Posts Tagged ‘poor’

For Our Own Good, or Their Own Ego?

December 12, 2010

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

It never ceases to amaze me how obtuse the beneficiaries of unearned privilege are about the plight of America’s poor, or to the depth of hatred aimed at the multitudes of their fellow citizens in poverty who have to use food stamps.

This is not solely the purview of conservatives who wear their contempt for poor women, children and the disabled on their sleeves; displaying their classism as proudly as if it were a Congressional Medal of Honor. It is rampant among middle class progressives as well — except they’re more duplicitous about it. They hide it within the matrix of pet liberal causes under false pretenses of promoting healthier eating habits among the poor.

They aim their malevolence at the poorest of the poor who rely on food stamps and unhealthy donated non-perishables from food pantries. Those foods are loaded with starch and carbohydrates, which causes Type II diabetes and obesity.

Rather than target “Big Ag” conglomerates who are heavily subsidized with “welfare handouts” twice — first by taxes, and second by taxpayers’ food purchases — middle class progressives and conservatives act in concert to push punitive policies to make the poor even more miserable. Punishing the poor is easier than promoting policies that would enable poor food stamp recipients to buy fresh produce from local farmers, whose prices are three times as high as the chemical and starch loaded foods from Big Ag conglomerates that you can buy at Wal-Mart’s.

Local farmers do not accept food stamps for their expensive “free range” chicken and eggs, and their organic produce that the poor can’t afford at prices which are three times as high as the less-healthy foods in the local Wal-Mart’s — not that the middle class ever cared about that.

But instead of addressing those issues, middle class liberals aim to punish the poor by further curtailing their already restricted food options, which are really a Hobson’s Choice. The time-honored middle class tradition of “let’s make the poor even more miserable” was openly embraced in Alternet’s recent article, “Should Food Stamps Be Used For Soda?” The gist of the article was that poor people on food stamps shouldn’t be allowed to buy any cheap snacks or beverages with the SNAP benefits. Poor people get nothing to enjoy as it is, but it’s OK to deprive them of even cheap beverages and snacks because “it’s for their own good.” Having any solace in the enjoyment of any small comforts is not.

Someone getting food stamps doesn’t get enough to be able to buy a month’s worth of groceries, even when stretching their food stamps by buying the 2-day old stale baked goods and 2-liter bottles of soda on sale at 3 for $5. The overwhelming response among Alternet’s largely middle/upper-middle class “progressive” posters was along the vein of “let the poor drink tap water if they can’t afford healthier and tastier beverages”, which is really nothing more than a polite form of Rush Limbaugh’s “let the poor learn how to dumpster dive if they’re hungry.” My all-time favorite is from South Carolina’s “pro-life” Lieutenant Governor, Andre Bauer, who proposed eliminating the school breakfast and lunch program for poor children in his state, saying that feeding the poor was like “feeding stray animals and encouraging them to breed.”

Those who hate the poor come in all political stripes, but are overwhelmingly from one socio-economic class: the middle and upper-middle classes who have unjustly benefited from a legacy of unearned privileges that are the hallmark of the capitalist paradigm, which was only successful because capitalism relies on a lot of slave labor and devalued work in society in order for it to be successful. Those whose work is the most devalued, who have provided the bulk of  “unimportant” work necessary for a capitalist society’s smooth functioning are women. The work women do is under-compensated precisely because it is women who do it. Everybody in society benefits from it, but takes it for granted while invalidating it. And giving moms a box of chocolates, flowers, and a card on one crummy day out of 365 designated as “Mothers’ Day” is an insultingly cheap kiss-off.

Yet, the taxes paid by poor women in this country — which poor women get the least benefit of — go towards disproportionately benefiting fascist militaristic police forces and military whose sole function is to protect capital and preserve this system of unearned privileges. And it is the middle and upper classes that benefit the most from this misogynistic command unit of the national security state which has always been used to brutally repress the poor here and abroad.

"Classism For Dimwits" by Jacqueline S. Homan

The middle class never had a problem with repression and capitalism’s other social ills until it hit them upside the snot-locker and forced them to reduce their own standard of living. They never had a problem with all the repression, inequality and unearned privileges that previously secured their own comfortable seat in the architecture of aggression of capitalism. As long as the rich were throwing them enough bones to mollify them, they didn’t even pretend to care about the well-being of the poor. And middle class liberals are just as selfish, sanctimonious, and self-centered as middle class neocons.

Middle class neocons got laws passed that restrict poor women’s access to affordable reliable contraception and abortion and middle class liberals’ response was tepid at best. Middle class neocons punish poor pregnant women, poor mothers, and poor children with draconian budget cuts to Pell grants, food stamps, LIHEAP, and Medicaid and pushed for the passage of “At-Will” employment laws which serve as a backdoor pass for employers to get away with job discrimination; disproportionately hurting poor women without any economic support in post-Welfare Reform America. Middle class liberals have no problem with that, contrary to what they tell the poor to our faces.

Middle class progressives quietly benefit from their right-wing counterparts’ agenda of pulling the ladder up and out of reach for the poor, including compulsory maternity to ensure poor women are kept poor and enslaved as childbirth chattel. Keeping poor women marginalized and excluded means fewer female PhD’s and well-paid skilled tradesmen — works out nicely for those who don’t want any real merit-based competition for the good jobs.

Poor women without reproductive choice and economic opportunity also make an even more economically desperate pool of prime candidates for exploitation as cheap “rent-a-womb” service — an inconvenient truth illustrated by the New York Times November 28th 2008 article, “Her Body, My Baby” .

White heterosexual middle class couples whose chic, slim and trim latte-sipping “career women” are too posh to trash their bodies and suffer all the discomfort and risks inherent with pregnancy and endure hours of excruciating pain tearing up their own bodies from stem to stern giving birth, benefit from a large pool of poorer and more desperate women whose bodies, lives, and well-being can be sacrificed for a song as cheap under-compensated surrogate reproductive livestock.

Of course, those in the middle/upper classes benefiting from this arrangement deny that it’s all about the money even though they reap all the gain without suffering any of the pain. They convince themselves that they really did all the work of becoming a mother because it was their eggs that were used in the process, even though it wasn’t their bodies getting permanently ruined in the gestation and birth process, which is fraught with unexpected risks — perfectly healthy women with health insurance become permanently disabled or die from childbirth in the US.

Maybe that’s part of what’s behind the latest assault on food stamp recipients by the middle class who justify beating up on the poor by further depriving them of already sparse food choices with this latest push to prohibit food stamp usage for cheap snacks and beverages. Force a semi-healthy diet to ensure that economically desperate women are “fit” for exploitation as cheap childbirth chattel. Increasing the pool of semi-healthy candidates for “rent-a-womb” service drives down the already insultingly cheap going rates for the commodity of poor women’s bodies.

Another sinister purpose is also achieved by the faux concern for poor people’s health: healthier organs to be harvested that only benefit the middle class and the rich. In states like Arizona, the poor on Medicaid and Medicare have been removed from waiting lists for life-saving organ transplants. The poor got a death sentence by budget cuts. Where was the indignant outcry from the officious middle class about that if they’re so concerned about improving poor people’s health?

Maybe it’s time every working class/poor American revokes their organ donor status from their drivers’ licenses and non-driving state photo ID’s. If we’re not good enough to have a real fair fighting chance for anything in this country with a guaranteed right to an education and a living wage job and a guaranteed right to decent health care and access to healthy foods and decent homes, then we’re not good enough for the “haves” and “have-mores” to benefit from our body parts. Fuck ’em.

The middle class, regardless of political stripe, has never been an ally for the poor. They do not seek equality outside of their own class. They do not want a partnership with poor people. They do not respect poor people. They seek paternalistic control to satisfy their own craven egos, and they often desire to exploit the less fortunate for their own political agenda. They don’t care about whether the poor get a chance in life or not. As far as they’re concerned, the poor are nothing but “useless eaters” that don’t deserve to live, much less have any happiness. The middle class is not ignorant and oblivious to the suffering and misery they inflict on the poor. They’re an oppressor class — just like the rich whom they emulate and aspire to become.

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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.

Classism and the Final Solution For the Poor

October 17, 2010

 

"Classism For Dimwits" by Jacqueline S. Homan

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14.7% from maternal and child health care

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

94% from rural and urban community service grants

81% from subsidized housing (HUD) for the poor

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

Benign Neglect and Welfare For the Comfortable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The “Final Solution” For the Poor

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

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

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

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

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


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