Posts Tagged ‘middle class’

A Little Walk Through History

October 31, 2015

Poverty is the worst form of violence. And systemic discrimination to ensure a permanent underclass is force added to that violence.

When society collectively denies poor women any real equal job/economic opportunity and refuses to provide a livable Guaranteed Basic Income and universal healthcare as an adequate safety net for those who’ve been shut out or pushed out of the economy so that NO woman or girl is forced to “choose” between dying from unrelieved abject chronic poverty, or death from prostitution, the entire society is collectively guilty of democide against the poor and guilty of human sex trafficking by proxy.

When vulnerable, disadvantaged women are forced into prostitution and homelessness due to  chronic abject poverty from which escape has been made impossible due to the politics and policies chosen by middle/upper class “gatekeepers” who shut poor women out of jobs while blaming the poor for being poor, compounded by job discrimination against women with POOR women bearing the brunt—that makes this entire society guilty of human sex trafficking. Just as guilty as armed, dangerous gangs of traffickers, predatory “Romeo” pimps and their predatory middle class/rich male customers (the “johns”) whose money drives the $32 billion/year global sex trade.

Almost immediately after LBJ (who created anti-poverty and welfare programs which mostly helped poor women who’ve always suffered the most and the worst effects of sexism and discrimination) left office and Nixon got elected, there was an immediate backlash against LBJ’s Great Society social programs for the poor. In fact, it began even before that—resistance was mounted by well-heeled interests, and led by professional middle class academicians while Johnson was trying to get his poverty relief measures pushed through during his 1963-64 Poverty Tour.

In the early 1970’s, lawmakers in the state of Nevada where prostitution is legal and “regulated” and most of the brothels are owned by members of the Bonano crime family, passed a law forcing poor younger women who applied for welfare to first take “work” in the legal brothels (since prostitution is legal there, it is a “job just like any other”).

The National Welfare Rights Union, which was a grassroots org spearheaded by poor single mothers receiving a paltry welfare benefit under AFDC, launched a massive protest right out in front of Nevada’s infamous Mustang Ranch brothel to protest poor women being forced into prostitution by the state (which essentially made the state of Nevada guilty of human trafficking). Several feminists, including Gloria Steinem, joined in and protested with the National Welfare Rights Union.

The protests forced the state lawmakers (many whom were brothel owners themselves) to back down because the public outcry was tremendous.

As a poor older woman who is a survivor of child sex trafficking, I never got a chance for a job after escaping my traffickers 31 years ago no matter what/how hard I tried in order to be “worthy” of a chance for a job. I was shut out of any and all jobs my entire working age life due to the visible conditions of poverty and an unfair prostitution record that held me back and rendered me unemployable—a record I incurred from when I was trafficked into prostitution as a homeless orphaned child from age 12/13 -17.

After I managed by sheer dumb luck to escape that hell, I never got a chance for a job no matter what hoops I jumped through in order to be “worthy” of a chance for a job—while getting told by smug, arrogant middle classers that I “have it made compared to the poor in other countries”, and that “no one owes you a job” and that if I was poor and not making it, it was my own damn fault for “not trying hard enough.”

While middle class and rich women get 77 cents to every male dollar, POOR women from the permanent underclass who’v been shut out of any chances for jobs all our lives get ZERO to everyone else’s dollar.

I never in my entire 48 years of life had access to adequate medical and dental care and some semblance of a stable life. Ever since I was trafficked, and throughout the past 31 years since escaping my traffickers, I have never known what it was like to be able to experience one full year of not having one or more basic utilities cut off for lack of any money or income to afford the bills. I have never known what it was like to be able to get decent medical, dental, and (very badly needed) vision care.

I don’t know what it’s like to be able to afford three meals a day. I often can’t afford just one meal a day and when I can afford food, it sure isn’t poached salmon, filet mignon, or whatever else that privileged people can afford so they don’t end up malnourished and fat (therefore socially unacceptable) in their 40’s and 50’s even though they certainly got a lot more to eat than I ever did.

I don’t have the luxury of being able to afford basic things such as a hot shower to bathe properly when I need one, or the ability to afford the “right image” of having all my teeth so I can smile with confidence without revealing evidence of my extreme poverty for which I will be judged and punished by those who are better off—just like I always had been throughout my entire life.

I don’t have the privilege of being able to afford professional clothing that flatters my fat, older lady figure so I can try my best to look as good as I can for any kind of professional setting.

Physical attractiveness, beauty, etc. is a luxury that I’ve never been able to afford—and lacking it meant getting nothing but abuse, and heaps of scorn, personal value judgments and ridicule from the professional middle class who never let the jobless poor have a chance no matter what impossible hoops we jumped through, while those with privilege have the pustule-infested balls to then blame the poor for being jobless and poor.

The ability to afford to be well-groomed enough to “pass as middle class” in order to be socially accepted by the upper-middle class in order to have any chance at all for getting a job—as slim and elusive as that is with barriers of age discrimination, sex discrimination and vicious classism—is a luxury that is out of reach for me as a poor older marginalized woman who was never able to win at the whole getting hired at a job thing. No matter what I tried or how hard I tried throughout my life, it was never good enough to make me “worthy” of a chance for a job. It doesn’t even pay to try when you’re from the very bottom of the social heap—nobody else will ever accept you or cut you a break anyway. I’d have gotten just as far in life with a lot less pain and aggravation NOT trying.

Getting a job—after struggling to get an education and teaching yourself computer programming around hunger, cold and utility shut-offs and life-threatening health crises without access to medical care—is a convoluted middle class ritual of secret passwords, mannerisms, and life experiences that the poor have been excluded from. And THAT is by deliberate intent on the part of class-privileged gatekeepers who feel it is their “divine right” to bar poor marginalized women’s entry into the middle class fold.

I may not have any middle class “soft skills”, but I’m not so stupid that I don’t see just how rigged the system is. I experienced and observed this classist, sexist, misogynous “Me First” male-dominated society in its shit-stained underwear—not its fancy lecture suit.

The very short-lived Great Society programs “failed” because they were sabotaged by the servants of privilege and power: privileged academicians from elite universities, policymakers, Congress and every president after LBJ. The sabotaging of anti-poverty programs began almost immediately after LBJ implemented them, thanks to the middle class/rich white male dominated political climate that has always been deeply entrenched in this country.

Upper-middle class academicians deliberately stood on their privileges to lead the War on the Poor, particularly against poor women, starting with the Moynihan report. The Moynihan report not only racialized poverty to the point of pathologizing female poverty (especially white female poverty—we’re just “poor white trash”), it also dehumanized ALL of the poor in general.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s report was influenced heavily by Harvard urbanologist, Edward C. Banfield who was a “leading scholar of his generation.” Banfield was also one of Moynihan’s drinking buddies. According to Banfield, “the poor have no interest in the public good” and are “pre-occupied with having sex.”

Banfield held that the only way to ensure that the poor got chances for jobs was to abolish the minimum wage. He also suggested that the only way to get rid of poverty was to get rid of the poor—preferably by “auctioning off poor women’s babies to the highest normal class bidder.”

Banfield not only influenced Moynihan’s report, he also served as an advisor to former presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan.

Since Ivy League academia as a bastion of privilege produced “scholarship” claiming that poor women couldn’t keep their legs shut because of the lower class’s “pre-occupation with having sex”, it’s no wonder that America’s privileged classes decided that prostitution was the only thing poor women were good for.

When Clinton “ended welfare as we know it” in 1996, nothing was done to ensure that this country’s poorest women would be welcomed into middle class jobs during those “better times” when there were a lot more jobs to go around than there are today.

Nothing was done to remedy the problem of sex discrimination in hiring/firing/ promotion/pay.

Nothing was done to ensure that poor women being thrown off of their measly $4K annual AFDC aid, which never was enough to live on, would have access to advanced educations, apprenticeships, and have any legally enforceable and protected right to a toehold onto even the lowest rung of the middle class jobs ladder.

Nothing was ever done to guarantee 100% full employment for all who are able to work so that nobody—regardless of age, race, gender or disability—would be socially and economically excluded and left unable to economically fend for themselves.

All of the funding cuts to welfare and the elimination of other social programs for the poor starting with Reagan leading up to Clinton’s Welfare Reform was a real boon for pimps, trafficking rings, and johns—men with middle class incomes who use their money to enrich pimps by buying rape tickets, who are nothing but socially shielded child rapists if we’re going to be honest about it. [According to a 2014 study by the Urban Institute, the average pimp in the US makes $32,000 PER WEEK]

These same rape ticket buyers are also the most ardent opponents of equal opportunity employment laws with teeth and any legitimate welfare social safety net for the jobless poor—things that would greatly reduce (if not eliminate) the number one condition of vulnerability that forces poor women and girls into homelessness and puts them at high risk of being trafficked: Absolute poverty due to structural oppression and systemic economic/job discrimination.

Our domestic sex trafficking crisis in The US is one of the most shameful, darkest legacies of America’s War on the Poor because poor women and girls were not merely collateral damage in these past 40+ years of the War on the Poor—we were the primary target.

Those with the most privileges in this country say “well why aren’t the poor dying in the streets like over in the slums of Mumbai?” without looking at the countless POOR WOMEN who died out on the streets of America that were written off as “No Human Involved” as official police procedure on official homicide reports because of being “only prostitutes” by cops—who often extort money and “free samples” from poor prostituted/trafficked women while these same fascist jackbooted thugs are enjoying middle class incomes, job security plus medical and dental benefits, paid vacations, and pension plans.

And of course, no one questioned how/why so many poor women and girls got pressed into prostitution in the first place, either—they already knew the answer to that. Society already decided long ago that the gutter and an early grave was the only place poor women deserved ans should ever be allowed to have.

I don’t know how many of my fallen trafficked/prostituted sisters’ bodies have gone unclaimed in morgues after their deaths didn’t even make a blip on the news. Nobody has been counting them. Nobody ever cared.

For those tiny few of us who managed to escape and survive, I don’t know of more than two who ever made it to even the lowest rung of the middle class. We’re mostly all poor. We’re STILL treated as sub-humans and denied jobs and looked down on as garbage by everybody else in society—even those of us who are accomplished self-published authors, even those of us who managed to get educations and built high tech skills around the obstacles of extreme, soul-crushing poverty.

You would not believe the degree of danger and the constant threats of harm that are aimed at the few of us who escaped and survived. For speaking our truths, we get doxxed, stalked, threatened, slandered and discredited—by very privileged people with upper-middle class jobs and the luxury of lots of free time to spend attacking poor trafficking survivors who dare to hold personal fundraisers as our only way of getting any money to be able TO survive.

We literally have NO support at all. Not socially, economically, or otherwise.

But plenty of middle class issue tourists have no problem using poor trafficking survivors’ stories and this ’cause’ as a platform for boosting their own upper-middle class careers while those of us who actually suffered and who still are being denied our basic human rights aren’t getting any of the benefits as these privileged status-climbers are padding their resumes along with their wallets at our expense while doing fuck-all for us

Nobody cares about us. They never did. Those who’ve “got theirs” want poor, marginalized women dead. They never let us get chances for jobs, and they won’t even let us survive with just a little bit of basic human fuckin’ dignity—because “their taxes.”

And of course, not a single middle class raindrop ever believed they were responsible for causing the flood.

Systems of oppression do not happen by accident in a fit of collective absent-mindedness; they’re upheld and perpetuated by deliberate intent. And that deliberate intent is all about preserving privileges for some at the expense of others—those without privilege.

Systemic oppression is a privilege transfer vehicle that serves up the human rights of consumable, disposable people in economies of scale. Privilege occupies the space where someone else’s human and social rights belong.

Every poor dead trafficked and prostituted woman and teen who wouldn’t have been trafficked or otherwise forced into prostitution in the first place if not for a real lack of equal opportunity and the absence of an adequate economic safety net—are the dead albatrosses that the Left should hang around every middle class and rich liberal’s necks, starting with both of the Clintons.

As for the misogynist far Right, we already know they’re sexist, racist, fascist, scum—including every boot-licking misogynistic self-propelled shitcannon who supports their policies and votes for them. We got the memo on them decades ago, as we saw liberals and Democrats getting pulled farther and farther to the Right as a result of their political “pragmatism” in every compromise they’ve made with the Right. We now effectively have one political party with two right wings: Republican-Lite and Teapublican. (And THIS is what upper-middle class/rich liberals call “progress.”)

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Jobless Women, the Economically Disappeared, Betrayed by Progressives and Petty Bourgeoisie Feminists Again

August 5, 2011

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

The middle class “feminists” who claim to be allies of their poorest and most downtrodden “sisters” haven’t a clue what a poor woman’s daily struggle in deep poverty is like.

Even the most generous, non-materialistic middle class “allies” of America’s poorest women refused to comprehend or accept the poor welfare mother’s preoccupation with their very urgent and pressing need for money.

Most of these so-called allies, who have never lived the savage realities of destitution and being among the ranks of America’s economically disappeared, viewed poor women’s concerns about money as an “entitlement mentality.”

Petty bourgeois feminists referred to poor single mothers as “con artists” who wanted to get money for “doing nothing”, accusing poor women of “only getting pregnant for the welfare check” — buying into the sexist, patriarchal capitalist idea that pregnancy and childbirth is “nothing” for women to go through even though pregnancy and childbirth complications still kill more women in the US than in many other countries, and that the unpaid work that women have always traditionally done is “nothing”; that home-making, care-taking or child-raising isn’t “work.”

What care-takers do IS work — just ask anyone who has ever had to choose between their McJob or their sick child, or forego a job search in order to take care of an aging parent or a terminally ill spouse (or domestic partner). And mothers need a hell of a lot more than a cheap box of chocolates and a ten cent Mothers’ Day card. Poor women need money.

Yet, because of being sold out or abandoned altogether by Eurocentric middle class feminists, America’s poorest of the poor — women on welfare (before Welfare Reform eliminated AFDC and reduced benefits) — found themselves in situations where those who didn’t have to live with the consequences of “pragmatism” and political “compromise” were the ones defining the situation.

There’s a huge difference between the slightly better off working class guy in temporary poverty who just needs a job and a chronically poor woman who has been out of the job market for many years, serving as a care-giver or as a sole parent. Care-givers and mothers really need, and deserve, an adequate income.

Yet, as the Reagan Revolution’s War on the Poor right along up to Clinton’s Welfare Reform Act, which was driven by most middle class “feminists”, each subsequent part of “welfare reform” grew more punitive as America’s poorest women were told by suburban-dwelling soccer mom feminists who claimed to be allies, that poor women on welfare had to be “pragmatic” because “compromise” via benefit reductions and 2-5 year time limits coupled with “work requirements” were necessary. But all of those pragmatic “compromises” were no compromise at all because America’s poorest women got nothing but subjected to economic terrorism with a proverbial gun pointed right at our heads. We gained nothing at all, and lost all the way around.

The final slap in the face was that there wasn’t even a guaranteed right to a living wage job as part of this “welfare reform.” No one knows exactly how many poor, hard-to-employ women remained jobless and were plunged into homelessness and utter destitution after being thrown off of welfare at the end of their 5 year lifetime benefit limit. Homeless people have been criminalized and driven underground, including children, who were also denied a basic public education for lack of an address.

Middle class “feminists” ignored that issue, after talking down to their poorer “sisters”, lecturing us on the need to be “pragmatic.” Well, with poor people’s life expectancy rates, preventable blindness and other disability rates, infant death rates, and maternal mortality rates that have now surpassed those in several other Third World countries; we see exactly what middle class pragmatism gets us.

This is what happens when middle class “allies” and activists lead and run social justice movements, presuming the right to “speak for” the poor. They think they’re the only ones qualified for the job to act as brokers and middle-men for the poor, and that their class status gives them that qualification. Others end up having to suffer the losses they personally won’t ever have to live with (or die from). And they expect poorer people to do all of the really hard, thankless and unpaid work while they get to speak at all the events, collect all the honorariums, get all the media attention and press coverage, and take all the credit for brokering the deal.

But they don’t want to do all of the unglamorous, energy-sapping and time consuming and grinding work of survey-taking and petition-signing, and doing what it takes to get 200 people to a rally. And that does take a lot of work. All those people don’t just show up simply because they saw someone’s name on a flyer!

While the bourgeois feminists’ movement was preoccupied with battling lifestyle-related issues, poor women have been fighting in the trenches for our rights to equal access to societal resources and benefits — including equal rights to the living wage jobs and equal pay. We didn’t care if we could burn our bras or publicly make out with a partner of the same sex. We care about being able to survive. We’re struggling for equal access to adequate employment, educations, and for the legitimization of income support as compensation and recognition for care-givers and mothers.

The class restrictions that kept white middle class women in the kitchen wasn’t our reality; poverty, racism, and sexism was. Although NOW made an official statement saying it was committed to protecting the now-extinct miserly and inadequate safety net of AFDC, including abortion and dental care covered by Medicaid for poor women, the majority of NOW ‘s petty bourgeoisie membership didn’t follow through. The rights of gays and lesbians to marry (albeit an important right) was far more important than poor women’s fundamental human right to life, to adequate food, utilities, shelter, a job and/or income support, and to birth control and abortion access and the right to medical and dental care — all of which are life and death matters for poor women.

In wandering into the morass of the trivial issues of bra-burning and trashing Playboy, petty bourgeoisie feminists completely betrayed the struggle for women’s most fundamental human rights and that has had a devastating impact on the lives of poor women without jobs or any means of income support.

Women suffering the real oppression of daily economic terrorism that poverty is, including the repercussions of forced pregnancy and forced childbirth-promoting laws that led to the criminalization of miscarriages and stillbirths, and the conscription of poor women into reproductive chattel slavery at peril to our health, wellbeing and lives — all of this has been ignored by middle and upper class feminists.

What they won’t ever admit is that they have benefited from the ongoing oppression and exploitation of their much poorer “sisters.” They never intended for poor women to benefit from all that equality they were seeking for themselves.

They’ve been silent for over 30 years since the passage of the Hyde Amendment in 1976 followed by the Rapists’ Rights Lobby’s “conscience clause” and “fetal personhood” laws that have cropped up over the last 20 years, and the decimation of the meager and inadequate safety net that welfare was prior to 1996 when Slick Willy eliminated welfare as we know it, plunging 14 million poor single mothers into instant destitution and homelessness under the guise of “tough love.”

There is no comparison between the “quiet desperation” of affluent women like the late Princess Diana of Wales who got tricked into miserable marriages with over-privileged inbred crowned heads or members of the financial aristocracy merely to serve as an incubator for the economic cannibal class’s parasitic progeny after buying into the Cinderella-Prince Charming myth and wanting all that royalty has to offer, versus the very real crushing and life-endangering exploitation and abuse suffered by poor women and girls from the underclass — like 15 year-old Rennie Gibbs, who began her life imprisonment sentence this 4th of July (ironically, on the day American’s celebrate “Independence”) by a Mississippi court for the “crime” of delivering a premature stillborn, thanks to all of the “pro-life” laws and a Christian Right state in which there is no Planned Parenthood or any abortion clinic.

We still do not know anything about the male co-conceiver, such as whether he drank or did drugs which resulted in defective sperm which could have precipitated a miscarriage or stillbirth. We don’t even know if the sex (or the resultant pregnancy) was consensual.

But nobody cares about the plight of poor women, especially those of us who have been marginalized and excluded from the workforce for two or more generations — due in no small measure to the stigma of poverty and all the other barriers of classism that go with that which serve as obstacles to beat poor women down over and over and over, as vacuous middle class spoiled brats who are lucky enough to have good jobs tell us that no matter what we’ve tried to do to be “deserving” of a chance, we’re not doing anything right, not trying hard enough, not responsible, or just plain not good enough.

Dealing with issues of race and gender doesn’t meant you’ve dealt with classism and unearned privilege. There’s a world of difference between the working poor who struggle to get by from paycheck to paycheck who are one car breakdown away from losing everything and the very poor who’ve been trapped by generational poverty and all of the stigma and obstacles to getting a job (when there’s never been enough jobs for everyone anyway) that chronic poverty imposes.

The long-term poor who have been excluded and marginalized suffer the worst; neglected and abandoned on the outer fringes of society, struggling in destitution outside of the “primary labor market” of steady jobs. Those who are lucky enough to have enjoyed steady employment think that those of us with nothing in chronic poverty lack work ethic and discipline.

But it takes a hell of a lot more work ethic and discipline to survive even just one day in our lives, than it does to simply show up and perform some tasks assigned by some boss at an office.

Try scrounging money for food or a utility bill by salvaging scrap metal off the street in all kinds of weather, stripping wire until your hands are bleeding and calloused, and getting all cut up from handling scrap metal for 80 hrs/week just to get maybe only $100 (or whatever meager price the salvage yards feel like paying out based on prices that they set, depending on what the metals commodity brokers dictate). Then come and talk to me about “being responsible” and your “work ethic.”

Try having to live like that, hoping to get enough money to put towards a cheap prepaid cell phone just so you have a means of communication for things like being able to call the police or fire department in an emergency, or being able to keep trying to get a job while suffering from dental problems that you can’t get treated because you have no money and no job with dental benefits — never mind maybe eventually being able to repay that unaffordable student loan debt you incurred in hopes of being “worthy” of a chance for a job so you could climb out of poverty before getting “too old” for anyone to hire.

And of course, those of us in poverty who tried to do “all the right things” get nothing but slapped in the face by middle class snobs who always tell us how “irresponsible” we are if we have no income and have no way to document the fact that we have no income to the satisfaction of some snippy rude middle class bureaucrat at the student loan servicing center, and therefore we’re told we can’t qualify for any deferment or income-contingent repayment plan.

Middle class snobbishness and pragmatism blinds society’s more fortunate and luckily employed from that savage reality of poverty and classism. For those of us who have never had a moment’s comfort and security throughout our entire lives, pragmatism is merely a license for maintaining a status quo in which nothing ever gets better for us and there is no hope that anything will ever change.

Middle class (and often working class) pragmatism really amounts to “how can I get a better deal for ME” by using those of us at the very bottom as their poster child to further their own agenda while never sticking by the poor to help us get a better deal, too. Instead, we get jettisoned the minute they get a few token bones tossed their way. And what do chronically poor women get? Nothing. Or worse.

We get our food stamps and Medicaid cut, our LIHEAP funding cut while utilities skyrocket and things like heat in the winter or a hot shower are unattainable luxuries. Now we got our social security cut, and we lost our access to reliable birth control through Planned Parenthood as defunding Title X caused them to close their doors in several states already.

Chronically poor and jobless women like those of us from generational poverty were never included or accepted in the job market even during the “better times” — and we’re supposed to grateful to our middle class “benefactors” for their “wins” of pragmatism that always benefit everybody else except us? For us, these are life and death realities; not a tally of “wins” in the game of political football.

Until middle class feminists and the steadily employed working class “social justice activists” realize this and deal with their classism, they will continue to alienate the very poor and lose what little bit of trust we may have had in them in the first place. They have yet to do right by their poorest and most marginalized “sisters.” I won’t hold my breath in hopes that they ever will.

Because poor people never win in coalitions. Cross-class coalitions mean using the chronically jobless poor for the ends of middle class people. Those of us from generational poverty were never meant to be included. So what’s the point in voting when we’re always neglected or offered up as the convenient sacrificial lambs at first chance?

While women lucky enough to have a job, even if only a crappy one, can now get their birth control through Obamacare without co-pays, chronically poor women without jobs (or any chance of ever being able to get one) have lost everything with cuts in Medicaid and Planned Parenthood closings, leaving us with nothing — not even basic maternity and post-partum care to at least reduce the already higher chances of death and disability for us as a result of having no options other than carrying unwanted pregnancies to term. And for this, we’re supposed to be grateful to our middle class “saviors?” When we get a share of the pie for once and get access to real choices and options, then we’ll do the victory dance, too.


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

Classism For Dimwits Updated Edition is Out!

December 29, 2010

Classism For Dimwits - the new revised updated edition

The updated edition of Classism For Dimwits is now available as of December 29th, 2010.

This new edition has updated information from 2008 on forward through the present year and month, along with a more thorough source citations and about 100 new pages of additional new material that I was able to crunch down to fit into 368 pages by altering the margin width and going from a size 12 Times New Roman font to a size 11.

The new material reflects much more information on the utilities shut-off crisis in states where utilities have already been deregulated, and also cites current representation of the Great Depression II that was not in my earlier edition that was written and published in 2007.

Although Amazon takes awhile to upload books’ images and updated annotations from the printers and publishers, it is also available through Amazon. And it is also available through Barnes & Noble online as well.

For anyone who has been following me on Alternet and here who would like to get a copy of this updated edition of Classism For Dimwits, you can buy a signed copy directly from me using PayPal, or by mailing a check or money order.

To buy by check/money order, send to:

Jacqueline S. Homan
816 E. 26th Street
Erie, PA 16504

Skype: 330-238-6951

By PayPal, remit funds to me via PayPal via my email:

jacquelinehoman7@gmail.com

Hardcover edition is $23.00 + $3.57 Shipping & Handling (media mail) USD
Paperback edition is $17.95 + $3.57 Shipping & Handling (media mail) USD

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.

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.

An Untold History of Organized Labor’s Inconvenient Truths

October 25, 2010

Jacqueline S. Homan - Feminine Defiance

On the progressive site UnionBook.org, a seemingly sincere union organizer from Canada, Blaine Donais, asked me some thought-provoking questions that have deep and complex answers — painful, but truthful ones. In response to my article on classism, he asked me:

” I am curious to know, since it is your view that unions have been co-opted, what you think of unionized employees? I ask this because I have a theory of my own on this matter. I believe that unionism in North America has in essence created a new class of employees whom many see as privileged – that is the unionized employee. This is the only employee left with defined benefits pension plans, pay for overtime work, and rights in the workplace. Other employees (especially in the US it seems) regard unionized employees as privileged and thus the subject of derision.

It always surprises me to see read or hear from non-unionized employees, that unions are just thugs and bullies and only protect themselves – that they have no care for the work or lives of others – that in essence they are acting like a privileged class lording it over the unionized masses. Yet when I go to union functions, it seems the primary desire of many is to improve the lot of unionized employees either through minimum standards legislation or by organizing them. UFCW for example took a run at the Ontario Government over the exclusion of farm workers from the right to unionize. At least in my view, they improved the lot of farm workers immeasurably by doing so.

It is hard to deny that there is a considerable difference between the lives of most unionized employees and those who are not unionized. Does this make unionized employees a privileged class?”

And here is my well-detailed answer to Blaine’s very valid questions.

What I think and what I have to say to answer your question is a lot of inconvenient truths that those who are comfortably off and securely employed as well-paid union workers don’t want to hear.

A lot of union workers who are middle class white males never gave a damn about those of us who are hungry, who are/have been homeless, who lost all our natural teeth before age 35 due to lack of access to medical and dental care, who never got a chance to have anything at all in this country — a nation whose bedrock was rooted in racial and gender inferiority, economic oppression (colonialism), and the exploitation of poor women who are at the bottom of every pile.

They refuse to acknowledge how their unearned privileges (male privilege, white privilege, and class privilege) work against someone like me — a very poor woman from the Underclass. For the most part, union workers are overwhelmingly white middle class men who got into their good jobs by virtue of race privilege, gender privilege, and having an “in” — i.e., knowing the “right” person willing to help them get a union card.

Meanwhile, these same middle class white men railed against Affirmative Action — the only measure that ensured that a meager 2% of all the good-paying union jobs went to women while 10% went to non-whites. Those who automatically got 90% of all the good jobs and opportunities in this country cried victim if those of us on the receiving end of discrimination and exclusion got very, very little.

I find it ironic that those who’ve benefited unfairly at the expense of poor women and minorities from an entire matrix of unearned privileges and nepotism — the “White Guys’ Affirmative Action program” — which ensured that the favored, dominant group got the lions’ share of all the good jobs and vocational choices, complained about poor women and minorities getting a miserly inadequate slice of the pie.

Given that women comprise over half of the population, it is beyond grossly unfair for us to be begrudged and denied proportional opportunities for the good jobs — especially since we don’t get to pay less for the things we need to be able to live than men. And it’s not like those white men with the good-paying jobs were lining up to marry and economically support poor women (and our kids) to lift us out of poverty and utter misery and hopelessness.

Instead, they frequently exploited us as sex trophies and told us that we should be “grateful” if they bought us a cheap meal, or put a five dollar bill in our G-strings.

Based on my experiences and observations, I’ve found that an overwhelming number of union workers getting middle class wages are white males with a sense of entitlement — they’re the only ones deserving of anything while it’s perfectly okay for poor women to starve, be homeless, be without utilities, be without medical and dental care, exploited and abused, cheated out of paltry child support, and then deprived of even the miserly safety net that AFDC once was before that got eliminated by the Welfare Reform Act of 1996.

There isn’t much difference between middle class white collar professionals and the overwhelmingly white male blue collar middle class union workers. Both have taken food and other economic needs away from the poor. , 84% whom are women, because both are self-important middle class greeds who only care about themselves and they both identify with the bourgeois. So long as they’re comfortable and their own seat is secure within the socio-economic hierarchy of our capitalist system, they could care less and they grow increasingly intellectually lazy. They don’t want to know about injustices faced by other people. All is fine in their own little world.

The unemployed union workers getting far more in unemployment benefits than poor women who work two minimum wage jobs with no health benefits got their middle class unemployment benefits extension paid for with cuts and slated future elimination of food stamps for destitute women, children, the disabled, and the low-income elderly. They get to live a nice life, but they cry poverty with two loaves of bread under their arms while we get to suffer and starve — and unlike them, we don’t have a lifetime worth of middle class doo-dads bought on middle class union wages to sell on eBay to get money to live until someone maybe feels like giving us chances for jobs so we don’t have to go hungry.

Unions, especially the skilled trades and manufacturing unions, are just as responsible as the rich for creating a destitute Underclass by oppressing poor women because they discriminated against us for union memberships and for getting a chance in life for living wage jobs with dignity that didn’t entail having to dance naked or trade sexual favors just to get money to eat and a place to live.

They’re the ones who helped create all those poor welfare mothers whom they despise — poor women who have been denied equal opportunities for decent paying blue-collar jobs, after being abandoned while pregnant without medical care and then left with children to raise while rarely getting enough money in child support.

They complain about their “hard-earned money” being taxed to support “welfare queens” and “able-bodied SSI cheats.”

They voted for racist, sexist and misogynistic Congressmen and US presidents like Reagan, Bush Sr., and the Shrub who won elections by cutting social programs for the poor and dismantling any measures that tried to provide equal opportunities for poor women and minorities. Union workers’ votes raised lawmakers and presidents to office who promised them an array of middle class goodies and tax cuts at the expense of the “undeserving” poor. Of course, those same pro-capitalist leaders then turned around and began the assault on organized labor after greasing the skids for organized labor’s middle class white male majority to throw those of us at the very bottom — poor women and children on welfare and poor disabled people on SSI — to the sharks in exchange for their “lentil soup.”

"Classism For Dimwits" by Jacqueline S. Homan

They sacrificed us because they identified with the bourgeoisie and sided with them out of personal greed and hatred for the poor who have been economically excluded by discrimination and a real lack of enough living wage jobs to go around for everybody who needed a job. So these union workers who had their nice life didn’t give a shit about those of us with absolutely nothing, and no chances to ever get anything either.

Their votes for presidents and lawmakers, who made their pile by hurting the poor, brought us 30 years of abusive social and economic policies that are called “Benign Neglect” in polite circles. But make no mistake about it, those policies were not “benign.”

Union workers with economic security who comprised part of the economic middle class were no different than the rest of the middle class — everything was all about “ME ME ME.” Middle class voters whose votes resulted in this nation’s poorest and most downtrodden being thrown under the bus with the elimination of CETA and other social programs that were the poor’s only economic lifeline, overwhelmingly supported and cheered the Welfare Reform Act of 1996. This was not the result of a momentary absence of mind.

Good-paying white male dominated union jobs, in addition to all the other good jobs this nation enjoyed during the Clinton administration, largely did not go to poor women being booted off of welfare who faced the “gender penalty” in addition to significant barriers to decent jobs due to classism — the most deeply entrenched but least challenged bigotry in the US.

The overwhelming majority of workers with middle class wages and benefits never wanted poor women to be able to climb out of grueling poverty and join their ranks because they viewed us as competition for “their” jobs. If they hadn’t felt this way, the Equal Rights Amendment would have been passed (among other things).

Union organizers, leaders, and membership bodies begrudged us welfare, voted for Congressmen and presidents who cut our throats, while denying us a chance for the good life as union workers. All the rules about joining the unions were set up to favor white middle class males who hadn’t been excluded by a legacy of discrimination for training and employment opportunities. Unreasonable prior work experience requirements, heavy lifting requirements for job descriptions where such activities are not a BFOQ, and countless other requirements that had little to do with whether or not someone was qualified for a chance for a job and union membership were contrived to deliberately exclude poor women from opportunities.

Unions, their leaders, members, et al, were part of the middle class problem. The good life erased their memory. The middle class — unionized or not — who were Reagan’s electoral foot soldiers begrudged miserly inadequate AFDC benefits for the poor, but demanded that the poor be thrown off the dole and get jobs. The middle class were/are overwhelmingly a bunch of greedy, insecure backstabbers who were only concerned with ensuring their own position was comfortable within the capitalist system — a system in which somebody always has to be at the bottom, in which there has to be “losers” in order for there to be “winners.” Typically, the “winners” were men.

The lawmakers and president who passed the Welfare Reform Act of 1996 knew it. So did unions and their members who were part of the “new” middle class.

In a capitalist society where the economic law of supply and demand does not operate in a vacuum, where markets are artificially manipulated by the rich and powerful, there exists a lot of unearned privileges for some members of society at the expense of others. Unions and their individual members don’t seek to challenge the unfairness in that reality.

Welfare Reform was a one-sided policy that put a unilateral obligation on the most socio-economically underprivileged to get jobs — any job. But there was no conciliatory gesture by unions to voluntarily welcome and include these poor single moms — or any other poor women for that matter — into the fold and let us join the ranks of middle class union workers. And there was no requirement under the Welfare Reform Act obligating the unions to do so. There was also no requirement for employers to hire poor disadvantaged women who had been on welfare for many years for lack of any appropriate or real equal opportunity for good-paying blue-collar jobs, which rapidly disappeared throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s.

Middle class gatekeepers in union organizational structures and in employers’ human resources departments alike viewed the poor as “the Other” due in no small measure to decades of indoctrination with deficit theory ideology such as the “culture of poverty” school, which blamed the poor for their misfortune for being “morally defective”, rather than acknowledge that poverty and inequality of opportunity as the culprit.

Welfare Reform did not include a guaranteed right to a living wage job (or any job at all), but it placed a lifetime benefit limit of five years and drastically slashed benefit amounts. And the unions were silent. Neither their leaders, organizers, nor worker members uttered a peep about that. They had theirs, tough luck for those of us who never got a chance to get ours. For that, they have blood on their hands. All of them.

On the eve of the passing of the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, there were 14 million AFDC recipients comprising 5 million families — almost all who were poor single mothers and children with no other means of economic support and opportunity, and no resources built into their lives. Less than 1% of AFDC recipients were able-bodied men. Eliminating paltry sub-poverty AFDC benefits was defended by comfortably off union workers along with the rest of middle class America as a way of getting “baby makers” and “leeches” off the public dole (which was never enough to live on).

Welfare was never an adequate solution to the problems inflicted on the poor by a patriarchal capitalist society. But eliminating welfare without providing other realistic opportunities and alternatives was a worse solution. Some in the poor people’s rights camp have even likened Welfare Reform to the “Final Solution” for the poor because in the US, being poor is often a death sentence just based on the lack of access to medical and dental care alone.

This society has serious issues with classism, and classism has two daughters: sexism and racism. Classism is capitalism’s greatest social and economic harm.

Capitalism is based on unearned privileges and entitlement, and as you go up the economic ladder, the attitudes of self-importance and entitlement increase. This naturally follows the rate of capital accumulation, which increases at a greater rate as one moves up the income scale. And the micro mirrors the macro. But we never talk about the culture of capitalism; the culture of greed and getting ahead at all costs that is pervasive among the middle class — including well-paid blue-collar union workers and union organizational leadership, which has a white male face — who think they have a “divine right” to always come first.

We have a culture of capitalism that promotes and maintains classism. We have a capitalist 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 discarded, labeled as “the Other”, devalued, disrespected, and unacknowledged. We’re not even seen as being human enough for harm to us to matter. The culture of capitalism is centered on the notion that wealth and unearned privilege (race, gender, and class privilege) is sacrosanct, that only the “fittest” deserve anything and to hell with those of us who have been socially and economically excluded. Unions, their bodies and individual members, are content to operate under the status quo within the culture of capitalism.

Capitalism is an Architecture of Aggression

This all arose out of the “second purges” in the 1930’s and 1940’s where unions expelled anyone remotely suspect of Communist politics and socialist leanings from their ranks. Unions made a deal with the devil, and they became indifferent and even hostile to the equally valid needs and claims of others among the ranks of the poor and working classes. Unions sought to protect their own at the expense of many less fortunates, which created divisions among the working class and poor, and left very deep wounds that cannot be readily dismissed with admonitions along the lines of “just get over it and move on.”

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!


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