Over the last few months/years, I have had PUBs (Progressive Unicorn Brigade) and the professional left tell me that the single biggest issue that we have to deal with is “income inequality.” The second biggest? College debt. The third biggest? “Single-payer,” which they assume is synonymous with “universal health care.”
Do you know what the above shows? It shows that many white progressives suffer from the same sort of cognitive dissonance that often plagues the idiot denizens of the right. And no, I am not calling them idiots. I know a lot of these people personally. They have significant education and they are basically good people, who genuinely wish to do right by those who have nothing. But goddammit, for people who claim to spend so much time as “information junkies,” the information sure as hell doesn’t seem to take. Politically, they don’t really have an understanding of what the average American has to go through on a daily basis. More importantly, they haven’t a clue what poor people have to deal with.
For example, while PUBs and the professional left have been wringing their hands because CEOs make too much money and insisting that the minimum wage has to more than double, they have been handing the government to Republicans, who have systematically been dismantling everything.
Take welfare, for example.
No, seriously; you might as well take it because it does nothing for anyone, truth be told. If you think people who make $9 per hour getting a raise to $15 an hour is the biggest thing poor people have to worry about, you’re not paying attention.
On one side you have the GOP constantly complaining about the high cost of welfare, while PUBs and professional lefties “counter” them by making some ridiculous complaint about “corporate welfare,” as if one thing had anything to do with the other. And while they’re arguing, poor people in this country are getting screwed. Really screwed.
For example, did you know that TANF (Temporary Aid for Needy Families, which was created in 1996 as “welfare reform”) consists of $16.5 billion total every year? That number has not budged since the bill was signed in 1996. Why not bring up that argument instead of the CEO argument? It was that amount when Clinton was investing in poor areas and building up the middle class and it was also that amount when Bush destroyed the economy. It was that amount when CEOs were making a lot less than they do now and it’s still the case. No matter how much more CEOs make, that number has not changed. No one has been able to change it because PUBs and professional lefties poisoned the debate in 2010 and 2014 and made sure Republicans, who love “welfare reform,” had an outsized influence in Congress.
Worse, PUB attempts to insinuate that both parties are essentially the same also gave Republicans controls of most state governments. This is important because the old welfare system in which those who qualified received a check from the U.S. Treasury is dead and gone. These days, welfare is administered as a series of block grants to states, and those states can use the money for just about anything that fits into four categories. These are the “goals” set out in the 1996 law, and states can do virtually anything they want that fits any of them:
- Provide assistance to needy families so that children may be cared for in their own homes or the homes of relatives.
- End the dependence of needy parents on government benefits by promoting job preparation, work and marriage.
- Prevent and reduce the incidence of out of wedlock pregnancies and establish annual numerical goals for preventing and reducing the incidence of these pregnancies; and
- Encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families.
Do you see cash assistance anywhere in there? More importantly, can you not see how a Republican-led state government might abuse those goals in a way that appeals to its fanatical base and does not really give assistance to those who need it? Various red states are investing money that we as taxpayers assumed was being used to provide assistance to the poor, in abstinence classes and to hold impromptu, for-profit classes to people who can’t even afford bus fare or nice clothes, so that they can go to a job interview. In order to qualify in the first place, they have to demonstrate that they are trying to work, but there is no safety net currently present, so how are they supposed to get a job and then get back and forth to work, if they can’t even afford a meager place to live? Women and children living in shelters are having to put the shelter address on their job application because they can’t even afford a cheap, rat-infested apartment to live in because they get no assistance. Sure, they get SNAP (food stamps), but without a kitchen to cook meals in, what good are those?
Under the old welfare system, more than two-thirds of families living below the poverty line received cash assistance. These days, that number is less than 25 percent. That means 75 percent of the people living in poverty receive no cash assistance. None. Some get some assistance to pay for child care, but the delusion that the poor get “free money” every month is simply untrue. It doesn’t happen. With inflation, TANF spending has dropped by more than one-third since 1996 and there is essentially no safety net available for poor families these days. It’s almost impossible to qualify, and there are thousands of reports that state workers who administer the program are often rude, nasty and dismissive of those who need our help.
In other words, the people at the bottom rung of the economic ladder need our help. Yes, wages need to go up on the lower end, but that is not affected in the slightest by the amount of pay CEOs receive. Likewise, if they can’t get to an interview and get a job, it really doesn’t matter much if the minimum wage is $8 an hour or $12 or $15. The richest country in the world should be taking care of its poorest citizens; that should be a priority. Making sure every child living under our auspices has food, shelter and a good education is a hell of a lot more important than jailing “banksters.” And it is certainly more important than “free college.”
Because our welfare system is no longer responsive to anyone’s needs, kids are going to school hungry. Summer vacations are starting up many places and many states are footing the bill to provide breakfast and lunch to poor children. In some communities, like Tucson, where I’m living now, schools are opening their cafeterias during the summer break to serve meals because as many as 40 percent of children are at risk for hunger at any given time. That’s because this is a blue area of a very red state; in the rest of the state, kids may not have access to that because the Republican ideology has taken its toll on the poor. In addition to going hungry and having a hard time finding a place to live, schools in many poor areas are really sub-par, to the point that it creates an extra burden on those kids even getting into a college, let alone figuring out how to pay for it. If you think “free college” is resonating with those on the bottom of the economy, you don’t really understand what’s going on. To say that poor people are hanging on by a thread is overstating things. The thread is frayed, and they’re actually sinking fast. And there is virtually no net to catch them.
The same goes with “single-payer.” Many of the people who talk the most about single-payer apparently don’t really even understand what it is. Last week, I was arguing with a guy who claimed that Hillary Clinton was not in favor of universal healthcare. Seriously. The woman who wrote the original healthcare reform bill more than 20 years ago is against that? Turns out he thought the only way to get universal healthcare was through single-payer, which is untrue. In fact, most countries that guarantee healthcare to their populations are not single-payer systems.
Many of the people who need our help the most – you know, the poor people PUBs and pro lefties claim to be advocating for, still don’t have access to healthcare, and it’s not because we don’t have a single-payer system, it’s because a number of Republican-led states have refused to provide Medicaid to the poor in their state. Everyone in poverty in every state in the union would have access to free or really cheap healthcare if Republicans were not in charge.
And that is the key. For all of their hemming and hawing and your pretending to care about those who have nothing, they have apparently been sleeping and not noticed that, while they have been dreaming about frog-marching Bush and Cheney to The Hague and parading “banksters” to prison in orange jumpsuits during their slumber, the poor in this country have been royally screwed by a major political party that is not the Democrats and is most certainly not Hillary Clinton.
Wake up and get a clue, far lefties; Democrats are not the enemy. Not even close. If you really want to make the United States more progressive, start by embracing Democrats and getting rid of the current GOP. That’s the first step in any such plan.