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War on Poverty has become war on the poor - Comments (0)
Carole McWilliams - 1/24/2014
Earlier this month, the media noted the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty. Now we have the war on the poor, and the non-rich more generally.
Earlier this month, our worthies in congress passed a 2014 government funding bill to avert another government shutdown. That’s good.
But still left undone is renewal of the Farm Bill, which includes the Food Stamp program that congressional Republicans have been trying to gut funding for, and extension of federal unemployment assistance for the long-term unemployed.
Assistance ran out for around 1.3 million unemployed people at the end of December, and more long-term unemployed folks will be hit if there is no extension of benefits.
Congressional Republicans say the focus should be on creating good jobs instead of perpetuating handouts.
I’d love to see a Republican focus on creating jobs. Since 2009, they’ve obstructed pretty much any Democratic proposal to do that.
As best I can tell, their primary job creation plan has been to cut taxes for the rich and mega corporations on the grounds that those are the job creators; although financial wheeling and dealing doesn’t create jobs, and mega corporations are sitting on piles of cash that they are using for stock buy-backs and to computerize or robotize production, i.e. reduce the need for actual human workers.
Republicans’ other job creation strategy is to cut “job killing regulations” for those corporations, since we all know corporations will sacrifice profits to act in the public interest if left to their own devices.
Republicans have blocked Democratic efforts to raise the national minimum wage. My impression is that the lowest wage workers wouldn’t even be getting $7.25 an hour if Republicans had a say in it.
Some state and local governments have raised their local minimum wage, absent action from congress. Now a very rich Republican in California is proposing a ballot initiative to raise the state minimum wage there. Low wage workers depend on government safety net programs such as Food Stamps to get by, he says; so in effect the taxpayers are subsidizing those private businesses to pay low wages. He thinks that should stop.
Congressional Republicans, in contrast, say that perpetuating Food Stamps and long-term unemployment benefits encourages people not to work.
That points up what seems to be a core attitude of high level Republicans – that working class Americans are by nature lazy and would rather get government handouts than be self-supporting. I find that hugely offensive.
Republicans also have said renewal of food and unemployment assistance needs to be paid for with spending cuts elsewhere.
My first thought would be to eliminate the most useless agency in the federal government. Yes, that would be congress itself. But I’m sure that would be unconstitutional.
So my alternative idea is to change how the worthies are paid. Instead of a flat $174,000 or whatever per year, change their pay to per diem, days they are actually in session doing the people’s work. That should save a bundle.
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