Wednesday, November 20, 2013

(If You Are Poor In America) The U.S. Government Does Not Care About You (So, Why Not Die Already?)

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The Basics: As big business wages a war on the poor, aided actively by the U.S. Federal Government, I call out my Representative in Congress for his part in it.

Whether it is considered good etiquette to point it out, but there is a war going on in the United States right now. The most ironic aspect of this war is that the people who suffer the most have been bamboozled by those who work to destroy them to support the very acts that lead to their impoverishment and suffering. The war of which I speak is the War On The Poor. The War On Poverty begun during the Johnson Administration was quietly surrendered to a War On The Impoverished during the Reagan Administration and today, a vast number of citizens in the United States suffer as a result of policies ranging from bad to criminal used to keep them underemployed, in debt to massive, multibillion dollar corporations, and in a perpetual state of want and fear.

The long-term plan of those who seek to create and maintain a class of citizens that is utterly dependent upon the charity of bad big businesses was simple to execute and maintain: they formulated the concept that government was bad and business interests are good. While there is ample evidence to the contrary – check out my article on how the “market” is not coming to save us here! – the dialectic was formed: business good, government bad. Government has been atrociously bad for poor folks in recent years, but largely because it is eager to support businesses as opposed to protecting the lives of living, breathing, human being citizens.

Take, for example, the recent lapse in food stamp benefits. There was a temporary funding bill that authorized SNAP benefits to be increased a few years back so that everyone who was on food stamps was given more money each month to only spend on food (it’s part of the SNAP benefit, so it could not – despite what reactionary poverty-haters would have the public believe – be spent on alcohol, cigarettes or anything non-food). The extension lapsed, despite having ample evidence to show that dollars spent by consumers using SNAP benefits actually had a multiplicative effect (in other words, $1 in SNAP spending actually ended up equaling something like $1.60 being added to the economy). What this means is, for example, a family of two (like mine!) living in Michigan went from having a food budget of $363 a month to $236 a month when the extension ended.

It’s hard not to feel attacked when one lives in a poor area, where there are few jobs, and the government takes away one’s ability to get food.

For those who do not know such things (and if you’re not in Michigan, you might not have any reason to), in Michigan, SNAP benefits are granted on the 11th of each month. Like most poor people, when my family has money for food, we go and buy it so we can cook, eat and survive. On the 17th of this month, massive storms hit Michigan and many of us lost power. When power goes out, food goes bad. Many, many families in Michigan not only lost power, but after two days of living without power, we lost all of our refrigerated and frozen groceries that we just spent our SNAP money on. (Wait, I hear you cry, how can you not have renter’s insurance for just this sort of contingency? Where do you think the money from renter’s insurance is materializing from? It’s not like two people working minimum wage jobs part time can afford the state-mandated health care, much less renter’s insurance!)

What has the response from the U.S. Government been?

[Insert deafening silence here.]

My representative in the U.S. House Of Representatives is Dave Camp. Dave Camp is the Chairman of the House Ways And Means Committee, which is pretty impressive given that he is an eleven-term Congressman who has not been at the forefront of any major legislation. Dave Camp might be a flyover Congressman, but he is in a remarkably powerful position. How does he feel about the poor in his district? Well, apparently, he hates them. I can write that with full authority because instead of sponsoring legislation to raise the minimum wage, close the loopholes in the ACA that encourage businesses to only hire workers as part time workers, and do anything else to make it easier for people in his district to pay their bills, Camp sponsored HR 890. HR 890 is an extension authorization that eliminates benefits to poor people if they can’t find work. The Preserving Welfare Work Requirement and TANF Extension Act cuts federal funding to states that make exemptions for work requirements for welfare recipients. In simpler terms, the Federal Government mandated that if you need welfare, you won’t get welfare benefits if you can’t get a job (even part time). Some states seemed to realize that it was ridiculous to mandate work requirements for welfare recipients (because, if you need welfare, you probably don’t have a job) and they waived that requirement so, you know, their citizens would not starve, get evicted, and die. Dave Camp, a legislator in one of the poorer rural districts of Michigan has a big “Fuck You!” to his own constituents by sponsoring legislation that keeps them off the benefits that could only help them survive in a cold, Michigan winter.

But, back to the power outage. In response to cutting food stamp benefits (or, if there is no malicious intent on Dave Camp and other legislators’ motives and indifference rules the day, simply not reauthorizing the benefit extension) and many Michiganders losing the food they bought with their SNAP benefits before the power outage and freezing weather hit, Dave Camp has sponsored no emergency spending legislation. In fact, not one of the 435 legislators in the House Of Representatives has sponsored any legislation to grant food stamp recipients in power outage-affected areas additional SNAP benefit money immediately to replace food they might have lost. Believe me, as a poor person, we don’t care which one of the 435 stands up to try to get us food, but we’ll be grateful if one of them did.

Barring that, it would be nice to see and hear any one of the 435 admit into the Congressional Record that citizens believe that the House Of Representatives and the U.S. Government does not give a damn about them. I’d be impressed if one of the members of the House were to risk editing on C-Span and a gavel bang by saying forthrightly, “Our constituents don’t think we give a fuck about them.” And why should we? Why should we believe the government cares about us when power goes out, food spoils and not one of the 435 members of the U.S. House Of Representative is ignorant of the effects of food spoilage.

So, that leads me to the end. The War On The Impoverished will not end until the public wakes up and acts. The most effective deterrent to any war in the United States has been casualties. During the Vietnam War, the site of monks lighting themselves on fire and the images of caskets of soldiers coming home led to massive, widespread changes in public opinion that turned against the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Here in the United States, especially as winter hits, there are casualties every day. We need a site, we need a ledger, of all those who die of hunger, starvation, malnutrition, exposure to the elements, and easily-treatable medical conditions for which the government could easily provide a remedy.

The Affordable Care Act, which has financial and legal consequences for citizens who cannot afford health insurance, put the United States firmly on the road to establishing debtor’s prisons (something the United States has actually never had, something we rebelled against when Dickensian England punished people for simply not having money). The Federal Government is eroding and removing any safety net citizens once had from poverty, despair, hunger, and homelessness. It is becoming criminal to be poor and the individuals who write the rules about such things have taken the attitude “adapt or die.” Until enough of us die, and die publicly, without anonymity, while yelling loudly our story, our personal narrative of how we followed the rules and government and industry let us down, nothing will change.

It is time to stop denying that truth, because if you believe the government gives a damn, gives a flying fuck, about you or anyone else who is poor, you are only aiding and abetting the enemy that would just as soon see you dead.

For other economic and political articles, please check out my articles on:
How The Affordable Care Act Is Unconstitutional
It Is Time To Abolish The “Tipped Employees Minimum Wage”
Patronage For Youth Voters!

For other reviews, please visit my Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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