Sunday, January 12, 2014

Poverty Gold

President Obama has marked the 50th Anniversary of LBJ's War on Poverty speech with yet another cynical dog whistle to Wall Street. In announcing the formation of "Promise Zones" in five carefully selected communities, Obama effectively assured the ruling class that their record windfalls will continue, unimpeded and unabated. There's gold in them thar blighted hills and dales, so the free market is cordially invited to line its pockets from so-called Poverty Pockets.

As CounterPunch's Mike Whitney so saliently observes (h/t AnneEnigma), Obama's promise zones are nothing more than corporate plantations designed to exploit the poor under the guise of helping them. And as I mentioned in my response to Paul Krugman's latest column, praising the pseudo-progressive War on Poverty:
If the erstwhile party of LBJ thinks that advocating for the poor is a winning political strategy, they sure have a funny way of showing it. Senate Dems just "compromised" with the GOP yet again, agreeing to cut another $9 billion from the food stamp program over the next decade, thus condemning a million more people to life-threatening hunger in the richest nation on earth.
Even the proposed deal to extend long-term unemployment benefits would hinge on extending the Sequester (another plutocratic front in the war on the poor) for another year.
It's the same old, same old: the millionaires in Congress aim to help the poor by robbing the poor. And they're not even trying to hide their true motivation, which is to protect their own pampered hides at the polls. The good cop/bad cop routine is wearing thin for people getting more disgusted by the day.
According a Gallup poll, 42% of voters now identify as independent. This has nothing to do with people's desire for "bipartisanship" and everything to do with the growing rejection of both corporate wings of the Money Party.
All they offer is an insulting $10 an hour minimum wage, and cynical "promise zones" filled with charter schools and tax breaks for businesses in "poverty pockets".
When it comes to the War on Poverty, the politicians are mostly AWOL. So let's give the slackers a dishonorable discharge. and become active draftees in our own war. Our survival depends on it.
And Obama's own political survival depends on spewing the same propaganda over and over and over again for the next three years, hoping that Goebbels' advice (that the constant repetition of mendacity breeds belief) will also work out for him and both corporate branches of the uniparty. If Obama keeps insisting that income inequality is the defining issue of our time, maybe he'll convince a couple of rubes that he actually plans to do anything about it.

If there's anything that CEOs crave, it's that the two right wings just get along and do what's best for CEOs. And Obama was only too happy to oblige last week, inviting both Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell to his latest staged production. Their state (Kentucky) is host to one of the five Promise Zones, and the two GOPers beamed their approval of Obama's plantation plan, which includes tax credits to businesses that, in theory, would trickle down to slaves residents providing all that cheap new labor.

Obama must have made them even happier when he surrounded himself with a backdrop of dark-skinned "those people" from Harlem, obligingly dog-whistling his contempt for them through jokes and remarks about their physical appearances. He singled out one young man for faint praise by quipping, "I used to have a haircut like that," before noting that the youth had come from a family of losers (including the demonized single mom, of course) before being saved by a charter school. He made sure that Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell know that these kids will not be getting government handouts, but trickle-down corporate hand-ups. And only if they work hard and free themselves from the Culture of Dependency.

Obama even told a bald-faced lie about charter schools: "Last year," he said, "a study found that students who win a spot in one of the charter schools score higher on standardized tests than those who don't in a neighborhood where higher education was once just something that other people did."

The truth is just the opposite. As education historian/activist Diane Ravitch points out, studies show that students from for-profit charter schools in New York City actually score lower on standardized tests than do those attending traditional public schools, with their better-paid unionized teachers. So I can't help but suspect that Obama's praise of charter schools, and New York City charter schools like the Harlem Children's Zone in particular, is also a subtle dig at Bill de Blasio. The new mayor ran on a campaign of stemming the growth of the charters.

And of course it is no accident that Geoffrey Canada was Obama's guest of honor at Poverty Fest. Founder of the Harlem charter, Canada is partnering with his college classmate, billionaire hedge fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller, in the plutocratic campaign to dismantle the New Deal based on the discredited "generational theft" theory. Last year, before embarking on a college tour to convince young people that Grandma is robbing them blind to hide the truth that Wall Street is robbing them blind, the bipartisan duo wrote an op-ed in (where else?) The Wall Street Journal:
 Yet, together, we recognize several hard truths: Government spending levels are unsustainable. Higher taxes, however advisable or not, fail to come close to solving the problem. Discretionary spending must be reduced but without harming the safety net for our most vulnerable, or sacrificing future growth (e.g., research and education). Defense and homeland security spending should not be immune to reductions. Most consequentially, the growth in spending on entitlement programs—Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare—must be curbed.
The government has an obligation, of course, to support needy seniors. But this pension system is ripe for common-sense reforms, including changing eligibility ages and benefit structures for those with greater means, ridding the Social Security disability program of pervasive fraud, and removing disincentives for those who would rather work in their later years.
Powerful, vested interests portray reformers as avowed enemies of seniors. But, the status quo is, in fact, tantamount to saddling school-age children with more debt, weaker economic growth, and fewer opportunities for jobs and advancement.
I love the way these guys portray ordinary people trying to protect the safety net as "powerful vested interests" who not only want to snatch the food from the mouths of children, but are unfairly preventing tired older people from working till they drop. Plus, to think that retirees are stealing more assets than the Surveillance State and the War on Terror! Grandma is worse than the NSA and predator drones in her greedy quest for shelter and medical care. Who knew?

(Obama, for his part, has not removed the Chained CPI plan for cutting Social Security and impoverishing seniors and survivors and veterans from his proposed budget. And the Dems are "pleading" with him to abandon the idea... out of selfless concern for their own electoral chances, of course.) 

I'm actually kind of surprised that Obama didn't also give a shout-out to Druckenmiller at his performance last week. I'm also kind of surprised he didn't give a shout-out to their mutual friend, Chris Christie, whom Drucky is busy defending as a "once in a generation leader." I think Drucky is getting kind of confused over that whole Generation thing, don't you? I think he probably meant to say that Christie is a Thief for All Generations.

Meanwhile, Obama further reassured Wall Street that he is on their side by announcing he'll be inviting CEOs to the White House "not once, but twice!" this month so they can present their own ideas and represent their own front in the War On Poverty, a k a War on the Poor. Making poverty pockets attractive to big donor pockets is his highest priority.

"Thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of the American people, the economy is recovering," Obama hilariously proclaimed. (Austerity worked!). "And our businesses are booming."

He apparently did not see fit to burst the propaganda balloon by explaining that income disparity has widened to record levels under his personal watch. As a matter of fact, on the same day as his speech, the Census Bureau announced that fully one third of the American people had fallen below the poverty level for periods lasting at least two months during the first three years of his administration.

Meanwhile, the beatings will continue until morale improves. All Obama has to do is reach inside his cheap plastic tub for an unlimited supply of his fake buttery spread, slathering it with abandon over every social ill.

You're In the Zone.... the Twilight Zone


Patricia said...

Yay Uniparty! Let's see how much money actually goes to Mauntua in Philadelphia. If it's anything like the money for Hurricane Sandy victims, the only people standing to benefit will definitely be corporations or "non-profits" whatever, it won't be the people who are in poverty. I wonder how hard the people in Philly are laughing thinking about their "Promise Zone"?
Please, stop annoying me with your promises're like a creepy stalker ex-boyfriend that won't go away.

James F Traynor said...

Hurrah! The Bantustans are here. Come watch the natives sing and dance. All imminently screwable whichever way you want. And they like it! Appreciate it! They'll love you for it, says the Prez, our very own you know what.

Noodge said...

James: You remind me of a kitchen manager I partnered with in a restaurant I used to own. It was my first attempt at owning my own business, and this guy was an old pro; I relied on him for a lot.

One day, after he listened to me obsess for the umpteenth time over some guest who had a mild complaint, he gave me a great piece of advice: "Quit worrying and treat 'em like shit. They'll love you for it."

We managed to sell the restaurant for a fair amount of change. Apparently my manager was able to parlay his profit into a position in the Obama administration.

Will said...

Happy Monday, y'all. Until as recently as ten minutes ago, I didn't think it was possible to dislike Bill Keller any more than I already do. I was mistaken. Read for yourself:

Zee said...


I agree. Quite disgusting that Bill Keller would, essentially, express the sentiment that Lisa Adams should just get on with it and die quickly and peacefully like his father-in-law.

“In October 2012 I wrote about my [Keller's] father-in-law's death from cancer in a British hospital. There, more routinely than in the United States, patients are offered the option of being unplugged from everything except pain killers and allowed to slip peacefully from life. His death seemed to me a humane and honorable alternative to the frantic medical trench warfare that often makes an expensive misery of death in America...

When my wife, who had her own brush with cancer and who has written about Lisa Adams's case for The Guardian, introduced me to the cancer blog, my first thought was of my father-in-law's calm death. Lisa Adams's choice is in a sense the opposite. Her aim was to buy as much time as possible to watch her two children grow up. So she is all about heroic measures.

...any reader can see that Adams's online omnipresence has given her a sense of purpose, a measure of control in a tumultuous time, and the comfort of a loyal, protective online community. Social media have become a kind of self-medication
(My bold emphasis.)

First, Keller seems to imply that Adams' desire to see her two children grow up— via “heroic measures” if necessary—is somehow wrong or selfish. I haven't followed Adams' blog or Twitter postings, but she sounds far from dead yet, and undeserving of being “written off.”

Second, if Adams finds strength and comfort from her use of social media, so what? Neither Keller nor his wife need to read her posts!

Interesting to note that Keller's wife's Guardian piece has been “removed pending investigation.”

For my part, I hope that when my time comes I will have the courage to take Keller's father-in-law's way out. But only when all hope is lost, I have no “quality of life,” and heroic measures would buy me only an inconsequential amount of additional time on this earth. That doesn't yet seem to be the case for Adams.

I don't know how old Adams is, but she learned that she had breast cancer at 37, so I'm guessing that she's probably in her forties, now. With two children, it seems way too soon to, as Keller seems to urge her, be “going gently...with grace and courage.”

Pearl said...

I liked this comment to Krugman's article

Reader at Large
is a trusted commenter US 2 hours ago

Same old same old. We are afraid for our living, we are aware that we are
constantly under surveillance, we are increasingly afraid to complain. We
are being pitted against one another; ethnicity, age, gender, educational
status - divide and conquer. Make us distrust each other and feel weak, thus
easier to control.
The only folks who can afford to stick their necks out today are those who
are already retired - they have the least to lose. Social Security won't be cut in the near future, because older people are reliable voters. They won't have to worry about losing their job if their boss sees a picture of them at a protest. Unfortunately, the word "communism" elicits a hair-trigger
response in many older Americans, and is thus a very effective PR tactic.

Pearl said...

Very long but interesting article from Henry Giroux.


Reclaiming the Radical Imagination: Challenging Casino Capitalism's> Punishing Factories

James F Traynor said...

Keller is an ass, not worth a read.

Zee said...


I guess we're not the only ones incensed by Emma & Bill Keller's assault on Lisa Adams and her right to blog and tweet as she sees fit. (And maybe to fight for her life, as well.)

(Well, maybe it's not a right, but certainly a privilege that's granted to almost everybody as long as civility and decorum are maintained. And, of course, one's accounts are paid up to date.)