Posts Tagged ‘liberals’

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.

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A Rose By Any Other Name is Still A Rose

December 2, 2010

"Classism For Dimwits" by Jacqueline S. Homan

Award-winning columnist Chris Hedges foretells of imminent fascism, fearing all is lost because the “liberal class” dropped the ball for too many years. In his Truthdig article, “Power and the Tiny Acts of Rebellion”, He cited the situation surrounding the arrest of pediatrician Dr. Margaret Flowers for attempting to give testimony of the facts before Congress members on the unaffordable behemoth that corporatized health care has become — for doctors as well as the people who can’t afford health care. Dr. Flowers is on the forefront of the fight for national health care through a single-payer system. Flowers said:

“We are at a crisis. Health care providers, particularly those in primary care, are finding it very difficult to sustain an independent practice. We are seeing greater and greater corporatization of our health care. Practices are being taken over by these large corporations. You have absolutely no voice when it comes to dealing with the insurance company. They make it incredibly difficult and complex to get reimbursed. The rules are arbitrary and change frequently. There were no Democrats willing to hold the line on single-payer. Not one. I don’t see this changing until we radically shift the balance of power by creating a larger and broader social movement.”

One poster, “garth”, replied to the article saying:

“To me it’s just human nature. No one would stand around and let someone be beaten to death in plain sight without raising a hand to their rescue, or would they?”

Unfortunately, yes they would. Thirty-eight people watched as 28 year old Kitty Genovese was attacked, beaten and stabbed to death by Winston Moseley — a necrophiliac. Harlan Ellison referred to reports from neighbors, including one man who turned his radio up so he wouldn’t have to hear Genovese’s screams as she was being bludgeoned and stabbed to death. Everyone that saw and/or heard the vicious attack said that the reason they didn’t even call the police was because they “didn’t want to get involved.”

Moseley did not know his victim. He stated that his sole motive for attacking and killing Kitty Genovese was that he simply “wanted to kill a woman.” He said that he preferred to kill women because “they were easier and didn’t fight back.”

Just as serial killers, rapists, and necrophiliacs tend to target women because women are physically smaller and weaker than men on average, and far less able to fend for themselves, society makes its most economically vulnerable members the most exploitable and disposable group. It’s no accident that poverty has a woman’s face while our society denies the power differential at play in the entire capitalist system of unearned privileges.

The same society that doesn’t care about 50 million poor and uninsured Americans lacking access to medical and dental care (most whom are women since women make up 84% of the very poor), and the same society that doesn’t care about those who have died from utility shut-offs because of poverty due to a legacy of discrimination and the barriers of classism — is the very same society that produced thirty-eight self-centered, indifferent bystanders who watched Kitty Genovese get beaten and stabbed to death outside of her Kew Gardens apartment in Queens, NY on March 13th 1964.

The unwillingness to help someone in a life or death situation because of “not wanting to get involved” has been given the palatable label known as the “Genovese Syndrome” by social psychologists. America’s cultural ethos of sociopathic macho selfishness and misogyny is really more accurate. Screw the “experts.” They can ascribe a respectable-sounding label to a self-centered society’s behavior and excuse its lack of empathy by raising a “diffusion of responsibility” defense, but it is still nonetheless sociopathic and despicable. It will never be excusable or justifiable; regardless of the fancy word salads. This same “diffusion of responsibility” defense was raised by Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg’s post-war trials. A sociopathic, misogynistic, greedy and self-centered culture is still sociopathic, misogynistic and greedy by any other name.

Capitalism’s Calculus Of Evil

December 2, 2010

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

On Alternet a poster, “Concernaboutnow”, posted under Robert Kuttner’s article, “Saving Progressivism From Obama”, saying

“President Obama is fighting the same concepts and robber barons that got us into this mess. Trickle down economic, union busting and deregulation of the financial service industry are the problems. Think man Think, Wake up before it is too late. “

Wrong. Obama’s fighting nothing of the sort. Obama is a cruel hoax. He’s just one more fortunate son who auditioned for Jesus that the privileged classes paraded out to give false hope to the poor. President Obama rode the election into the White House on tough talk on “change” and the promise of hope. Within weeks of his inauguration, he morphed into a wimp, snivelling that he and Democrats in Congress had to make “compromises.” Whenever our government leaders talk about “compromises” and the need to make “sacrifices”, they mean “kill the poor to save the middle class.”

The majority of the so-called liberal camp stands guilty as charged in their willing complicity in making this mess over the last 30 years, up to and including right now.

Nothing was heard from the AFL-CIO regarding an adequate safety net for all of the jobless poor, including those “discouraged workers” who were not eligible for any unemployment benefits. Instead, they only talked about unemployment benefits extensions for the “99er’s” who had already gotten 99 weeks of unemployment compensation during 2009-2010 while 60% of America’s jobless have nothing — many whom are destitute, sick, homeless, and in the most need of an economic lifeline. After the 99ers helped push through legislation favorable to the AFL-CIO big shots, they were discarded and like the underclass, their needs were compromised. Like the rest of the liberal class, the union leadership and membership bodies ignored the lessons of the class struggle in history and sold out society’s least fortunate.

Democrats helped drive the Reagan Revolution and never restored the budget cuts to undo the misery inflicted on the poor.

The Democrats and their loyal supporters haven’t just turned their backs on us after the most recent election of President Obama and an overwhelming majority of Democrat Congressmen. This has been going on for over 30 years since the Reagan Revolution. The Democrats didn’t just sit on the sidelines hand-cuffed to the bench as helpless bystanders while conservatives in Congress and the Reagan administration played a game of “let’s make the poor even poorer and more degraded and miserable.”

Reagan had to work with a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives in Congress in order for his trickle-down policies and draconian cuts to social programs to get passed and enacted. There were no policies enacted during Reagan’s two-term presidency that did not first meet the approval of the Democrat-controlled House.

And these guys were not elected by some Fairy Godmother — middle class votes, many from middle class white males in good-paying union jobs (that were and still are denied to poor women) put them in office based on their promise to cut already meager and inadequate welfare benefits, which disproportionately hurt poor women and children and the disabled who are capitalism’s biggest losers.

Now the chickens have come home to roost. The formerly middle class “99ers” are whining louder than anybody about the unfairness of their newfound poverty, after decades of telling those of us in poverty to “stop whining” about our problems because “nobody wants to hear it.” They cry how they can’t take a minimum wage job because it pays less than their unemployment benefits, yet they expected poor women who never had anything and whom they’ve helped pitch off of welfare to work at those same minimum wage jobs without health benefits and pensions that aren’t enough to live on since the beginning of the War On the Poor began in 1980. They cry the loudest about the raw deal they’re now getting while never giving a damn about those of us who were far worse off than them all long. The only sympathy they’ll get from me is out of the dictionary: between “shit” and “syphilis.”

Reality Check For the Middle Class:

It has not been presidents or lawmakers or even US Supreme Court judges who have historically secured any real freedoms, economic or otherwise, for the American people. They merely rode on our shirttails after all the head-busting, jailing, fighting, blacklisting, and dying was suffered by the rest of us.

Those who fight for social justice have never been able to get that good job or become a politician. It has always been the poor who are the first to fight and die for the benefits that disproportionately accrue to the middle class, which the middle class is now rapidly losing. Yet, the poor never got as much as a ‘thank you’ from the high and mighty middle class. The only thanks we ever got was Welfare Reform, “Three Strikes” laws, mandatory minimum sentences, “faith-based” initiatives, no respect, no health care, no access to advanced educations, no equal opportunity, and no guaranteed right to a living wage job.

What we got was punished for our poverty as we were kept poor and told over and over that we weren’t wanted in your neighborhoods, in your houses of worship, in your schools, or in your workplaces getting the same opportunities and making decent wages and getting the same decent health and dental benefits as you and your families got.

While your children got to go to Disneyland, ours got sent to Prisonyland. While you traveled working for the Peacecorps feeling good about yourselves for all the “good” you did for poor brown children in countries that were victims of capitalism, we got sent to Iraq to kill other brown children at the behest of your capitalist gods. While you got your nice houses, nice clothing, new cars, and your health and dental needs met, we got to suffer and do without while being told how undeservedly large we were living off of your tax dollars.

What’s happening to the middle class now is unquestionably horrible. But it is no more horrible than what the middle class condemned me to by virtue of its role as an enabler, apologist, justifier, enforcer, and reinforcer of capitalism. And throughout the entire time Middle Class America thought they were so smart and so special and so much better than someone like me — “poor white trash” from the ranks of the underclass. And now the middle class is finally starting to “feel the love” they’ve dished out to the poor and crying foul.

In case you didn’t get the memo: The owning class isn’t all that into you. You’re not special. You never were anything more than a number in their calculus of evil.

No Democrat today in 2010 proposed even the slightest measure to alleviate the social holocaust of the burgeoning poverty ranks, never mind a serious mobilization of the nation’s resources. Middle class “progressives” took 30 years too long to decide with team they were batting for. They took the easy way out through pragmatism, thinking only of feathering their own comfortable nests within the capitalist paradigm while leaving the poor hanging out to dry.

In an updated Pew report released on October 7th 2010, researchers found that 30% of the unemployed had been jobless for a year or longer. Based on the official unemployment rate, that translates to about 4.4 million people — roughly equal to the population of Louisiana. Most of these discarded workers were age 35 and older. But the real unemployment rate is much higher.

When President Obama was asked about the problem of growing poverty in the US during his September 24th 2010 press conference, he answered by parroting straight from the Reagan playbill, saying that “the best anti-poverty program is a job” — meaning that nothing should be done to help those for whom the capitalist system could not and will not provide adequate employment. If the American people have any hope of getting real change, it won’t come from the Madison Avenue false reality makers who have packaged Obama as the savior of the world.

Neither wing of the Capitalist Party proposed any policies for directly creating jobs for the unemployed, many whom the private markets won’t hire: older workers, the very long-term unemployed, women, the poor, and job seekers with less than perfect health and less than perfect credit. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats proposed anything to provide relief for the growing number of poor and unemployed people, or to alleviate the scourge of mounting utility shut-offs, hunger, and homelessness.

The Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rugters University released a study on September 1st 2010 which revealed that among the jobless:

86% cut back in their family’s spending
63% exhausted their retirement savings
60% had been forced to borrow from family or friends

How many jobless poor have no family to turn to for help, either because their families are also poor and unable to help, or because they have no living family left? How many jobless poor have selfish middle class families that won’t lift a finger to help them because they don’t want their resources being drained? Growing “tent cities” and the number of people that shelters must turn away because they’re full provide a good clue. The US is one big plutocratic cesspool. Pragmatism by “progressive” politicians brought nothing but three decades of compromises in which it has always been the needs of the poor that were compromised.

Let’s compare the current corporate fascist state of America to the deadly corporate fascist state of Nazi Germany 70 years ago. In both cases, the poor and marginalized groups were targeted as disposable “surplus population” that are “useless eaters.” Both used illegal war and the invasion of other countries as a pretext to further the capitalist expansionist agenda. And both have their water boys who are overwhelmingly among the ranks of the middle class that were willing to carry out the dirty work of the owning class by deliberately killing the poor and unwanted. Both have used media propaganda to dehumanize their victims.

It was the predominantly middle class trade unionists and social Democrats who allied themselves with Germany’s industrial bourgeoisie. They distanced themselves from Germany’s Communist Party (KDP). Their support for “reform” rather than overthrow of an oppressive capitalist/imperialist system allowed the Nazi horrors to unfold, plunging Europe, Japan, and America into World War II and culminating in Hitler’s “Final Solution.” The “Final Solution” could not have been carried out without a large complicit middle class.

Three engineers — Fritz Sander, Kurt Prüfer, and Karl Schultze — working for Topf and Son designed, patented, and built the continual feed industrial strength crematoria specifically for use in the Nazi death camps. They willingly installed these ovens of destruction and performed routine on-site maintenance from 1941-1945. They witnessed their “creations” in use in the liquidation of innocent women, children, and elderly or disabled men that were “unfit” for slave labor.

After the war ended when these three men testified at the post-war trial in Erfurt, they were asked why they approached the SS and secured for their employer the exclusive contract for supplying the death camps with these crematoria that had to be specially outfitted to the gas chambers. They were asked why they willingly designed, patented, built, and maintained this machination of genocide.
They didn’t say it was because they hated Jews.
They didn’t say it was because they were afraid of their Nazi government.
They didn’t say it was because they feared reprisal from the SS.
They said it was because they didn’t want to lose their middle class jobs — they were “just doing their jobs” and supporting their lawful government.

Similarly, middle class union utility workers who shut off poor people’s electric, water, and gas claim they’re “just doing their jobs.” They’ve got families and a middle class lifestyle to maintain after all — to hell with the poor. They know that by cutting off poor people’s utilities, they’re causing the deaths of vulnerable people who are dying from the cold, or in residential fires as a result of desperate and unsafe alternative measures.

The Casualties of Poverty In Classist America Are Mostly Women, Children, the Disabled and Elderly:

Here is only a very small partial list of casualties in the War On the Poor who died (or who were injured or left homeless) as a result of unaffordable utility bills and a lack of adequate social and economic support. In Pennsylvania since 2005, the price of natural gas more than doubled for Pennsylvania’s residential customers. More than 242,000 Pennsylvania households had their utilities shut off for being unable to afford their bills.

Pennsylvania:

Dauphin County — Swatara Township:

Britton Donachy, age 2

Onna Donachy, age 18 months

Died in a fire caused by a candle after PP&L cut off their electric.

Cambria County — Hastings:

Delores “Dee” Holland, age 50

Jordan English, age 3

Alisha McConnell, age 15

Lindsey Depto, age 14

Died in a fire caused by a candle after Penelec shut off the electric in the rented home of Dee Holland and her 57 year old disabled fiancé Jack Sexton; and Dee’s daughter, a poor single mother who, like her mother, worked at a minimum wage job.

Lancaster County — Lancaster:

May 3rd, 2008; nine tenants were left homeless after a fire caused by a candle destroyed the apartment building after PP&L cut off the electric to the apartment of Kenneth Yaw in April of 2008

August 9th 2009: Cynthia Glassman (age unknown) died in a fire sparked by a candle after PP&L cut off her electric the day before. She struggled to afford PP&L’s payment arrangement plan, but was short $7 for the “late fee.” Her electric got cut off and she lost her life for lack of $7.

Jefferson County — Brockway:
Ten people died in a house fire that broke out on April 3rd 2008. The fire was caused by a space heater. National Fuel had cut off their gas in 2005 and they had been without gas since May 2005. The only survivors were 20 year old Elizabeth Peterson and her father, Douglas Peterson II. Killed in the fire were three generations of the Peterson family:

Kimberly Peterson, age 40 (mother and wife of Douglass Peterson II)

Rebecca Peterson, age 17 — a poor single mother

Douglas Peterson III, age 13

Isaac Peterson, age 8

Grace Peterson, age 6

Lillian Peterson, age 11 months

Domanic Delullo, age 4 (Elizabeth’s son)

Desiree Delullo, age 2 (Elizabeth’s daughter)

Jason Mowry, age 19 (Elizabeth’s fiancé)

Philadelphia: More than 8,800 Philadelphia households had their gas shut off in the winter of 2009. On December 26th 2009, seven died in a single house fire after the gas was cut off. The fire was caused by a kerosene heater that exploded after fuel for the heater caught on fire:

Ramere Dosso, age 8

Mariam Dosso, age 6

Zyhire Wright-Teah, age 1

Elliot Teah, age 23 (Zyhire’s father)

Jennifer Teah, age 17 (Elliot’s sister)

Vivian Teah, age 25 (Elliot’s sister)

Henry Gbokoloi, age 54 (neighbor)

California: More than 288,000 California households have had their utilities shut off. Four children died in a single apartment fire sparked by a candle after PG&E cut off their electric when their parents, two sisters who were both poor struggling single mothers, couldn’t pay the electric bill.

Natalie Rogers, age 2

Nevaeh Nunn, age 2

Keviana Morgan, age 1

Robert Charles, age 4

Michigan: More than 400,000 Michigan households had their utilities cut off because of unaffordable utility rates, with over 221,000 of those terminations in Detroit.

Bay City:

Marvin Shur (93 year old World War II vet) died of hypothermia after Bay City Electric restricted his utility service with a limiter, causing his furnace to shut down. Hypothermia is a very slow and extremely painful way to die.

Detroit (July 2009):

Four members of the Reed-Owens family died from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a generator they were using after DTE cut off the family’s electric. The wife, Marquetta Ownes, and one of the children, was asthmatic and relied on a nebulizer to breathe; which requires electricity.

Vaughn Reed, age 46

Mar’Keisha Reed, age 17

DeMarco Owens, age 12

DeMonte Owens, age 8

 

Detroit (Februrary 2010):

Marvin Allen, age 62

Tyrone Allen, age 61

Lynne Greer, age 58

 

The Allen brothers were both disabled and couldn’t walk. They were struggling to survive on SSI. Lynne Greer, Tyrone’s long-term unemployed girlfriend, paid DTE the $108 fee to get service restored, but DTE never restored service. Three poor older adults died in a house fire started by a kerosene heater.

Detroit (March 2010):

Trávion Young, age 5

Fantasia Young, age 4

Selena Young, age 3

Three of the seven Young children died when a space heater ignited a fire after DTE shut off the gas to the rented home of Sylvia Young, a poor single mother struggling to survive with seven children on $675/month welfare cash assistance. Her rent was $500/month. The fire broke out only a couple hours after Sylvia Young pleaded with a DTE worker to not shut off her utilities. With no car, she had to trudge through ice and snow on foot to the nearest Dollar Store to buy an additional space heater so she and her children wouldn’t freeze to death. Since she had no car and it was bitter cold, she couldn’t drag her small children with her, so she left them in the care of her oldest — her 12 year old son. She was only gone for about a half hour when the fire broke out and ravaged the home.

David Fox of the National Low-Income Energy Consortium said that prior to funding cuts to LIHEAP this year, the program was grossly underfunded so that at maximum, only 20% of all eligible needy households were able to be served. The number of LIHEAP recipients will shrink more for the winter of 2010-2011 with the 2010 LIHEAP budget cuts of $1.8 billion that have been enacted. Meanwhile, the number of people in need is skyrocketing due to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Approximately 10 million poor households will be without their winter heating utility and/or electric by the end of 2010. Given the number of long-term unemployed whose unemployment benefits ran out in 2009 or early 2010 who have no income and who have been unable to get jobs in addition to the 5 million jobless poor who weren’t eligible for any unemployment benefits at all and whose sole income has been food stamps, the actual number of households that will be without life-sustaining utilities will be much higher than 10million.

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. NEADA said in its September 2010 letter to Congress that LIHEAP funding cuts “target the poorest and most vulnerable layers of society”: 92% of LIHEAP recipients have an elderly person, a disabled person, or a child in the home. Additionally, 21% suffer from severe respiratory ailments, including chronic bronchitis; 51% have a heart condition, and 46% have severe asthma.

Other consequences of utility shut-offs include homelessness, heat stroke, poor child development, and the disintegration of families. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the link between utility shut-offs and deadly fires is clearly established. When utilities are cut off, people resort to unsafe methods such as space heaters to stay warm and candles for lighting. NFPA data revealed that from 2003-2007; space heaters were involved in 72% of fire deaths and 62% of injuries related to home heating and 24% of fatal candle fires occurred when electricity was cut off.

According to data supplied by the Michigan Public Services Commission, 300,000 Michigan households have had their heat and/or electric cut off for nonpayment, and over 221,000 of those households were in Detroit which has a real unemployment rate close to 50%. On October 30th 2010, DTE Energy requested a $253 million dollar rate increase from the Michigan Public Services Commission. On that same day, DTE reported an increase in its third quarter profits from $151 million in 2009 to $163 million in 2010. On November 4th, Detroit’s ABC news affiliate carried an exposé on “illegal hookups.”

NPR ran a program two days prior on November 2nd exploring the depth of the “energy theft crisis” in Detroit. The NPR reporter ignored the fact that the existence of unauthorized hookups is the result of desperate poverty, the absence of significant aid, and unaffordable utility rates compounded by the $1.8 billion dollar funding cuts to LIHEAP.

If the utilities were not unaffordable, people wouldn’t have their utilities cut off for nonpayment and the preconditions for these fatalities, injuries, and property damage would not have been created. And some of these fires cannot be blamed on “energy theft.” Illegal hookups exist because utility rates are unaffordable and because utility monopolies shut off service to the poor.

The Sonderkommando in Nazi death camps at least had an excuse: they were forced under the barrel of SS guns to do the dirty work of their Nazi bosses. But they never once said of their less fortunate fellow prisoners that “they deserved it” for being “losers” who “didn’t try hard enough”; or that they “made poor choices” and therefore deserved to suffer for not lucking out in the death camp lottery based on the devil’s arithmetic.

We Are Not All in the Same Boat

November 30, 2010

Jacqueline S. Homan

We are not “all in this together.”

The rich, who used their middle class phalanx of clergymen, police, lawyers, judges, and doctors to keep the poor “in their place” found religion, “self-help” books, and psychotherapy to be particularly useful in managing, controlling, and socially engineering the poor into meek acceptance of their miserable lot in life — a life of nothing but deprivation, suffering and want seasoned with more than just a modicum of scorn and contempt generously doled out by the middle class.

The middle class always sided with the rich. They have always been eager Brownshirts, brown-nosing the rich while claiming to hate them as they cheerfully stepped on the necks of the poor with their spit-shined jackboots, grinding our faces into the dirt. In times of great economic calamity, the middle classes say to the poor, “we’re all in the same boat” and “we’re all in this together.”

No, we are not.

The middle classes have always used the poor to get some measure of comfort and relief for themselves while telling those in the most need that after they got theirs, they will help us get ours. But they never have. They always abandon us as soon as their needs are met. How quickly they forget about that unity and spirit about all of us being “in this together” once they’ve conveniently gotten their needs addressed — always at the expense of ours.

Poor women are subjected to compulsory childbirth (without access to decent medical and dental care during pregnancy when it is most needed), and are deprived of having any ownership and control over our own bodies. With 87% of all US counties lacking an abortion provider and having diminished access to reliable contraception for poor women, including emergency contraception, poor women are de facto reproductive chattel slaves whose human rights, needs and feelings count less than that of a parasitically attached embryo/fetus. Are men “in the same boat?” No. Are middle class women who can afford their birth control and money to travel to access abortion in the event of contraceptive failure “in the same boat?” No. Are middle class women forced to gestate their rapists’ progeny? No. We are not “all in the same boat.”

Up until the economic collapse of 2008, the middle class ignored the poor as if we didn’t exist; much less have a right to live. For them to tell the poor whom they’ve kept down all these years that “we’re all in this together” and that “we’re all in the same boat” is beyond hypocritical.

If you were one of those whose votes, cultural capital, campaign contributions, election volunteering activities placed the last three decades of neoliberals and neocons in office that have deprived poor women of bodily autonomy and bodily integrity in the name of “pro-life” morality and then gutted what miserly inadequate safety nets for the poor that used to exist; while being a card-carrying member of the very class that refused to provide the poor (especially the poor women thrown off of welfare) with a guaranteed right to health care and a living wage job — we are not “all in this together.”

If you were middle class, you were one of the experts, gatekeepers, overseers, taskmasters, or policymakers that made damn sure that the credentialism you’ve imposed and other more superficial qualifiers (having the “right” image) kept the poor on society’s margins with nothing, not even an equal chance.

You are not “in this together” with those of us whom you’ve oppressed, making sure that as a poor woman I couldn’t get anything I needed throughout most of my 43 years of life in this country — a nation founded on gender inferiority, racism, and exploitation; a society that I did not ask to be born in.

If you have all your natural teeth and have enjoyed access to health and dental care over the past 30 years while I and many others in poverty did not; you are not “in the same boat” as those of us who never got to make it out of poverty and never had any of those things. Our health and quality of life is far more degraded and miserable as a result — thanks to your policies of Benign Neglect, like Welfare Deform.

Don’t you dare insult the intelligence of all the poor whom you’ve begrudged nutritious food, good jobs, decent housing, advanced educations, health and dental care, and an economic lifeline of a hand up these past 30 years just so you could “get yours” — while you put us down, belittled us, slammed the doors of opportunity shut in our faces, and then told us that if we weren’t making it in the “land of opportunity” it was our fault for not being able to compete.

Don’t you dare tell us how you suddenly care since you’re poor and jobless now and therefore “in the same boat” as us after telling us that we’ve got it made compared to people in other countries and that we should “learn how to help ourselves” and “stop bitching” because you didn’t want to hear about our problems when we had nothing while you had everything.

You were not “in this together” with those of us in poverty before, and we’re not “all in this together” now.

It’s easier to believe in leprechauns and unicorns than in your proclaimed sincerity. You think you can tell us that you now want to join hands and sing Koom Bye Ya after 30 years of promoting policies that disenfranchised us, criminalized us, and made us invisible, that “we’re all in this together now” and that the underclass should just “forgive and forget” about all the harm you’ve caused for us. Sorry, but there are some things — a long sordid history of things — that there is no “just getting over it.”

You have not earned our support and trust. And you don’t deserve our cooperation in what really amounts to making sure your middle class lives are as comfortable as possible within the status quo of the capitalist paradigm which caused all the problems this nation and the world faces today. Your track record speaks for itself — it was always the poor whose needs you jettisoned after getting what you wanted from an oppressive capitalist system of unearned privileges that still denies equal rights to women, with women in poverty suffering the worst because of it. Your legacy is one of betrayal, hypocrisy, and deceit.

If we are really “all in this together”, if the middle class ever really gave a crap about any goddam social justice at all, the middle class wouldn’t act like glory hounds auditioning for Jesus while patronizing the poor as if we’re stupid and “uneducated” (after making damn sure we couldn’t get the educations that you got).

If the middle class had any real concept of “fairness”, they would not have erected and maintained barriers to health care for the poor and access to educations and good jobs while strutting like peacocks and throwing their status around like sanctimonious know-it-all fucks whose shit doesn’t stink.

The middle class heaped abuse, scorn, ridicule, and condescension on everyone in the underclass while convincing themselves that they were so much better than those of us struggling in deep poverty who never got a chance for anything, no matter how hard we tried in a nation that is nothing but one great big public toilet of narcissistic materialism — that the middle class created while thinking they were so above it all.

Newsflash: The owning class isn’t all that into you.

I am not interested in supporting any political platform within the capitalist paradigm. I do not consent to maintaining any vestiges of a system of unearned privileges. Non Serviam (I will not serve).

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.


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