Friday, December 7, 2012
On Cutting the Social Safety Nets
As we know, Our Rulers set an objective to cut the social safety nets some time ago, and they have been relentless in pursuit of their goals. Such safety nets as were put in place during the FDR/WWII/Cold War Eras have been cut back since the advent of the Reagan Revolution, and many are coming down.
The idea is marketed as Liberationist -- see, Freedom! To starve! Yay! -- but of course the upshot is authoritarian. These things always work out that way for some reason. And here you thought you were Free.
And it is literally Freedom to Starve, let's make no mistake about it. Poverty in America has been growing at a smart clip and there is no sign at all that the trends will reverse. The likelier scenario is that poverty will keep growing and -- gosh! -- no one will have a clue what to do about it; gee, it's just one of those things, you know... As poverty grows, so does hunger -- abject hunger, starvation -- something that has been stalking the land for many years, but you don't really notice or hear about it because most of those who are starving have long been so marginalized (primarily among the homeless mentally ill) that their fate -- whether to starve or to freeze or whatever, get run over or to be shot by the police for being odd -- isn't even noted by most people. That's how far we have come from the days when we actually thought we were on the way to a comprehensively caring society. The closer we got to it in the '60's especially, the farther from it a faction of our ruling class moved themselves and eventually the rest of us.
Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward wrote a book back in the day called "Regulating the Poor," and it was remarkably influential among a certain element of the Liberal Elites in the 1970's and '80's. Eventually, it would give rise to the enabling faction of those same elites. Which is to say that the shredding of the social safety net has been largely accomplished under the liberal -- and liberationist -- guise, rather than as an ongoing aspect of increasingly radical and reactionary rule of the neo-liberal/neo-conservative nexus at the core of post-modern governmental theory and practice.
I doubt that Piven and Cloward had any idea that their examination of Poor Laws over the centuries, and their application of Liberationist notions to the expansion of the Welfare State in America during the '60's and '70's would actually provide the justification for and lead to its destruction, but there you are. After all Piven and Cloward are liberals, and they wrote to celebrate the more humane and liberating features of the social safety net then being implemented... didn't they?
At this point, I honestly don't know. Witnessing the shocking growth of poverty in this country over the last five years and more and the neglect of even basic provisions for those least able to care for themselves as a consequence of public policy decision made by representatives of all political stripes -- every one of whom seems to be under the thrall of a tiny minority of extremely wealthy and inordinately selfish and socially irresponsible individuals and corporate interests -- it's difficult to tell.
Americans have ceded responsibility for social well-being to this handful of moral cretins, and so we have the results we see -- results which ought to be appalling to anyone with a conscience. Poverty, hunger, homelessness, disease, and death. That's the result. It's all around us.
And so a concerted effort is under way to further reduce or eliminate such minor provisions for the well-being of the American People as have survived to date. This means that Social Security and Medicare are on the chopping block, and the Democratic denizens of the White House and Senate are eager to do the chopping -- much as the Democratic denizens of an earlier White House cheerfully ended "welfare as we know it."
At one time, of course, the United States got without much of a social safety net at all, certainly there was nothing to speak of provided from the Federal Government on behalf of the poor and destitute -- which in those days constituted a shockingly high percentage of the American population. People fret that the United States is becoming a Third World country, little realizing that it was one back in the day. Until relatively recently, Americans were by and large poor, and there was little or no succor for the impoverished masses.
What there was, however, was a kind of escape hatch: the Frontier.
Escape to the Frontier was the means Americans chose to deal with the crushing poverty of the masses, especially the poor urban masses.
But the Frontier closed toward the end of the 19th Century. There was no longer any place to escape to. Free land on which you might be able to make a living was no longer available, and many of those who had gone out earlier to the Frontier were facing ever increasing exploitation and hardship, not the prosperity and freedom they were promised.
I've written a bit about how members of my own family escaped poverty by heading west, and how -- at least for a time -- some of them waxed prosperous. Yet prosperity by itself is an evanescent thing for most Americans. As the middle class shrinks and the supposed wealth of middle class Americans evaporates, "prosperity" for many is now something of a cruel joke.
What is the answer from Our Rulers and the social scientists who serve them? Why shrink the middle further of course! Relieve them of all wealth. Increase poverty. And cut back or destroy whatever is left of the shredded safety net. Freedom demands no less!
Our Rulers agree this must be done. They disagree on how fast and how harshly it must be done.
The People of course object, but their objections are not heard nor are they considered. "Painful choices" must be made, and they will be made, with or without the concurrence and agreement of the People.
"Entitlements" are to be "trimmed." The People be damned, and bless the increasing poverty that will result.
For the poverty of the many is believed to be necessary for the ever-expansion of the wealth of the few.
As we know, with the collapse of Communism, there are no longer any intellectual or moral barriers to the impoverishment of your Granny or your children's early deaths from preventable diseases. These are instead considered tonics to the moocher and dependent classes, goads to get them off their lazy asses and into some productive toil.
That the employment market has collapsed along with the bubbles that had been inflated over and over again is beside the point. Oh, there is plenty of work to be done, to be sure. Simply rebuilding a portion of our corroded and collapsing infrastructure would lead to full employment in a trice, but it wouldn't necessarily benefit Our Betters sufficiently to be worthwhile -- to them-- so it isn't done. Doing something globally about global warming and climate change could easily employ the entire population of the Earth and then some, but if Our Betters can't see sufficient profit for themselves in the endeavor, it won't be done. And "sufficient" unto themselves is Everything, much as the entire profit from the productivity increase over the last 40 years has gone into the pockets of the Overclass.
Social Security must be "trimmed" -- not because of any deficit in the program or in government finances, but because it benefits the Unworthy. That is the sole reason to cut Social Security benefits. Much as Medicare benefits those who Don't Deserve It, and so Medicare eligibility must be restricted (by raising the age of eligibility, much as Social Security eligibility has been restricted via raising the age of eligibility to collect full benefits. As an aside, commentators may want to get up to date on that age: it is not 65 for current retirees. It is 66 and some months. Soon enough it will be 67. It hasn't been 65 for years.)
Medicaid of course solely benefits the Unworthy and should therefore be slated for elimination.
All because of Moochers.
It's long past time to jettison this paradigm.
Overwhelming majorities of the American People oppose further cuts in Social Security and Medicare. Yet Our Rulers are poised to cut them anyway -- and perhaps they are even more inclined to do so because of public opposition. Governing contrary to the will of the People has become institutionalized in American government, and the more public opposition there is to neo-liberal programs (such as cuts to the social safety nets) the more the Ruling Class feels emboldened to pursue and enact policies contrary to the public interest and the public will. (Cf: Greece for a grotesque example.)
Apparently the only way to stop this is to... put a stop to it. So far, the People haven't figured out how to do that.
But the People will. They always do...