Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

Classism For Dimwits Updated Edition is Out!

December 29, 2010

Classism For Dimwits - the new revised updated edition

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

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

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

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

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

To buy by check/money order, send to:

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

Skype: 330-238-6951

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

jacquelinehoman7@gmail.com

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

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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.

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.

A Rose By Any Other Name is Still A Rose

December 2, 2010

"Classism For Dimwits" by Jacqueline S. Homan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capitalism’s Calculus Of Evil

December 2, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reality Check For the Middle Class:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pennsylvania:

Dauphin County — Swatara Township:

Britton Donachy, age 2

Onna Donachy, age 18 months

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

Cambria County — Hastings:

Delores “Dee” Holland, age 50

Jordan English, age 3

Alisha McConnell, age 15

Lindsey Depto, age 14

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

Lancaster County — Lancaster:

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

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

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

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

Rebecca Peterson, age 17 — a poor single mother

Douglas Peterson III, age 13

Isaac Peterson, age 8

Grace Peterson, age 6

Lillian Peterson, age 11 months

Domanic Delullo, age 4 (Elizabeth’s son)

Desiree Delullo, age 2 (Elizabeth’s daughter)

Jason Mowry, age 19 (Elizabeth’s fiancé)

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

Ramere Dosso, age 8

Mariam Dosso, age 6

Zyhire Wright-Teah, age 1

Elliot Teah, age 23 (Zyhire’s father)

Jennifer Teah, age 17 (Elliot’s sister)

Vivian Teah, age 25 (Elliot’s sister)

Henry Gbokoloi, age 54 (neighbor)

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

Natalie Rogers, age 2

Nevaeh Nunn, age 2

Keviana Morgan, age 1

Robert Charles, age 4

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

Bay City:

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

Detroit (July 2009):

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

Vaughn Reed, age 46

Mar’Keisha Reed, age 17

DeMarco Owens, age 12

DeMonte Owens, age 8

 

Detroit (Februrary 2010):

Marvin Allen, age 62

Tyrone Allen, age 61

Lynne Greer, age 58

 

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

Detroit (March 2010):

Trávion Young, age 5

Fantasia Young, age 4

Selena Young, age 3

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

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

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

According to the annual survey conducted by the National Energy Assistance Director’s Association (NEADA), 60% of LIHEAP recipients couldn’t pay their utility bills because they lost their jobs or had a reduction in income. NEADA said in its September 2010 letter to Congress that LIHEAP funding cuts “target the poorest and most vulnerable layers of society”: 92% of LIHEAP recipients have an elderly person, a disabled person, or a child in the home. Additionally, 21% suffer from severe respiratory ailments, including chronic bronchitis; 51% have a heart condition, and 46% have severe asthma.

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

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

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

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

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

We Are Not All in the Same Boat

November 30, 2010

Jacqueline S. Homan

We are not “all in this together.”

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

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

No, we are not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Untold History of Organized Labor’s Inconvenient Truths

October 25, 2010

Jacqueline S. Homan - Feminine Defiance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Classism For Dimwits" by Jacqueline S. Homan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capitalism is an Architecture of Aggression

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

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

October 22, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Classism For Dimwits" by Jacqueline S. Homan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

where :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being poor is never fitting in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being poor is having scars that will never heal.

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

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

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

Jacqueline S. Homan,

Author: Classism For Dimwits

Classism and the Final Solution For the Poor

October 17, 2010

 

"Classism For Dimwits" by Jacqueline S. Homan

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14.7% from maternal and child health care

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

94% from rural and urban community service grants

81% from subsidized housing (HUD) for the poor

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

Benign Neglect and Welfare For the Comfortable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The “Final Solution” For the Poor

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 28, 2010

By Jacqueline S. Homan, author: “Classism For Dimwits”

As someone who came from the underclass, this is not a new fight for me and the other 38 million Americans struggling to survive below the antiquated federal poverty guidelines. It is a bit of a shock for many of the formerly middle class that are nouveau pauvre who are now “feeling the love” that those of us who have struggled with poverty for most (if not all) of our lives have received.

Here’s how those of us from poverty who have been poor all along have experienced life (including shabby treatment from the middle class) and how we’ve seen things these past 30 years since the Reagan Revolution began in 1980.

One of the most common memes thrown in our faces since then has been and still is “Have you ever been employed by someone who is poor?” (i.e. it’s the rich who create the jobs)

The rich do not create jobs. they create profit and wealth for themselves by eliminating jobs, slashing/suppressing wages and benefits. This is referred to as “cutting costs” or “increasing the bottom line” (which benefits CEO’s and increased portfolio appreciation and dividend payouts for those able to afford to invest in equities through 401(k)’s and the like).

And as a matter of fact, the poor do create jobs and other forms of profit/income generation for the middle and upper classes who don’t even have to break a sweat for it.

"Classism For Dimwits" by Jacqueline S. Homan

The poor are deprived of access to living wage jobs in a jobs market in which there never, never, never were enough living wage jobs to go around for everyone in need of a job and who wanted one. The poor are denied access to living wage jobs with health benefits through credentialism (established by the owning class with collaboration from the middle class) while being denied access to the education and training they need to be employable at living wage jobs.

Employers use the credit report and FICO score and work history gaps to deny the poor jobs (even menial, poverty wage Wal-Mart jobs). This ensured that the middle class got all the jobs in our depleted jobs pool (which had been shrinking since 1980) while the poor — the underclass from the trailer parks and ghettos — got 100% economically excluded (with poor women being at the very bottom of every pile); and then demonized for our “lack of work ethic” — making us “undeserving” of even any paltry inadequate welfare benefits for being such jobless “losers” and “lazy bums.”

Meanwhile, middle class state employees — the bureaucrats at unemployment offices across the US  — told socio-economically disadvantaged job applicants in the most dire need of living wage jobs that “no one owes you a job” and have outright refused to even give us a job application for one of those union jobs as an $18/hr meter reader for the local utility companies.

The poor also provide middle class bureaucrats with comfortable office jobs as welfare caseworkers, children & youth social workers, detention center counselors, non-profit charity administrators, prison staff, and the list goes on. The middle class enjoy civil service jobs with benefits and job protection in all areas of employment centered on managing the poor — whom they despise, even though they’re getting their nice, secure, economically stable jobs and income off the backs of the very people they look down on with scorn and deride with contempt.

The poor overwhelmingly comprise the US prison population. Prisons are the largest “subsidized housing” program in the country that provides local, state, and federal middle class jobs in running the prison-industrial complex. The rich benefit the most from this via the civilian inmate labor program (AR-210-35) which is inmate slave labor — paid 22 – 47 cents an hour for making Victoria Secret lingerie, computer motherboards, and even data entry work and taking telephone reservations — all with no workers’ comp, no federal minimum wage, no social security withholding, no unemployment insurance, and no pesky unions or workers’ rights agitators.

The middle and upper classes are also subsidized by the poor by the Welfare Reform Act through its component known as Workfare in which the government subsidizes corporations for any Workfare labor. It’s a no rights, no minimum wage involuntary workforce of mostly desperately poor women that provides this cheap labor. Workfare employers pay only a fraction of the paltry federal minimum wage for each worker that is a poor welfare recipient on TANF. The rich get richer off of subsidized slave labor and the middle class benefits from cheap goods and better paying supervisory/managerial jobs overseeing the poor Workfare workers.

The poor who are disabled who are the lucky ones that weren’t denied disability benefits — those who are struggling to survive on $600/mo SSI, which isn’t enough to live on anywhere in the US — also provide hefty subsidies for the rich through exploitative “special minimum wage waivers.” These are “workshops” that do the jobs subcontracted from some of our biggest corporations and the jobs are mostly assembly line or piece work.

Any disabled person who ends up in one of these workshop jobs can be paid as little as $1.50/hr. Technically, the wages are supposed to reflect the actual rate or prevailing wage a non-disabled worker doing the same job would be paid. But in reality, the employer gets to decide whatever wage he wishes to pay.

The formula used by the government by which these slave wages reduce a disabled worker’s monthly SSI/SSDI benefit is such that if the disabled person’s job (paycheck) stops abruptly, there wouldn’t be enough left in SSI/SSDI benefits alone to even cover rent for a place to live. After a disabled worker’s employment ends at one of these “workshops”, it takes up to 6 months before their full SSI/SSDI benefits are restored — which very effectively keeps the disabled trapped in slave wage jobs programs.

America’s poor today have higher disability rates, lower life expectancy rates and higher maternal and infant mortality rates than people in many Third World countries due to a real lack of access to health care and any real safety net. Compounding the problem is that access to abortion and reliable contraception for poor people has dwindled greatly over the last 15 years, even though a destitute woman on welfare gets no prenatal care, no dental care (which is critical because the fetus harnesses all the woman’s organ systems and drains her body of calcium which leads to bone and tooth loss) , or additional help from welfare for a baby born while she’s already receiving paltry TANF benefits.

But the working class and the poor (you know, us “stray animals that will only breed if fed” while we’re denied abortions) aren’t reproducing a large enough reserve army of surplus labor and aren’t dying off fast enough to suit capitalism’s “winners.” And there are fewer and fewer “winners” and more and more “losers” in this No Pea shell game of a Serengeti economy than at any other point in American history since the Great Depression officially began 81 years ago.

The needs of the poor and working class are always disregarded, ignored, and shoved aside while political candidates  fawn over the middle class. The middle class has gotten (and still gets) all the attention paid to their grievances while the poor get nothing except told to “shut up and stop whining.”

Time after time these last 30+ years, the poor have been made to “take one for the team” by both political parties with the full blessing and support of the middle class.

Every time there’s sacrifices and compromises to be made, it’s always the poor who get offered up as the sacrificial lamb on the altar of capitalism with lots of hand-wringing and excuses by “progressives” and their organizations of “We’re sorry, but we had to compromise your needs otherwise we would have gotten nothing to address ours. Sorry if some people have to be left out, but if you wait your turn while we get our agenda met first, we can eventually negotiate for your needs next time.”

But there never is a “next time” and our turn never comes.

It’s extremely offensive and classist that the concept of “Joe the Plumber” and “Main Street” is used to insulate the middle class from the suffering of those who are far worse off. We always hear the battle cries of “Why is the government destroying the middle class?” and “The middle class is under attack!” and variations thereof — implying that “destroying the poor is perfectly OK, but threatening the middle class is going too far.”

The political elite, who are elected by middle class voters, aspire to be part of the owning class — the very same class that view the needs of the common people as an economic nuisance. (Note that the word “entitlement” is used as a derogatory weapon that is never applied to FEMA’s black budget or the Pentagon budget.)

Tax breaks essentially pay corporations to ship jobs out of America to the lowest and sleaziest bidder to places like Indonesia and El Salvador where workers are paid 15 cents an hour; lowering the tax base and stressing the social safety net (what’s left of it) and adding to the deficit.

There’s a double standard: the Golden Parachute for the rich and their whores in Congress, the Oval Office, and the US Supreme Court near the top of the economic ladder, and the Lead Anchor standard for the 98% on the lower and bottom rungs.

So why is it OK for the poor to be crushed underfoot, suffering in misery and deprivation with higher disability rates, maternal and infant mortality rates, and lower life expectancies — all due to lack of access to medical care and other basic human needs — than people in many Third World nations while only the grievances of the middle class matter?

If it’s not acceptable to destroy the middle class, then it’s not acceptable to destroy the poor.

If it’s not OK for middle class women and girls to be forced to work in the seedy sex industry under exploitative, dehumanizing and degrading conditions with no social security credits and other benefits due to job discrimination and lack of equal opportunity for jobs with dignity, why should it be OK for poor women and girls? If it’s not OK for your wives and daughters, it’s not OK for us.

If it’s not OK for middle class boys and men to fight in imperialist wars (that only serve the interests of the very rich) only to get blown up, maimed, and killed; then it’s not OK for our men either.

For over 30 years that fascist right-wing politicians (whose generous salaries, perks, travel expenses, Cadillac health care, and $90,000/yr retirement benefits are paid for by the public) worked to dismantle laws and social programs and safety nets that benefited the working class and the poor; the poor were promised a share of the pie if only we’d quietly wait our turn, hats in hand, after Reagan’s trickle-down economics first benefited the rich and the middle class.

But we never got our turn.

During every debate and discourse on universal health care, provisions in health care reform bills that would have helped the poor were jettisoned in the name of “compromise.” Those of us in poverty never got our turn after the middle class got what they wanted. We’re fed up and we’re through being polite because we can’t wait anymore. And we won’t. We’re sick and tired of being appointed to “take one for the team.” (And no, we will not “shut up and stop whining”, thank you very much.)

We stand on the precipice of irreversible catastrophe to humanity. We have an over privileged overclass of economic terrorists on Wall Street pulling the strings of their stooges in Congress and in the presidential cabinet like Steny Hoyer (D-MD) who wants to cut social security and his partner in crime, the head of the Catfood Commission, Al Simpson, who called the social security program a “milk cow with 310 million tits.”

Of course, both of those scumbags (along with every other Congresscritter), enjoy the high life off of the public tit. I don’t know about you, but my tits are starting to hurt. Maybe it’s time we pry our greedy arrogant lawmakers’ mouths off of our tits and let them go try and make a living selling overpriced detergent for Amway.

This is about social class justice and human rights. Do you stand on the side of human rights and dignity for ALL, or do you stand on the side of maintaining the same broken system of unearned privileges that brought us to this point in the first place in order to hopefully win some token scraps from the filthy rich just so you can preserve what’s left of your middle class privilege?  The choice is yours. Be the change!


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