to be “worthy” and deserving of a chance for increasingly scarce good jobs.

Here’s a thought: how about we stop making excuses for this dysfunctional status quo.  Helping someone who is very poor and downtrodden — who is reaching out in desperation asking for help because there isn’t really “all this help out there” from all these government agencies and private charities — isn’t “someone else’s responsibility.” Be the change.

Beneficiary of America’s Class System Admonishes Everyone Else To “Sacrifice”

July 3, 2010

Jacqueline S. Homan, Author: "Classism For Dimwits", "Nothing You Can Possess", "Eyes of a Monster," and "Divine Right: The Truth is a Lie"

In an article titled “Has the American Dream Become Our Nightmare” appearing today on Alternet admonishing the middle class to live a little less large and rethink what the “American Dream” really means, Dr. Mary Sykes Wylie misses the boat — by a long shot.

First off, to couple capitalism with democracy is as paradoxical as fucking for virginity. In her word salad of Machiavellian psychobabble, Wylie says:

“…like the threat of imminent extinction, our current troubles concentrate our minds wonderfully, or at least enough to consider possible alternative meanings of “wealth”, besides frenetic getting and spending.”

That “frenetic getting and spending” might mean a trip to the shopping mall — for her. For many others a hell of a lot less fortunate (like the 6 million poor, uninsured jobless/long-term unemployed whose sole income is food stamps), it means scrounging enough money through begging for crumbs of inadequate help from charities and collecting aluminum cans to keep the electric and water from being terminated after the gas and telephone were cut off from inability to afford basic needs. Or worse: It may mean scrambling desperately to get the funds in order to travel across state to a Planned Parenthood clinic, or to pay for an abortion resulting from a rape, or contraceptive failure, when you have no health care and no economic security in your life thanks to a legacy of exploitation, discrimination, and dehumanization.

I have a few other quibbles about the article, too. What Mary Sykes Wylie, PhD, author of the article, missed was the fact that all of humanity can be divided into three groups — A, B, and C.

Group A is made up of those who live primarily off of stock dividends, interest payments on their bond investments, royalties on their land and mineral rights, inherited money, and rents for their real estate. In other words, Group A derives its livelihood from passive or unearned income generated from the capital it owns.

Groups B and C comprise the remaining 99% of humanity. Group B lives primarily off of wages, salaries, tips, commissions, fees or pensions. Group C are those remaining billions of people across the world who don’t even get that — they live hand-to-mouth on whatever crumbs they can scrounge. Group C can be thought of as “the reserve army of labor” that is deliberately socially excluded and economically marginalized and only permitted by Group A to exist to keep Group B “in line” (although the ravages of poverty often takes its toll on the poor people’s employability).

Group A obtains wealth by imperialist or colonialist measures by deracination— driving the people off of the land either by genocide, incarceration, or other means of expulsion, and de-skilling and disenfranchising the remainder by forcing them to work for subsistence wages out of lack of options. Group A can also be called the “Owning Class” since they own most of the world’s resources and means of production. Group A also owns a lot of the government or the state.

Group A has very politically active elements that make careers out of protecting the interests of Group A. Those politically active members of Group A become presidents, parliamentarians, prime ministers, Congressmen, Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of the US Department of Defense, CIA directors, Joint Chiefs of Staff, FBI directors, military intelligence, etc., whose function is to keep the world safe for the Fortune 500 companies — the people in Group A — so that they can extract the value from the natural resources and exploit the surplus value from the labor of Group B, and squash any populist uprising.

I don’t know what world the article’s author lives in, but it sure as hell isn’t in the “Other America” — the no-man’s land of the Underclass that nobody gives a fuck about where kids get to go to Prisonyland instead of Disneyland; where poor white women have no opportunities for the few remaining living wage blue-collar male-dominated union jobs or the opportunity for college and grad school (unlike the author, who has her PhD that landed her a good job with dignity), leaving only two alternatives for making enough money to afford food, shelter, basic utilities (and MAYBE some health/dental/vision care): prostitution or strip dancing.

I am talking about the “Other America” where, if you’re a poor woman, you’re never “good enough” to “deserve” to be loved, married, and supported by some middle/upper class woman’s law school bound son (or some middle/upper class widower) because everybody “knows” that poor women are nothing but “trash”, “gold-diggers”, and “whores” who get pregnant just for the “windfall” of that paltry (non-existent) welfare pittance.

Meanwhile, affluent demagogues with narcissistic personality disorder and delusions of grandeur denounce abortion and contraception for poor women and expound the merits of marriage as the end-all cure-all anti-poverty program from their talk radio and Faux News pulpits — making their pile by promoting discrimination and their ideology of classism, racism, sexism and misogyny under the “family values” banner cloaked in the “respectability” of religion, “morality”, freedom, and liberty.

There is no “freedom” or “liberty” for those in poverty who never got a fair fighting chance in the “land of opportunity” — due in no small measure to the inherent exploitative nature of capitalism. And it is very easy to target a group of people to oppress, discriminate against, dehumanize, and exploit when they’re a different gender (except for the few token “winners” among the ranks of the dominant class).

But nobody wants to talk about that.

Classism, like feminism  (the crazy notion that women deserve equal rights such as having the right to their own bodies), is a taboo subject.

The blindness of unearned privilege — middle/upper class privilege — ignores the realities of America’s poor, 84% whom are women and 63% whom are white, who aren’t even seen as human enough for harm against us to matter.

The author also says:

“For generations we’re told that “money doesn’t buy happiness”, which probably nobody in America believes.”

There’s a difference between believing and thinking. In the middle of “believe” there’s a “lie.”

When being poor, jobless, and uninsured means you get to go blind from undiagnosed and untreated glaucoma, or prematurely lose your teeth to dental caries, or join the ranks of the 45,000 poor uninsured Americans who die for lack of access to health care each year, or from any other malady caused directly by poverty (like loss of winter heating utility service); capitalism is the problem because it takes money to buy the only things that make a shot at happiness possible: your health and your life.

"Classism For Dimwits" by Jacqueline S. Homan

Freedom in the Homeland

June 7, 2010

Jacqueline S. Homan, Author: "Classism For Dimwits", "Nothing You Can Possess", "Eyes of a Monster", and "Divine Right: The Truth is a Lie"

While checking out Paul Street’s page at Znet, something leapt out from the computer screen and gripped my throat. An article titled “A Comeback For Chattel Slavery?” by Geraldine Winstanley published through the Associated Newswire on April 1, 2010 quoted a top Obama administration aide on condition of strict anonymity in an extensive interview in which the aide stated that Obama is considering an executive order to resurrect slavery on an experimental basis here in the US.

The aide said that the program under consideration would be called “Freedom in the Homeland.” It would begin in two selected Washington, DC ghettos where unemployed men and male high school drop-outs would be purchased by a joint public—private consortium. This program would be operated and overseen by the US Department of the Interior.

The article quotes this anonymous White House official as saying that under the Freedom in the Homeland program, these slaves would provide a wide range of services for senior members of participating firms; including shining shoes, washing cars, picking up children from daycare, laundry, personal care for lobbyists’ aged parents, planting and tending lobbyists’ vegetable gardens, working in lobbyist-owned sweatshops, and auto repair. In return, these poor and mostly inner-city enslaved males would get food, clothing, shelter, and (quoting Winstanely’s article):

“a feeling of being at the real center of power in the world’s greatest empire — priceless. It should move a bunch of them off that destructive, personally irresponsible inner-city culture that the president has been criticizing for years. Knowing that Barack Obama stands behind this program will be useful for garnering cooperation from the young men selected for service to their country. It will help them see bondage as an opportunity for growth.”

This official also added that Obama’s “vision for this is color-blind and post-racial. Although Freedom in the Homeland might initially target poor urban blacks, it would eventually include poor Latinos, Asians, and poor whites. Several top corporate Obama sponsors — Boeing, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Wal-Mart, and Exxon-Mobile — have already expressed an interest in participating as slaveholders in Freedom in the Homeland.

My initial knee-jerk reaction was to dismiss Geraldine Winstanley’s article at Paul Street’s Znet page as a twisted April Fool’s joke. But there’s nothing funny about it. The only ones who realize any “opportunity for growth” in a system of chattel slavery are ruthless exploiters — those profiting from the trafficking in human beings.

Although the overwhelming majority of Americans should be outraged enough to march on the White House lawn, most probably won’t. This society has already accepted the time-honored tradition of degrading the poor and supporting abusive economic and social policy that targets capitalism’s losers with punishment for the status crime of being poor.

"Classism For Dimwits" by Jacqueline S. Homan

Americans applauded the assault on women’s basic human rights and personal liberties with specious “conscience clause” laws and “fetal personhood” laws which put every woman’s uterus and genitalia in the realm of male dominated church and state owned property; expropriated for patriarchal capitalism’s benefit — guaranteeing the reproduction of a reserve army of labor. The conscription of unwilling women into childbirth chattel slavery without any regard for how the “breeder livestock” feels about it (or if the reproductive chattel survives pregnancy and childbirth) was welcomed by society under the “pro-life” banner.

Nobody cares if women suffer trauma from the permanent negative impacts of compulsory maternity — we’re not human enough for harm to us to matter.

Nobody cares that rape victims are denied EC in emergency rooms, and why 87% of all US counties have NO abortion provider while women in most regions of the US (excluding large coastal cities) are forced to travel 50 miles or more to the nearest Planned Parenthood for free/low-cost reliable contraceptives.

Pregnant women in US delivery rooms are routinely deprived of privacy, basic human dignity and civil rights under the aegis of “fetal personhood” laws and degrading (and often sadistic) “routine” medical procedures.

Being denied the right to self-determination and bodily autonomy and bodily integrity IS chattel slavery. Only rich women enjoy the blessings of liberty in a nation billed as the beacon of freedom.

The public accepts slave labor for inmates in our prison-industrial complex under AR 210-35. The assaults on workers’ rights and the gutting of social programs for the working class and the poor beginning with the Reagan Revolution precipitated a burgeoning underclass and skyrocketing drug-related crimes — to which the response was “Three Strikes” laws and mandatory minimum sentencing.

The state and federal prison system has replaced HUD Section-8 as the nation’s largest subsidized housing program. With an increasing number of drug offenders from the dispossessed working class, more money in federal tax dollars goes to the communities where prisons are built. The prime beneficiaries are businesses using prison labor and private prison corporations. There are two corporations that dominate the privatized prison industry in the US: Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group (formerly known as Wackenhut). These two outfits control 75% of the for-profit prison industry.

“The clever young man who recently made it to the White House is a very fine hypnotist, partly because it is indeed exciting to see an African American at the pinnacle of power in the land of slavery. However, this is the 21st century, and race together with gender and even class can be very seductive tools of propaganda. For what is so often overlooked and what matters…is the class one serves.” ~ John Pilger

Wackenhut’s founder was an ardent John Bircher who made his pile during the McCarthy era by compiling dossiers on those suspected of “un-American activities” (Communists); achieving over 4 million files by 1966 — one for every 46 American adults. The company was founded in 1954 by George Wackenhut, a former FBI official. It was a publicly held corporation from 1966-2002; after which it merged with Group 4 Falck, creating the monster private security firm Group 4 Securicor (now known as G4S). Prior to the merger, the chairman was George Wackenhut, the CEO and vice chairman was George C. Zoley, and the president and COO was Wayne H. Calabrese. The company’s upper echelons included ex-CIA, FBI and other government officials.

Wackenhut is a subsidiary of G4S, a UK based global security firm. It has profited handsomely from the school-to-prison pipeline created by an agenda of deliberate disinvestment, which escalated during the Reagan Revolution. The Reagan administration aimed its malevolence at poor single mothers and cut social programs for the working class — including CETA, the federally subsidized jobs placement program. During the 1980’s, the US got “tough on crime” by implementing “Three Strikes” laws. Wackenhut entered the prison business in 1987 and was reaping annual profits of $630.3 million by 1992. By 1997, Wackenhut controlled one third of the prison market contracts and provided prison slave labor for IBM and Microsoft. Prison industry officials admit that there is a vested interest in ensuring a burgeoning prison population, and how those prisoner slave laborers are treated is of no concern.[[i]][[ii]]

The permanent loss of jobs and aggressive union-busting left the most vulnerable members of the working class with few alternatives other than the illicit economy. Most of the crimes committed by the poor are illegal drug sales out of economic desperation for lack of any real job opportunities. The semi-skilled $7/hour worker who loses his job due to disinvestment finds himself unemployed and alienated by a society that was indoctrinated with the meritocracy myth. He turns to crime to survive, then gets arrested and imprisoned where he is given a new job by a private corporation doing business with the prison system under the federal guidelines framed within AR 210-35, where he is put to work for 22 cents an hour. He went from worker to unemployed to criminal to convict slave laborer.[[iii]]

Inmate slave labor is the goose that lays the golden eggs for wealthy corporate interests. There’s no unionizing, no strikes, no unemployment benefits, no workers’ comp insurance, and no employers’ portion of the social security taxes. It’s not a coincidence that the working class is overwhelmingly represented among the prison rolls.

Nothing You Can Posses

Prisoners across the US work at data entry jobs for Chevron; taking telephone reservations for TWA, raising livestock, making electronic components for computer motherboards, making waterbeds, and making sexy lingerie for Victoria Secret.  The beneficiaries are the corporations using slave labor, the investment banking firms, mutual fund managers, and the rich who can afford to have stock portfolios. Saloman Smith Barney, American Express, and GE (to name a few) are major shareholders in the privatized prison-industrial complex — of which Wackenhut has cornered the market. By 2001, Wackenhut’s revenues topped $2.8 billion as the leading provider of security at US national defense sites with a global presence on six continents. It serves as the US division of a global corporation that provides security officers, customs protection officers, property security, training programs and investigative services. It handles law enforcement duties, “operations maintenance”, and airfield management for the Justice Prisoner Transport System (JPATS).

In 1997, Professor Ian Stewart — science fiction writer and world class mathematician — met with Alexander B. Cuppett to discuss what he knew firsthand about the implementation of a fascist totalitarian regime through FEMA and Wackenhut under REX-84 (Executive Order by Ronald Reagan for constructing concentration camps to detain “subversives”). Cuppett is a retired US Army /Joint Chief of Staff and US Department of Defense inspector. Cuppett extensively documented the infrastructures set up under REX-84. He told Dr. Stewart that as of 1999, there were heavily fortified FEMA bases throughout the US. This is corroborated by the fact that FEMA contracted with Haliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) to build “black site” prisons and detention camps at undisclosed locations throughout the US as a final preparation phase of REX-84. According to former diplomat Peter Dale Scott, the KBR contract is part of a US Department of Homeland Security plan called ENDGAME. The stated purpose of ENDGAME is the “removal of all removable aliens and potential terrorists.” No Congressmen spoke out against this no-bid contract with Haliburton.[[iv]]

To be clear, a “potential terrorist” is anyone who agitates against the corporatocracy. Under the Patriot Act passed and reauthorized by both Democrat and Republican Congressmen, anyone can be charged with the status crime of being a “terrorist” and indefinitely incarcerated — habeas corpus has been replaced with corpus juris[[v]] for this status crime.

In 1995, right before KBR got its no-bid gulag building contract, the air fleets of the US Marshals Service and ICE merged, creating JPATS. This merger created a frighteningly efficient “Con Air” airline for the transport of prisoners and detained undocumented workers. JPATS is managed by the US Marshals Service. It handles over 1,000 requests per day to move prisoners between judicial districts, prisons, and foreign countries; performing over 300,000 transports prisoner and alien transports per year. JPATS is the only government-operated and regularly scheduled airline in the nation, routinely serving over 40 domestic and international cities on an as-needed basis. It transports prisoners for a fraction of the cost that privately owned commercial airlines would charge. JPATS flight schedules are kept secret.

The infrastructure is already in place to reintroduce slavery. The public has already accepted the deprivation of rights and the enslavement of certain subgroups of the US citizenry on “moral” grounds.

The notion that a black man, especially the first black president, would contemplate issuing an executive order to reintroduce slavery for unemployed males is not an unlikely prospect. Nor would Barack Obama be the first wealthy black man to participate in slavery on US soil.

When the axe entered the forest, the trees said, ‘Behold! He was once one of us.’  ~ African proverb

In the antebellum South, the majority of black slaves were owned by “slave magnates” — wealthy plantation aristocracy in the top 1% income bracket. Of this top 1%, some were black.

In 1860, at least six wealthy freed blacks in Louisiana owned about 65 slaves apiece. A wide, C. Richards and her son, P.C. Richards, were wealthy blacks who owned a sugar cane plantation with 152 slaves. Another wealthy black slave magnate in Louisiana was Antoine Dubuclet who owned well over 100 slaves. Dubuclet owned a sugar cane plantation and according to 1860 tax and census records, his estate was valued at $264,000 ($7 million in 2010 dollars), while the mean wealth of southern white men was $3,978 ($93,978 in 2010 dollars). In Charleston, South Carolina, 125 freed blacks owned slaves and 69 freed blacks in North Carolina owned slaves. The most famous wealthy black slaveholder was William “April” Ellison. [[vi]]

Obama is one of America’s fortunate sons. In the antebellum South, blacks couldn’t vote whether they were free or not. But that same imperialist tool of oppression — legalized slavery — still permitted some blacks to gain freedom and wealth, which they used to get even richer by owning their brethren.

How impossible would it be today in post-racial America for a black US president to use his wealth, power, and privilege to resurrect the despicable practice of chattel slavery as a matter of social policy in dealing with the poor?


[i] Palast, Greg, “Wackenhut’s Free Market in Human Misery”, London Observer, September 26, 1999

[ii] Silverstein, Ken, “America’s Private Gulag”, Prison Legal News, June 17, 2000

[iii] Evans, Linda and Goldberg, Eve “The Prison-Industrial Complex and the Global Economy”, 1999

[iv] Homan, Jacqueline S. “Nothing You Can Possess

[v] Corpus juris: the imperial pronouncement of the force of law without due process; based on the ecclesiastical courts set up under the Roman Curia.

[vi] Johnson, Michael P. and Roak, James L. “Black Masters: A Free Family of Color in the Old South


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