Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

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.

Freedom in the Homeland

June 7, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Classism For Dimwits" by Jacqueline S. Homan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing You Can Posses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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