“The same guys who can deny others everything are famous for refusing themselves nothing”
Recently we observed the 50th anniversary of when President Lyndon B. Johnson announced measures to be taken to mount a war on poverty. Contrary to popular opinion these measures were not limited to providing pure handouts to shiftless blacks and lazy scumbag poor white trash. Indeed aside from common notions of poverty aid, Johnson’s plans were much more comprehensive and included provisions and programs to not only provide direct payments but which were designed to move to eliminate or at least lessen the causes of poverty entailing health, education and other social programs that benefited entire groups rather than individuals.
Such widely accepted programs as Medicare and Medicaid and federal aid to education were large parts of the entire package as was the establishment of the Food Stamp program, now called SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).
Despite some criticisms from both liberal and conservative factions, the actions instituted did decrease poverty levels significantly in the first ten years, according to the prevailing metrics of the time. The poverty rate fell from 17.4% when the initiatives began to 11.1% in 1973, when the rate leveled off.
A good overview of the War on Poverty (not an official name) and related topics can be found here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_on_Poverty
Also contrary to popular opinion the War on Poverty has continued to be successful, perhaps not so much in reducing the poverty rate itself to miniscule levels but to prevent more people from falling into that defined status.
In observation of this anniversary the New York Times (NYT) offers an analysis of the present state of poverty in America with information gleaned from various sources. http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/06/the-war-on-poverty-at-50/?_r=1
However, the writer refuses to frame the analysis in terms of winning versus losing.
So, collecting all of these facts, the answer to the question posed above is that it’s the wrong question, in that its inherent win/loss framing precludes a nuanced analysis of the play between many disparate factors.
The momentum to fight the WOP (War on Poverty) lessened considerably after 1973 and ground to a comparative halt in the past thirty years.
President Ronald Reagan notoriously virtually dismissed the entire WOP with his characterizations of the recipients of largesse as leeches looking to game the system at great cost to our country. The epitome of his scorn was the so-called Welfare Queen, traipsing in furs and driving Cadillacs while collecting thousands upon thousands of dollars in funds ideally directed to the neediest of our citizens.
While there was actually some truth to the alleged fraudulent schemes of of his main target, one Linda Taylor, legend has grown over the years that this woman was a myth created out of whole cloth and Reagan’s dementia fed imagination. But there really was such a woman who was convicted of welfare fraud but whose crimes, cons and scams were far more egregious than those petty misdemeanors, possibly even including murder.
(For an examination of Linda Taylor’s actual life—much undocumented—read the fascinating tale presented here. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/history/2013/12/linda_taylor_welfare_queen_ronald_reagan_made_her_a_notorious_american_villain.html)
Unfortunately the image of “Welfare Queen has been iterated and replicated many times over since Reagan’s tenure though he assuredly was not the first person of any stripe or prominent leader to make that erroneous generalization.
Of course the notion that the WOP is an utter failure simply feeds that stereotype and lends support to arguments propagated by conservatives to seriously slash these social safety net programs because…well…they don’t work anyways.
Senator Marco Rubio has taken up the failure mantra but liberal Michael Tomasky, building on the NYT article, observes that
What’s wrong with thinking is that we have not, of course, been fighting any kind of serious war on poverty for five decades. We fought it with truly adequate funding for about one decade. Less, even. Then the backlash started, and by 1981, Ronald Reagan’s government was fighting a war on the war on poverty. The fate of many anti-poverty programs has ebbed and flowed ever since. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/01/06/marco-rubio-is-wrong-the-war-on-poverty-worked.html
Arguably Exhibit 1 of the decrease in willingness to attack poverty is the welfare “reform” enacted in 1996, that drastically altered eligibility requirements for the primary cash payments to the poor. Morphing from Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) the number of families receiving such aid has dropped from about 12.3 million in the throes of the AFDC system to about an average of just under 4.5 million families receiving TANF.
With those reforms came a work requirement and a lifetime limit on benefits.
I do not maintain that these and the other changes did not have logic and a factual basis behind them. Just about any government program, social or otherwise, demands frequent reevaluation and revision to remain effective. I do note, however, that the poverty rate during the intervening years is substantially the same as it was prior to “reform”. That leads to a conclusion that there remains a crying need for assistance on the previously broader scale, even if some revisions assured that only the truly needy received aid and that fraud was minimized.
Indeed there are so many variables at play here that result in our poorest citizens as a class losing pretty much any hope of truly living the American dream——you know, the dream that has individuals living in spacious houses, replete with granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances, with cars that are more than “beaters”, designer clothes on themselves and their children, and having said children obtain a good education in our public schools and going on to the college or vocational school of their choice so they can achieve these same goals.
But it ain’t so, Joe.
Our economic system is supposedly based on free enterprise and free markets, though many conservatives insist on portraying government as one big clogging influence that drags down our economics and taxes the “job creators” to death.
This canard is repeated over and over when it can be demonstrated that the government gives far more to these “business titans” than it asks in return. Not only that but income and wealth inequality in the United States has reached epic proportions, far exceeding that of the “Gilded Age”
I have written on that particular aspect previously such as here. http://umoc193.wordpress.com/2010/12/04/wealth-redistribution-its-already-a-reality/
The video linked to here is a real eye-opener that provides facts about what people believe the ideal income distribution should be (surprise, it’s not everybody gets the same) what people believe our income distribution is, and further facts revealing that the situation is far worse than many Americans commonly think. http://www.upworthy.com/9-out-of-10-americans-are-completely-wrong-about-this-mind-blowing-fact-2?c=wa1
Now is this growing inequality the fault of the “failed” WOP? Absolutely not. I have already mentioned the changes and reductions of help that have characterized the past forty years under Presidents of both parties. Indeed, what seems to be clear is that due to political expediency, philosophical adjustments, and a penchant for favoring guns over butter, we have reached the point where the average person finds it extremely difficult to move up the scale.
If only we had fought the war on poverty with the same fervor, unity of purpose and seemingly limitless expenditure of dollars that we have in attacking hapless nations we would have achieved far greater inroads against poverty.
But not only has the will to fight to end poverty been lost, today we find nefarious forces at work which are thoroughly hostile to the poor. (And since the middle class has been so ravaged I include them as the targets of the oppressors).
A quick glance through any news source finds the poor and middle class under attack as never before. They are being assailed for the lack of contents in their wallets while questioning their character. In other words, blame the victim.
Public school teachers, always underpaid in comparison to others of similar education, are now derisively attacked for the shortcomings of our public education system most especially if they have the gall to be union members.
Other public servants are barraged with allegations of greed, laziness and ineptitude, again more so if they are unionized. In Wisconsin and elsewhere their collective bargaining rights have been unilaterally removed. That is, except for police and firefighters. Ironically the most common instances of overreach of public servants are rooted in law enforcement. Certainly the offending parties are relatively few but annually they cost their cities and counties millions upon millions of dollars for illegal arrests, unjustified beatings and shooting, and outright corruption.
Unions and their members in general apparently are solely responsible for the near total demise of the auto industry recently and the steel industry before that. At least that is what you are fed every day by cowardly politicos and craven business moguls.
The image of the welfare queen has not faded but now is supplemented by the anger generated by the mere notion that someone on food stamps can actually buy soft drinks with them. Oh, the nerve!
One of the most successful public programs in history, Social Security, is beset by unthinking budget cutters wanting to curtail or reduce benefits or install new cost of living (COLA) formulas to hold future increases in benefits down. Of course, save for the short-lived SS tax reduction, not one cent from general revenues has ever been put into the SS Trust Fund nor has any benefit for retirees been paid out of general revenues. Also, of course, the current COLA formula already has prevented any increase in two out of the past five years.
I personally have seen my fixed living costs go up less than any increase in benefits I have received, meaning I have less disposable income than I did five years ago.
The evils of “Obamacare” are so horrific that Republicans want to eliminate it though its basic tenets were their original creation. The refusal of the governors in over twenty states (I believe all Republican controlled) to expand their Medicaid rolls under the Affordable Care Act and non-participation in the insurance exchanges will prevent millions from having coverage who live in poverty as well as making it more challenging for their citizens to procure insurance on their own.
People making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year resent any move to increase the minimum wage to around $10/hour which would enable that earner to pocket $20,000 a year. This is so even with the fact that the current minimum wage is less in real dollars than what that figure was forty years ago.
Somehow these brilliant business folks are completely immune to and ignorant of the reality that putting more money into the hands of the less well off means it will be spent often generating more income for the rich while upping demand for jobs. Then they complain that President Obama isn’t creating enough jobs while out of the other side of their mouths comes the mantra that government does not create jobs, the “job creators” do. That’s them, naturally. So why in the hell have they not created more jobs while they and their business experience record earnings levels?
Every advantage is given to the rich. Their corporations face too high a tax rate, they moan, while paying no taxes at all. They bitch and kvetch about paying welfare mothers while they sit back and collect farm subsidies. (75% of those go to corporations, not family farms.) Some sit in their New York City penthouses and search their mail for their next subsidy payment while their Wyoming hunting camp doesn’t plant the crops that never would be planted in the first place.
While rich guys get billions in subsidies the poor are the targets of overzealous legislators convinced that they are all druggies and need to be tested before receiving benefits.
The unthinking Congress creatures and Fox news hacks decry the present movement to increase the minimum wage, futilely exclaiming that such an action will destroy the fragile economy when history proves otherwise. And, Dr. Watson, it is elementary that more money in the hands of those inclined or necessitated to spend nearly every cent they receive will increase demand for the very goods and services allegedly purveyed by the 1%.
Mitt Romney’s famous declaration that 47% of Americans pay no taxes and therefore must be totally disregarded drew much attention in the 2012 Presidential campaign. His unconscionable contempt for many of the same folks who are more naturally inclined to support conservative causes and ideals…you know, older people, military retirees and the like…may as well have been a major part of his standard stump speech. he never backed down from those remarks and, if you recall the recording, those vile words were spewed from his mouth almost in glee.
We have billionaires expressing the bizarre belief that any criticism of the rich is the equivalent of the Nazi degradation of the Jews and that a rich man’s “holocaust” is imminent. But we’ve recently learned that the 85 richest people in the world have wealth equal to the poorest 3.5 BILLION PEOPLE on this earth. So any extermination should be swift and not drain too many resources.
Of course that entire idea is preposterous and I can offer nothing but sarcasm for this idiocy.
The Affordable Care Act has been under assault from the date of its passage. As I cited earlier much of the resistance to it is an overt way to stick it to the poor or at least would have such an effect as an underlying consequence.
Poor students in one Salt Lake City school had their lunches taken away because their parents were not fully paid up. How thoroughly embarrassing for the kids thought it does seem that those who received totally subsidized lunches were not affected. But elsewhere there have been calls to eliminate any free lunches and substitute a work requirement for the kiddies to “earn ” their way.
I can detail so many examples of the way our lawmakers want to punish the poor for merely being poor, with the support of far too many factions in our society, most disgustingly some “Christian” groups. But I believe these odious proposals are not only Unchristian but also Unmuslim and Unjewish and probably Unzoroastrian.
Let me say here I do not condemn those who are rich for merely being rich.
I do condemn those who are rich who possess the mistaken assumption that all beneath them are dirt.These reverse Robin Hoods desire to take from the poor so that the troughs of the rich can become ever more bloated with lucre.
I do condemn those who are rich for limning the poor as poor in character, not only in financial resources.
I do condemn those who are rich for their desire to have it all, not just most of it, to bleed every dollar from every transaction to line their own pockets.
I do condemn the rich who portray themselves as victims and under siege. They know very well that farcical that is.
I never advocate violence and mayhem as a solution to a problem, but the sentiments of this song are difficult to ignore and repress.
“Eat The Rich”Well I woke up this morning
On the wrong side of the bed
And how I got to thinkin’
About all those things you said
About ordinary people
And how they make you sick
And if callin’ names kicks back on you
Then I hope this does the trick’Cause I’m a sick of your complainin’
About how many bills
And I’m sick of all your bitchin’
Bout your poodles and your pills
And I just can’t see no humour
About your way of life
And I think I can do more for you
With this here fork and knife[Chorus:]
Eat the Rich: there’s only one thing they’re good for
Eat the Rich: take one bite now – come back for more
Eat the Rich: I gotta get this off my chest
Eat the Rich: take one bite now, spit out the restSo I called up my head shrinker
And I told him what I’d done
Said you’d best go on a diet
Yeah I hope you have some fun
And a don’t go burst a bubble
On the rich folks who get rude
‘Cause you won’t get in no trouble
When you eats that kinda food
Now their smokin’ up the junk bonds
And then they go get stiff
And they’re dancin’ in the yacht club
With Muff and Uncle Biff
But there’s one good thing that happens
When you toss your pearls to swine
Their attitudes may taste like shit
But go real good with wine
[Chorus]Wake up kid, it’s half past your youth
Ain’t nothin’ really changes but the date
You a grand slammer, but you no Babe Ruth
You gotta learn how to relate
Or you’ll be swingin’ from the pearly gate
Now you got all the answers, low and behold
You got the right key baby but the wrong key ho, yoBelieve in all the good things
That money just can’t buy
Then you won’t get no belly ache
From eatin’ humble pie
I believe in rags to riches
Your inheritence won’t last
So take your Grey Poupon my friend
And shove it up your ass!
[Chorus]Eat the Rich: there’s only one thing they’re good for
Eat the Rich: take one bite now – come back for more
Eat the Rich: don’t stop me now I’m goin’ crazy
Eat the Rich: that’s my idea of a good time baby
Though I have included some citations for quotes and source materials, I drew from many more for my views expressed here. Below is a list of resources utilized here as well as some interesting reading which is related to this topic and will enhance your knowledge. I read each of them in preparing this post.