Sunday, July 28, 2013

America's Imaginary Lavish Social Welfare Safety Net That Exists Only in GOP's Mind


In America, we hate the poor. We really, really hate the poor. We are indoctrinated from birth to hate the poor. Jesus may have said, "Blessed are you who are poor." But America has no time for that Jesus. Our motto is "Screw the poor."

As a result, America has never been big on social welfare programs for the poor. Even during the peak years of U.S. social program spending (during LBJ's "Great Society" years), America had a skimpy social safety net, compared to other industrialized nations.

Compared to generous European social safety nets, America these days more closely resembles the likes of Mexico than a modern First World industrialized nation. Jobless benefits, for example, are far more meager and stingy in the U.S. than they are in Europe. In fact, for one reason or another, millions of Americans don't even ever qualify for jobless benefits. (I know: I was one of them. Years ago, I applied for jobless benefits and was turned down).

The other pillar of the U.S. social safety net, food stamps, is also very meager. I recall recently playing around with the food stamp eligibility program on a Texas state government Web site. I was curious as to exactly how low one's income had to be in order to qualify. I kept plugging in lower and lower income numbers and kept getting a response page that said, "You earn too much to qualify for food stamps." Eventually, I concluded the Web site must be broken. It was only later that I discovered, much to my amazement, that the Web site was in fact working just fine and the Third World-like wages I'd plugged into the search form were indeed considered too high to qualify for aid.

In short, in America these days, if you're poor, you are screwed. The fact is, many low-income and poor people never even qualify for any type of aid. And the shocking numbers of homeless in the U.S. demonstrates that our social safety net is grotesquely inadequate to meet the needs of the needy. The fact that one in five children lives in poverty is a good indicator of that.

In fact, what meager social safety net programs that are around only exist because corporate America wants them to exist (a good indicator of just how corrupt our government is these days).

Take food stamps for example. This program simply wouldn't exist were it not for the likes of Walmart. Since Walmart (a vastly profitable mega-billion-dollar corporation) can't be bothered to pay their workers a living wage, we the taxpayer in effect subsidize their wages via food stamps, (as well as other programs like Medicaid).

Give corporate America credit: they do know how to exploit a situation to boost their profits.

Despite all this, today's Republican Party is convinced that the reason America is going broke is that we supposedly fund all these lavish, generous social safety net programs. Indeed, the likes of Rush Limbaugh constantly ramble on about "trillions of dollars" that are supposedly spent on welfare. The typical Limbaugh listener these days is convinced that America is going broke because of "excessive welfare spending" and "lavish foreign aid."

It's all a lie, of course.

Welfare programs for the non-working poor are in fact a tiny part of the federal budget (5 percent, in fact). And, as a percentage of GDP, America's foreign aid budget is smaller than virtually any other industrialized nation. (In fact, what foreign aid we do spend is often nothing more than backdoor military aid).

It's one thing for clowns like Limbaugh to lie about welfare. But I also routinely hear other, more mainstream Republicans lie through their teeth about America's "lavish" welfare spending.

The reason is obvious. It's easier to beat up on the poor and the needy and make them a scapegoat for America's economic crisis. The real reason for America's titanic deficits (out-of-control military spending and insane trillion-dollar wars) rarely gets a mention in our mainstream political discourse.

Republicans are happy to shovel trillions of dollars into the wasteful, corrupt monster known as the Military Industrial Complex. And then they have the gall to blame needy children for bankrupting the American nation.

The reason is obvious, of course. The Military Industrial Complex employs thousands of lobbyists who are willing to shower billions of dollars on "our" representatives in Congress.

By contrast, needy children don't have any lobbyists to represent their interests.

America is a nation that has a serious addiction to massive trillion-dollar military budgets. By contrast, programs for the poor are a small slice of the federal budget. To blame the latter for America's fiscal woes is the equivalent of a drug addict who spends $500 a day on crack cocaine and then blames his budget woes on the fact that he spends a quarter a day on a newspaper.

I believe today's Republicans are playing with fire when they continue to attack the poor and continue to work to slash what little remains of the U.S. social safety net.

The poor, the needy, the impoverished have been crapped all over by this government for decades. Their growing ranks (and their growing desperation) is a ticking time bomb that will eventually blow up in the face of our corrupt government and the plutocrats that it serves.


Cirze said...

Heck fire. I'm rolling in the money.

Just ask the local SNAP program.

I have no income and a small amount of savings that doesn't pay both rent and utilities, so I qualify for the huge largesse of $16/month.

They don't want me to gain too much weight, I guess.

Thanks for being a voice for reason, Marc.

Lobbyist for needy children (and adults),


It was only later that I discovered, much to my surprise, that the Web site was in fact working and the Third World-like wages I'd plugged into the search form were indeed considered too high to quality for aid.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Cirze, thanks for your comment. I really have nothing but contempt for these politicians.
I recall how George W. Bush fought against the program to help poor kids get health care. It "violated" his "free market" principles, he explained.
And then, in 2008, Bush turned around and bailed out the billionaire crooks on Wall Street with our tax dollars. So much for the "free market."

Anonymous said...

Yep, it makes me sick to death to hear how we treat the least of us in this country. The United States is addicted to youth, insane levels of wealth that are out of reach, and power. If you don't have any of the above, you are somehow inferior and unworthy of any level of comfort or sustenance in life due to your "moral" failings. That's what we get for being founded by the joyless f@#$%*% Puritan bible-thumpers that England through out, now we're ruled and controlled by their social-engineering, corporate misanthrope descendants.

I'm currently wiring a building in Downtown Detroit, the living embodiment of how polar the difference between the "achievers" and "losers" of society have become.

You can clearly see many homeless people on the streets; many of them aren't completely whacked in the head, or alcoholics, or crackheads.

There are the working poor; those who work in the service industries that feed the few achievers downtown.

There are the blue-collar types (Myself Included); mostly construction, automotive, and infrastructure workers; a majority of which commute to work downtown.

There are the achievers; the minority of college-educated professionals working in the gentrified financial, legal, medical, corporate, and technical support industries that dot the Wasteland.

For a city that some equate to a reanimated corpse, Detroit seems to have some life left to it. It's just downsizing and reorganizing itself to attempt to survive. There but for the grace of God, I find myself one medical problem, or replacement automobile away from becoming one of the poor wretches on the street.


Cthulhu said...

Same here, Cirze. Disabled, getting Disability and Medicare. Half my disability check goes for rent.

For me and my 7 year old daughter? A whopping 16 dollars a month.

Hunter said...

Been there -- and had my food stamps reduced by 80% when I got evicted and found a place to live that I could afford on $150/week. Unemployment had run out a year before, and I didn't qualify for any other assistance, being male, under 65, and not disabled.

Those were the good old days. Right.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi WageslaveZ, thanks, as always for your perceptive comment. You and I are definitely on the same page politically. If I made it up to Detroit one of these days, I'd like to buy you a beer.

>>Detroit seems to have some life
>>left to it.

I live in the Fort Worth area, which is probably the most extreme Far-Right part of the U.S. I hear a lot of smug right-wingers here who arrogantly brag about Fort Worth's "prosperity" and how our "GOP free-market" policies helped our city not become "like Detroit."
But what these idiots don't realize is that, without the billions of military contract dollars Fort Worth has sucked in over the years, this city would be a ghost town. Fort Worth's "prosperity" had nothing to do with capitalism and everything to do with the fact that our city has leeched off the tax payers to rake in all these bloated, corrupt "military" contract dollars over the years.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi, Cthulhu, thanks for your comment.
>>For me and my 7 year old daughter?
>>A whopping 16 dollars a month.

That wouldn't even pay for the tip for one of Ron Paul's lavish banquet dinners that he enjoys regularly (all paid for with our tax dollars, of course).
(Oh, and before any wingnuts chime in that Obama enjoys banquets too, let me say: at least Obama isn't constantly whining about how "evil" the government is and trying to slash all social spending---unlike heartless, mean-spirited people like Ron Paul).

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Hunter, thanks for your comment. I'm sorry to hear your story---I hope things are going better for you now.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for the empathic words. It's good to hear someone NOT dump on Detroit without having actually seen it themselves.

You made an excellent point about your home region of Dallas/Ft. Worth, if it weren't for all the defense contractors and corporate welfare queen corporations living off tax-dodging, I'm quite sure it would be a post-industrial Nifleheim, quite like Detroit.

In fact, the Southern megalopolises were part of the downfall of Detroit, starting in the Cold War Era. Detroit was no longer the Arsenal of Democracy, but it was also cheaper to set up defense manufacturing down south due to the limited or non-existent union presence. However, I digress.

I'd probably buy you a beer in return if we could ever talk politics face-to-face.


Rexi44 said...

"It's one thing for clowns like Limbaugh to lie about welfare. But I also routinely hear other, more mainstream Republicans lie through their teeth about America's "lavish" welfare spending."

Seems like everybody complains. Some people who are getting help themselves rant the loudest about *those other people* who are gaming the system. Don't they know that reinforces the welfare queen myth more than anything Rush and company could say?

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Rexi44, thanks for your comment.
>>Some people who are getting help
>>themselves rant the loudest about
>>*those other people* who are gaming
>>the system.

I hear you. One of the fiercest critics of "welfare" who I've ever heard is this guy I know here in Texas. He considers himself a hard-core "Libertarian." He thinks ALL government programs are "welfare" and loudly advocates for them to be shut down.
Oh, and incidentally, he's been on Social Security SSI disability for the past 30 years. In fact, I don't think he has ever held a job. By all appearances, he looks very physically fit. I once watched him build a swimming pool in his backyard and I never saw any sign that he has any ailment.
And yet, he happily collects his disability check every week (even as he rails against all the "lazy n*ggers" in America who "sit around collecting welfare.")
Typical "I've got mine, so f*ck everyone else" Republican.

Jack Jodell said...

Brilliantly stated and thoroughly accurate, Marc. We should be completely ashamed of ourselves, except that we have lost our conscience. We are at an all-time moral and ethical low in this Tea Party-infested country of today.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Jack, thanks for your kind words and your comment.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi WageslaveZ, thanks for your comment.
>>It's good to hear someone NOT
>>dump on Detroit without having
>>actually seen it themselves.

Amen. You know, a lot of the GOP/Tea Party types here who I've heard slam Detroit are trailer trash idiots who've never even been outside of the state. Of course, I have no problem with poor people (I was one myself for many years). But I do get sick and tired of these ignorant, low-income, Rush-listening types who blame all their problems on the usual suspects (illegal immigrants, gays, blacks, unions, etc.) instead of realizing that the likes of the Koch brothers (and the other oligarchs who rule this nation) are really the cause of their plight.
>>I'd probably buy you a beer in
>>return if we could ever talk
>>politics face-to-face.

It's a deal! I will make an effort to visit Detroit here in the near future.

Anonymous said...


It'd be cool if you could write off your trip to Detroit as a business expense, then I'd feel less guilty about drawing you away from your paying day job in the Texas Twin Cities.

As for myself, I've been in working poverty my whole adult life, college didn't exactly go as planned, and I'm paying the piper to this day. I'm a 32-year-old man working a 1st punch electrical apprenticeship that probably should have gone to an 18-25-year-old kid with few or no college prospects.

My biggest motivation for working very hard these days is fear of failure or falling further through the cracks of society that I've been stuck in, much like the mildew in old shower grout.

Constantly hearing from out-of-touch gasbag corporate and political types proclaiming that Americans have an actual safety net that is too "generous" is one of the reasons I try to stay away from mainstream media outlets. I sometimes feel a colon polyp forming every time I'm forced to endure Faux News or CNN in a waiting room, lobby, or restaurant. That's why I'm glad there are independent-minded media folks such as yourself fighting the good fight, please keep doing so, for us quasi-blue-collar types have no voice in the U.S. anymore.


Marc McDonald said...

Hi WageslaveZ, thanks for your comment.
>>That's why I'm glad there are
>>independent-minded media folks
>>such as yourself fighting the
>>good fight, please keep doing so,
>>for us quasi-blue-collar types
>>have no voice in the U.S.

Thanks. I will indeed keep fighting. The only way the oligarchy that owns America will ever silence me is to kill me.