Monday, July 15, 2013

A Thousand Points of Blight

At a time when one out of every four American children lives in a food-insecure household,  when one in three people is poor or near-poor because of unemployment and underemployment, when income disparity is at its most extreme level since the Gilded Age .... House Republicans have yanked food stamp funding from the Farm Bill, endangering the 50 million people relying on a program that is already woefully inadequate. The average monthly food stipend per person is only $136. Most recipients run out of grocery money by the third week. 

But adding insult to injury is what Republicans do. They're the psychopathic Bad Cops who, confident that President Obama and the Wall Street "New Democrat" Good Cops will never challenge them in any meaningful way, have become free to exhibit their cruelty right out there in the open. Thanks to gerrymandering and manufactured divide-and-conquer techniques that pit poor Fox News-viewing whites against a growing brown and black population, they get just enough votes to hold onto the House of Representatives. They thereby run the whole show through sheer dint of sadism, disguised as "libertarian populism." Paul Krugman wrote a scathing column on this phenomenon, spearheaded by Sen. Rand Paul, last week. My response:
Can't you just hear that lonesome Rand Paul dog whistle blow?
Paul is using Alex Jones-style conspiracy paranoia and racism to drum up poor white support for the Party of Destruction. He's betting that boiling the frogs over a low steady heat -- cutting food stamps here, unemployment benefits there -- will stop them noticing that they're being cooked right along with the black and brown people that they need to believe are stealing the food from their mouths and the jobs from their kin. The truth -- that chronic hard times are the direct result of unregulated capitalism and corrupt politics -- is not out there. Only six national media conglomerates supply 90% of everything they see and hear.
What Paul & Paul (Ryan) and the GOP don't seem to realize is that their "populism" won't do much good if their constituents can't earn a living wage. Those bills from the greedy cable monopolies just keep going up -- watching Fox News propaganda will be way out of the price range of poor white people. When jobless benefits are cut to the bone, there goes the electricity -- along with Rush Limbaugh. And once the food stamps are kaput and the Medicaid is denied, they'll be too hungry and sick to bother voting, let alone caring. The USA has now plummeted to #27 in life expectancy. 
The new GOP messaging is useless. They're are out of gas, lurching along on their own toxic fumes. Too bad they're poisoning the rest of us on their ride to the scrap heap for old clunkers.
So here's how the kinder, gentler free-market Libertarian known as Barack Obama will counter the looming forced starvation of 50 million people caused by the bipartisan compromised slashing of at least $20 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): He's invited that original Mr. Compassionate Conservative, George H.W. Bush, over for lunch at the White House today to unveil (drumroll, please) a brand new PPP (public-private partnership) that will rely on community volunteerism to feed the hungry. It's very similar to the now-defunct White House Council on Jobs & Competitiveness, made up of CEOs who lobbied for tax breaks and deregulation and did not create one single job.

 To mark the latest milestone in his corporate race to the bottom, Obama will also award a "5000th Point of Light" medal to some philanthropists who feed millions of starving African children. The subliminal message?  To get Third World America ready and prepared for private charities to take over government safety net functions, thus wielding ever more malignant tax-evading philanthropic control over the masses: 
After joining Bush to present the award, Obama will announce the formation of a new task force made up of Cabinet agency officials to identify ways that public agencies and the private sector can partner in support of national service. 
The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and the White House Domestic Policy Council will oversee the effort, which is meant to build on Obama administration efforts to promote greater community service. 
The event isn’t the first collaboration between the two presidents. Bush served as one of 16 honorary co-chairs of Obama’s first Inauguration, at which he called for a national day of service to occur on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. (to make us forget who MLK really was: an anti-war, anti-imperialism, pro-labor, rabble-rousing radical who spent his life demanding government help for the poor.)
Oh, and Neil Bush, that privateering poster child for disaster capitalism, will also be in attendance. You may remember Black Sheep Neil as the crooked ex-banker/ entrepreneur (Obama loves entrepreneurs) who cashed in big-time in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Matriarch Barbara, who will also be wined and dined by the Obamas, had made a point of offering her own money to storm victims -- with the precondition that her charity went through Neil's educational software company. 

Of course, the Bushes and the Obamas look like the Beaming Lords and Ladies Bountiful when compared to Bible-thumping Rep. Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, who literally foams at the mouth demanding that food stamp recipients work for their meals, even as he himself personally cashes in on millions of dollars in subsidies for his own farm. It's hard to decide what fictional villain to compare him to. Simon Legree comes to mind, or any one of the long list of hyperbolic villains from the Dickens collection. If Fincher's mother read him The Tale of Peter Rabbit when he was a tyke, he probably identified more with evil Farmer McGregor than with the hungry little bunnies. Not only did that Beatrix Potter bad guy chase the kids away from the food, he even stole the clothes they lost during their escape. Starve 'em, scare 'em, skin 'em and freeze 'em. It's the capitalist way.

In his column today, Paul Krugman compares the War on Food Stamps to the dystopian Hunger Games, in which people are forced to fight each other to the death for the pleasure and entertainment of the plutocrats:
So House Republicans voted to maintain farm subsidies — at a higher level than either the Senate or the White House proposed — while completely eliminating food stamps from the bill.       
To fully appreciate what just went down, listen to the rhetoric conservatives often use to justify eliminating safety-net programs. It goes something like this: “You’re personally free to help the poor. But the government has no right to take people’s money” — frequently, at this point, they add the words “at the point of a gun” — “and force them to give it to the poor.”
It is, however, apparently perfectly O.K. to take people’s money at the point of a gun and force them to give it to agribusinesses and the wealthy.
Gail Collins also took on the SNAP crisis in her own excellent column on Saturday. (But just like Krugman, she can't quite acknowledge the complicity of the Democrats, although she comes close):
And while food stamps go to poor people, most of the farm aid goes to wealthy corporations.
So House Republicans passed the farm part and left food stamps hanging.
Say what?
Tea Party conservatives have an all-purpose disdain for anything that smacks of redistribution of wealth, and food stamps are a prime target. “The role of citizens, of Christians, of humanity, is to take care of each other. But not for Washington to steal money from those in the country and give to others in the country,” said Representative Stephen Fincher of Tennessee during a speech in Memphis.
So the food stamp program was the total opposite of a Tasty Bite to House Republicans. More like that Scottish thing with sheep stomach and oatmeal. But the agriculture part was billed as delicious restraint. They rallied behind the just-farm-stuff bill in a party line 216-to-208 vote.
 The larding of benefits to farmers didn’t come up during the House debate. It was all about food stamps, and Democrats asking to know why their colleagues wanted to cut aid to hungry children and old people. During an Agriculture Committee meeting on the bill, Representative Juan Vargas of California quoted Jesus’ lesson that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Got that?  Democrats do the Good Cop dance -- asking, cajoling, posturing on MSNBC, pleading and wondering. In the White House, they go full-bore Compassionate Conservativism.  Never do they condemn, lambast, make fun of, or deride. Maintaining the miserable status quo for the benefit of the rich is how this game is played. Here was my comment to Gail Collins:
The number of households on food stamps reached nearly 23 million this spring. This can be directly blamed on lack of jobs, stagnating wages, and the utter lack of political attention to the unemployment crisis and a wealth disparity that has sent the world's richest nation down to a dismal #27 in global per-capita income.
So, the GOP is using food stamps as one more stale variation on the Reagan welfare queen myth: blame the victims rather than the perpetrators.
Ironically, one of the biggest culprits in the financial meltdown -- too big to fail/jail JP Morgan Chase -- runs the SNAP e-card program in half the states. They just reported a 31% surge in profits! Not only do they command a bounty for each new food stamp case opened, they charge a fee every time a recipient makes a purchase or checks her balance. Where is the GOP outrage?
Nah. They love to claim that "lazy" food stamp moms (most of whom work) use their SNAP cards to buy cigs and booze and lobster tails while those moral folks have to toil for every off-brand box of cereal. Never mind that the real corporate welfare queens, like the Waltons of Walmartistan, rely on the government to supplement the income of their underpaid workers with SNAP and Medicaid cards. The Waltons own more wealth than 40% of the whole population.
One of these days, the GOP will go too far. People will finally SNAP and throw the bums out. They will land with a giant crackle and pop, before they soggily sink to the bottom of the bowl.
When you look at the grim statistics on child hunger and its consequences, the compassionate Obamas' "personal responsibility" approach appears all the more cynical. As far as Michelle Obama is concerned, kids just need to get off their butts and exercise. Struggling parents need to stop being lazy and prepare fresh fruits and veggies in between their minimum-wage double shifts.The latest Obama approach to childhood nutrition was to hold a recipe contest and a state dinner for a select group of well-fed kids. The media went wild when the president revealed that he loves broccoli. And how his "family"(read: peripatetic deceased mother and banker grandma) didn't cook his veggies up nearly as scrumptiously as his own personal chefs do today. I wish I was kidding. As much as this guy tries to cover up his authoritarian paternalism with schmoozy small-talk, it always falls as flat as a bowl of soggy potato chips.

Hey, Barack: Eat Me

Even a child who goes hungry just one time in her life is more than twice as likely to have health problems a decade after that one episode of malnutrition. Hungry children are more likely to be socially isolated, to have behavior problems and of course, they don't do well in school. They are understandably at greater risk for incarceration as teens and adults.

But maybe that's the whole plan. Well-fed children become cognitively healthy adults. Cognitively healthy adults tend to vote for their own economic interests and against corrupt politicians in service to the rich. Cognitively healthy adults refuse to play Hunger Games, where the only possible outcome is Heads They Win, Tails You Lose.  

Meet Farmer Fincher and Benevolent Barack. There's really only a pinprick of light between them.



Kat said...

I did not click on any links through this article to get to the NYT. I looked at the NYT after reading this. The top stories selected for me included Gail Collins' column, Paul Krugman's and another about SNAP benefits.
Anyhoo-- for commenters perusal:
In a more serendipitous (rather than slightly sinister) coincidence I found this article right after seeing my favorite white savior, Nicholas Kristof, is back.

Denis Neville said...

Living with economic terrorists in Brownbackistan…Kansas, the true id of modern-day conservatism

Tea Party America, there is no place like Kansas.

Kansas is very tough on the poor families, especially those who are unemployed.

Kansas is not easy on those who have a job. As of January 2013, the poorest 20 percent in Kansas paid an average effective tax rate more than twice as high at the richest one percent.

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is well on his way to his goal of eliminating income taxes (largely affecting the rich) in Kansas. He is replacing the income tax with a sales tax (largely paid by the poor). Kansas has the second-highest sales tax in the nation on groceries. I have been astounded by the amount I pay in taxes for just a few small bags of food, not to mention the increases in prices for fresh produce and meat.

Brownback doesn’t care about the impact on the poor. "The biggest thing that I think is regressive is people not having job. What we're trying to do is to create a very growth-oriented atmosphere so that you're going to have a job." He is a job creator! Many jobs most likely at or near minimum wage.

But why on earth would anyone want to move to Kansas where they will be paying all the taxes, the education system is being decimated, the arts are non-existent, women are second-class citizens, and there is no safety net of basic government services for inevitable economic downturns?

When will the American public begin to realize that there is no longer any bread, just circuses?

Dystopian hunger games…Are we on the brink of a new age of rage? Pitch perfect for any pied pipers of hatred for listeners in economic distress.

It was the anger with hunger that made the French Revolution possible. Bread prices were rising to record levels. Conditions throughout France were close to that of a food war. Hungry crowds gathered in hopes of bargains. That was when the danger of violence was most acute. But it also programmed the Revolution to explode from overinflated expectations.

Of course, Homeland Security and our warrior cops will be at the ready.

Zee said...

It always amuses me when fundamentalist Christians—“fundies,” for short—selectively quote scripture in defense of their more barbaric positions, totally ignoring the one overarching message that is self-evident in each of the four Gospels, despite the many, many contradictions amongst them:

“Love your Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and all your mind [and] Love your neighbor as yourself.” --Luke 10:27.

I have to laugh that Congresscritter Fincher (pronounced “Finker” in my mind) quotes one single phrase from a Pauline letter whose authorship is in dispute (2 Thessalonians), and of which the majority of real New Testament scholars seem to believe was authored by someone other than Paul, and written perhaps a generation after Paul's death ( The First Paul, M.J. Borg and J.D. Crossan, Harper One, 2009), as support for his un-Christianlike abandonment of the food stamp program.

If one looks hard enough at scripture—and is foolish enough to read it literally—one can find support for whatever position one cares to take on modern issues.

The trick is to separate the overarching messages of love, justice and mercy from mythology, and from messages or laws meant for a particular people at a particular place and time, all in the very distant past.

And then, to accept millions in farm subsidy “handouts.” What hypocrisy!

Finker isn't much of a Christian, in my book. But then, I, too, fall far short of the mark.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

The call --- whether it comes from business, the Republicans, or now, even the Democrats --- for volunteerism as solution to this nation's fundamental problems such as hunger really disgusts on so many levels. Decades ago, the U.S. government abdicated its active role in promoting social and economic justice; now, they're abdicating even the governmental safety net. These calls for self-sufficiency, and celebrations of volunteerism, are also perversions of morality --- you know, that oh-so-important characteristic that politicians tout while campaigning, but seldom demonstrate afterwards. Irrespective of what may be the result of volunteerism, our government is certainly rich enough to provide such assistance, but now doesn't want to --- while still funding militarism, imprisonment, and agribusiness subsidies. Utterly perverse. Not at all surprising, though, that right-wingers would seek to cut government-funded food for the hungry; as Barney Frank once quipped, the right's concern with the sanctity of life begins at conception, and ends at birth. Unfortunately, that perverse right-wing attitude has in recent years spread to too many Democrats, ball-less and clueless as they are.

Relevant here is something by a different Frank, Thomas Frank, “What’s The Matter With Kansas?”, brought up by Denis Neville and Zee on the recent "The Lunatic Fringe Goes Mainstream" thread. Frank's thesis that Democrats have actively "forgotten" the blue-collar class (which, after innumerable wage cuts and bouts of unemployment, frequently needs food stamps to supplement its declining economic conditions) takes Democratic complicity in the destruction of the safety net to a whole new disgusting level, beyond "ball-less and clueless". And it seems to me that for anyone with any sense of decency remaining, the issue of food stamp funding should be treated as a litmus test of politicians. If we can't even hold politicians' feet to the fire on this one, what a pathetic, wimpy, immoral people we have become.

Lastly, fellow Sardonickyans, where are the comments on this fine and important post by Karen? As I write this, there are only three --- but we mustered 34 on a recent thread where we were fighting amongst ourselves.

Denis Neville said...

“Servile, and base, and mercenary, is the notion of Christian practice among the bulk of nominal Christians. They give no more than they dare not with-hold; they abstain from nothing but what they must not practice.” ― William Wilberforce, Real Christianity

Bible-thumpers, people who tend to be depressingly ignorant (like Rep. Fincher of Tennessee), use the Bible to attack or defame others' characters.

“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.” - Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

"Christianity, even when watered down, is still hot enough to boil all modern society to rags." - G. K. Chesterton

Wisdom from Dorothy Day:

“As we have often quoted Dostoevsky’s Father Zossima, ‘Love in practice is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.’ Our Catholic Worker groups are perhaps too hardened to the sufferings in the class way, living as they do in refugee camps, the refugees being, as they are, victims of the class war we live in always. We have lived in the midst of this war now these many years. It is a war not recognized by the majority of our comfortable people. They are pacifists themselves when it comes to the class war. They even pretend it is not there. But we cannot keep silent. We have not kept silence in the face of the monstrous injustice of the class war, or the race war that goes on side by side with this world war.” – Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker (1942)

As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

Zee said...

@Fred and @All—

I suspect that Sardonick-ers are quiet at the moment because there is so little left to say or do about our increasingly heartless nation that can have any real impact, other than bearing witness as Karen has so eloquently done today.

We have a Permanent Political Class that is far more concerned about money and retention of power than the welfare of the nation in general, or its most vulnerable citizens in particular.

Most of our citizenry simply sleepwalks through life at the moment, barely aware of what is going on around them locally, nationally, or globally. Part of that is because many of them are running so hard just to stay in place that they have no time to look around them; if they do, they will trip and fall. Others are simply willfully ignorant.

And those who are politically aware and active are so polarized that there is absolutely no hope of reasonable compromise leading to solutions for any of our social problems.

The culture wars that we insist on fighting have done a fine job of trumping any class war.

I believe that I have said before that I think that things will have to get much worse than they currently are before the American people stand up on their hind legs and—without violent precursors, I hope—take their government back at the polls.

Other than waiting for the lid to blow off, I, for one, feel quite powerless just now, except where I can act locally.

ste-vo said...

In comment to Zee's comment:
"I suspect that Sardonick-ers are quiet at the moment because there is so little left to say or do about our increasingly heartless nation that can have any real impact, other than bearing witness as Karen has so eloquently done today." I crossed that bridge a long time ago and have given up. I am burned out. I look forward to each new post by Karen, and am sorely disappointed when I check several times a day and there is nothing. I have stopped watching TV, barely look at the Times and scratch my head in amazement at what passes for discourse in this place we call home. I have an AmeriKan flag decal on the back window of my car, up-side down, and someone I work with thinks I am being unpatriotic. Walking to the car through the parking lot one blistering hot day - for VT anyway, with her, she commented on it and I tried to explain what it signifies. She heard me out and responded "I think it is unpatriotic." That is indeed the mindset a most Americans and nothing will change - ever. Keep up the posting and commenting - it makes my day when I read ALL of them.

James F Traynor said...

My wife says that when I'm really upset I get quiet. And that says it all. It's probably the same for a lot of others. I'll let Karen say it for me. And she has.

Denis Neville said...

I shared Marty Kaplan’s “outrage envy” at the recent massive protests (sparked by a nine cent bus fare increase in São Paulo) across Brazil against political corruption, economic injustice, poor health care, inadequate schools, terrible mass transit, a crumbling infrastructure and the billions of cruzeiros being spent on 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Kaplan asks, “Brazilians are paying attention to their problems, and they're mad as hell. So why aren't we? So why aren't Americans at the barricades?”

Kaplan answers, “We have had the unfortunate experience of being outraged, being Brazilians, trying to get something done, and watching as the dysfunctional system that we are forced to live under destroys momentum and creates stasis, or adds power to the already powerful, rather than enabling reform…You watch that happen enough times, and you decide, why bother? You have to be someone who just fell off the turnip truck to think that popular outrage can make a difference.”

Kaplan describes “learned helplessness - a 21st century disease of the American soul, born of the dysfunction of our political system. Learned helplessness is the status quo's most pernicious enabler. It's the sinking admission that we are powerless to be the change we've been waiting for. It's the painful evidence that the Washington deck is stacked against us. Our spirits have been sickened by the toxins baked into our political system, which legalizes graft and is held hostage by special interests and a gerrymandered minority. That learned helplessness is what democracy's vampires drink.”

Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi, the story of a young, lone survivor of a shipwreck, captures how we should confront our political reality:

“I had to stop hoping so much that a ship would rescue me. I should not count on outside help. Survival had to start with me. In my experience, a castaway’s worst mistake is to hope too much and do too little. Survival starts by paying attention to what is close at hand and immediate. To look out with idle hope is tantamount to dreaming one’s life away.”

We have to be optimists and try to make a difference in our own ways. There is no choice. What is the alternative? Maybe a critical mass will build at some point.

Denis Neville said...

“If there is any hell more unprincipled than our rulers, and we, the ruled, I feel curious to see it.” - Henry David Thoreau, Slavery In Massachusetts

In a financial planning guide for its workers, the company accidentally illustrates precisely how impossible it is to scrape by on a fast food paycheck, “McDonald's Can't Figure Out How Its Workers Survive on Minimum Wage” @

“McDonald’s and Visa Conjure Fantasy Budget for Low-Wage Employees,” Instead of simply raising low wages in an era of record profits, McDonald’s has teamed up with Visa to show how workers can save. Sure, if they take a second job and don’t use heat or health insurance.

“McDonalds Tells Workers To Budget By Getting A Second Job And Turning Off Their Heat” @

Health insurance for $20.00 a month? McDonalds’ own health plan, which is meager (don’t get seriously ill, the maximum payment in a year is $10,000) and only some of its full time workers are eligible, costs $14 a week. $14 x 4.5 weeks a month = $63.

“McDonalds Tells Workers to Toil 70 Hours a Week, Use Ripoff Payroll Cards as Part of “Financial Literacy,” @

The use of payroll cards that are being examined by Federal and state prosecutors for possible violations of minimum wage and consumer protection laws. A Consumer Reports study from 2012 looked at a large sample of these cards and found that workers were likely to incur $10 to $30 in monthly charges.

It would take the average McDonalds employee one million hours of work to earn as much money as the company’s CEO, “McDonald’s $8.25 Man and $8.75 Million CEO Shows Pay Gap,” @

“Fleas dream of buying themselves a dog, and nobodies dream of escaping poverty: that one magical day good luck will suddenly rain down on them --- will rain down in buckets. But good luck doesn't rain down yesterday, today, tomorrow, or ever. Good luck doesn't even fall in a fine drizzle, no matter how hard the nobodies summon it, even if their left hand is tickling, or if they begin the new day with their right foot, or start the new year with a change of brooms.

The nobodies: nobody's children, owners of nothing. The nobodies: the no ones, the nobodied, running like rabbits, dying through life, screwed every which way.” - Eduardo Galeano, “The Nobodies”

Fred Drumlevitch said...

Yes, Denis, I recently read about that McDonalds "budget" with its slavery-like assumptions, I think via one of Karen's dynamic sidebar links. (But good that you've provided links again, with more permanent form).

As that McDonalds fantasy budget for its workers illustrates so clearly, the gall of the corporations and their governmental lackeys knows no bounds. Rather than pay adequately, they assume/suggest, with utter seriousness: two jobs - a seventy hour workweek - $20-per-month health insurance - nothing spent on heat...

What will they next say, "Arbeit macht frei"?

As I've written before, we need a twenty-first century Bill of Rights, as basis for a rational and moral social contract. But even if we already had that, we'd still need serious sociopolitical activism, from a substantial fraction of the populace, because even the most formally codified rights can be ignored, subverted piecemeal, or even fully swept away at the stroke of a pen.

pete v said...

"We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living.

We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors.

The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living."

~ R. Buckminster Fuller ("The New York Magazine Environmental Teach-In" in New York Magazine, March 30, 1970)

Basic Income Guarantee

007 said...

@ste-vo, et. al.

4 USC 8(a) states, "The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property." Does anyone doubt our whole system is in distress? Actually, I prefer to keep it right side up and turn the system upside down.

Regarding powerlessness, a simple and powerful measure is for everyone to form small public groups throughout the country for 'The Debate' that Obama wants us to have. This is the time for an ongoing public discussion about where the USG is taking our country, focusing on ideas for solutions to change it. Any setting where the public can overhear that conversation would help others not merge invisibly into the shroud of secrecy dropping down around us. We need to unite, and we certainly need to hear other voices besides the corporate media's parade of political talking heads.

We are at a crisis point. As Thomas Paine said "These are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman." Edward Snowden did his part. Let's do ours. Paine also said "Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph."

Hand-wringing, whining, moaning and groaning, while cathartic, don't help. Using our own imaginations and sharing ideas with others for solutions is what helps. Doing nothing is simply not an option unless we wish to support the status quo. "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing" - Edmund Burke

We need A Thousand Points of - 'The Debate'. These debates and discussions can be formed by anyone but they need to be face-to-face in public venues, not just in blogs. Let's start sharing some common sense for common ground. We have no time to waste.

Zee said...

@pete v.--

Even Richard Nixon once toyed with the idea of a version of a guaranteed annual income (GAI) or Basic Income Guarantee:

“With the assistance of Urban Affairs Council secretary Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Nixon created the Family Assistance Plan. FAP called for the replacement of bureaucratically administered programs such as Aid to Families with Dependent Children, Food Stamps, and Medicaid, with direct cash payments to those in need. Not only single-parent families, but the working poor would qualify for aid. All recipients, save the mothers of preschool age children, would be required to work or take job training.

Nixon revealed FAP in a nationwide address on August 8, 1969. Heavy criticism followed. Welfare advocates declared the income level Nixon proposed—$1600 per year for a family of four— insufficient. Conservatives disliked the idea of a guaranteed annual income for people who didn't work. Labor saw the proposal as a threat to the minimum wage. Caseworkers opposed FAP fearing that many of their jobs would be eliminated. And many Americans complained that the addition of the working poor would expand welfare caseloads by millions. A disappointed Nixon pressed for the bill's passage in various forms, until the election season of 1972. He knew a bad campaign issue when he saw one, and he let FAP expire.”
(My bold emphasis.)

Now, of course, Nixon's proposed GAI was impossibly low for its time, but even that “threat” managed to piss of large sectors of the American citizenry including, to my eternal amusement, welfare caseworkers—Bucky Fuller's ground-level “inspectors”—who feared that they would lose their all-important jobs, deciding who was worthy of welfare and who was not.

Now, believe it or not, I am actually starting to see benefits both to society and to my own selfish self that some form of guaranteed minimum income—with or without the requirement of work in return—offers.

But I'm still trying to understand how it would function, especially with no requirement to offer work in return for the minimum benefit, as Bucky Fuller proposed. Witness Richard Nixon and Daniel Moynihan's failure. And Moynihan was a pretty sharp guy, himself.

And I think that ol' Bucky was kidding himself if he believed that those who might choose not to work would somehow be a benefit to society by being permanent students at society's expense, unless, of course, they were paying their own tuition out of their own living wage: no matter the amount of educational opportunity, not everyone can be a brain surgeon or rocket scientist, or even think up some new form of elevated thought that others might care about.

Do we allow them to spend a lifetime trying to do so at additional taxpayer expense?

As I said, I actually see some benefits for myself in such a system, but I'm just trying to understand how it would work out to everyones' benefit and satisfaction.

Witness the grumpy caseworkers and union members back in 1969.

Tod said...