Saturday, November 2, 2013

Too Bad, So Sad -- The Continuing Impoverishment of the Millions

Yesterday marked a reduction in food stamp benefits for tens of millions of recipients; this is on top of the rigorous impoverishment of millions upon millions of people each and every year of the seemingly endless Recession. Obviously, the poorer you are, the less you need to eat, and if you're not working because there are no jobs available, you benefit from eating less. Extra calories would just be turned to fat as you laze around on your unemployed ass, as everyone knows.

I saw my own congressional rep on the teevee yesterday (Michelle Lujan Grisham, someone I don't know and have never had any contact with, as opposed to her predecessor, Martin Heinrich, who was either calling or having staff call all the time, and who held district constituent meetings regularly, something I don't think Lujan Grisham has ever done). Interesting that while she decried the current cut to food stamp benefits, she was quite eager, she said, to "work with Republicans" to cut food stamp benefits "responsibly." In other words, "too bad, so sad" for those who were just barely getting by as it was with their meager benefits intact. Let's cut them anyway! Responsibly. Of course.

New Mexico is a poor state, never mind all the rich folk who live here. One in five New Mexicans receive food stamp benefits, a number that has grown since the onset of the Endless Recession (endless for the proles) and since the Recession won't end, the number of beneficiaries doesn't decline. Food isn't cheap here, either. So those who are seeing a cut in benefits are essentially shit out of luck. Too bad, so sad.

There are extensive food banks around the state; even some of the toniest areas have them. Family and neighbors take care of family and neighbors, too. It's not like there is no help available at all; it's there, though it might be tough to access or there may be personal issues going on that make it more difficult than need be to get help when needed. But this private assistance regime can only go so far, and it can only go on for so long. Eventually, the private assistance system runs out; it's inevitable. Then what? Too bad, so sad.

The impoverishment of the millions continues year over year. It's not solely a matter of continuing high rates of unemployment. It's wage rates, too. Wages that are often -- too often -- too meager to live on, let alone to prosper. Of course employers should pay more, a lot more, but they don't have any incentive to do it when their taxes are so low already, unemployment remains high, and global competition keeps overall wage rates down for everyone except the very top of the pyramid. Paying workers less ensures a greater remuneration at the top. Simple mathematics. Of course, it can't last, but so what? The world is supposedly self-destructing in climate change, so enjoy it while it lasts! Too bad, so sad for those who fall through the holes in the increasingly tattered safety net.

Wiser heads than mine have pointed out that this continuing ratcheting down of services and benefits as well as the continuing forced impoverishment of the masses is no accident. It is deliberate and has a very specific intent: disposing of surplus populations. In other words, it is a form of (for lack of a better word) slow genocide.

Excess population is supposed to die off. Global populations then will stabilize at slightly more -- or less -- than they are now, while the End is anticipated. We're already seeing signs of how the elites figure the Apocalyptic Pageant will play out.

As coastal regions are storm-lashed, the margins are abandoned. Survivors are moved to less risk-prone regions, but unless they are important people, they are not provided with the wherewithal to do well in their new environment and the die-off continues. Other areas of the country  (cf: Detroit as well as its predecessors and successors) are abandoned, the resident populations pillaged, the survivors forced to move somewhere else. Financialization ensures the progressive (how I'm coming to hate that word) impoverishment of more and more survivors, until everyone is dirt poor except the Highest of the Mighty, who then lord it over everyone else ensuring that the die off continues until only so many survivors persist as are needed to serve the needs and desires of the remaining kleptocrats, secure in their enclosures protected from the increasingly aggressive climate regime.

Yves Smith recently opined that there is a "crisis of overpopulation," something I really haven't heard for many, many years, except for a handful of rigid libertarian/Bircherites. The population must be reduced she insists or we're DOOOMED! And Ian Welsh -- whose 44 Theses she is criticising -- has nothing to say about it, the crumb.

Now wait, wait please. We haven't been hearing about the 'crisis of overpopulation' for decades in part because the population is pretty much self-stabilizing on the one hand (and would be more so without some of the impediments put in the way by politicians and their benefactors, but that's another essay), and on the other, we've discovered through much experience that those who pontificate loudest about "overpopulation" of the other  (there are always too many of them aren't there?) are ones who devoutly wish to use the "population crisis" as a cover and excuse for exploitation, forced extraction and impoverishment, famine and starvation, and ultimately for rule by a infinitesimally tiny elite. This is nothing but the British Raj writ large (Ian, I'm led to believe, has some family history with that little experiment in terror...) The other factor that has lessened the 'crisis of population' as it used to be is the fact that so long as there is no outside interference, such as from colonialists, independent peoples are quite capable of maintaining relatively large populations relatively well indefinitely -- as long as it is their policy to do so. India and China are prime examples of the possibility. Parts of Africa are counter-examples, but I would argue that the interference of colonialist powers never ended in Africa and every effort by the local population to free themselves has been subverted or crushed by neo-imperialists.

It boils down to a question of who's to be master -- the People (in the abstract) or the company of plunderers.

But, but, but the environment!!!!! I'm so old that I can clearly remember when things were pretty environmentally disastrous, practically everywhere. Most people are too young to remember when cities were choking cesspits of pollution of all kinds. Smog was so bad when I lived in Los Angeles as a child for example that the majestic San Gabriel mountains that rose barely ten miles away could rarely be seen from our living room picture window; now it is clear practically every day, and the view of the mountains is stunning. That's just one example of a dire environmental situation that was... dealt with. Rivers have been cleansed of pollution, dumping of toxic wastes has been widely controlled, and on and on. There are still plenty of environmental issues left to deal with, and there may be nothing at all we can do at this point to stop or reverse climate change due to increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, but to assert that population by itself is destroying the environment -- as Yves does -- is simply not true, or rather, it's not the whole truth.

The CO2 problem is real, and the short term consequences may not be pleasant for large parts of the globe, but according to what I've seen and read, there have been similar episodes of climate change and global warming in the past -- in fact, the warmer periods are the more usual, and we're coming out of a cold era in any case -- and they are self-correcting. I know the fear is the change we're experiencing won't self correct. Maybe it won't, I don't know, but neither does anybody else.

At any rate, people can be mightily adaptable under difficult circumstances, so I for one refuse to cry DOOM in the face of the Future. It will always turn out different than we imagine.

Which is why, in one sense, the continuing impoverishment of the masses for the benefit of a shrinking elite makes me angry, but it doesn't keep me awake at night too often. It's the kind of thing peoples have experienced through most of history, and it's a wrong that can be and sometimes is righted.

People can change this situation, almost instantly, when they set their collective mind to it.

The question is whether that will ever happen again.

I don't know.

1 comment:

  1. Agree about the neo-Raj designs. I think the reason for the extraordinary mass hoarding of corporate cash piles we're seeing now is the hope that they'll soon be able to decisively break China, then buy the country out from under the locals, reducing them to permanent coolie status--India is already seeing some of this, it never quite managed to decisively sever its colonial ties so it's an easier nut to crack. Then the "good times" will have returned, and better, with two "jewels in the crown"...