Friday, November 01, 2013

How Big Business Turned Welfare For The Poor Into Corporate Welfare

By MARC McDONALD

America has been gutting its already-threadbare social safety net for three decades. The recent cuts to food stamps are the latest evidence of that.

Does this mean that we will eventually see the realization of the GOP's dream of ending all welfare for low-income people?

Not if corporate America has a say in the matter. And make no mistake, nothing gets done in Washington, D.C. without corporate America's blessing.

The fact is, corporate America loves welfare. (No, I'm not just talking about the billions of dollars big corporations pocket in corporate welfare every year). I'm talking about welfare for low-income people.

In fact, welfare for low-income people plays a key and crucial role in the business models of companies ranging from Walmart to the fast-food industry. Without welfare programs like Medicaid and food stamps, many of these corporations would have to rethink their entire business model.

If all this sounds odd, it really shouldn't. After all, this explains why America has a social safety net in the first place.

Of course, America is a nation that has never had much sympathy for poor people. From birth, we are taught to admire the wealthy and spit on the poor. (Yes, this is indeed odd for a so-called "Christian" nation).

Hence, America's skimpy, bare-bones social safety net. In fact, given America's hostility toward the poor, it raises a question: why does America even have a social safety net at all? It certainly isn't because low-income people have much clout in Washington, D.C.

Republicans talk a real good talk about "ending welfare." And indeed, the GOP (along with the Democrats) have managed to slash welfare programs quite a bit over the past 30 years.

But the fact is, America still has a social safety net, even if it is very skimpy. And that social safety net is going nowhere, despite what the likes of Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are demanding.

The fact, is America's social safety net exists not to protect the interests of low-income people. It exists mainly to protect the profit margins of corporate America.

The fact is, corporations like Walmart can't be bothered to pay a living wage these days. And if workers don't earn a living wage, guess who is forced to make up the difference?

Yes, that's right: you and me and tens of millions of other U.S. taxpayers.

It's clear that corporate America has cleverly manipulated the system to turn programs like food stamps into de facto corporate welfare.

Most Americans are in the dark about this. Most of us tend to believe that people on food stamps are simply too lazy to get a job.

But the reality is that "most recipients of food stamps, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, are working-class Americans with jobs, or are senior citizens or children."

Over the past 30 years, with the destruction of good middle class jobs and the crushing of organized labor, tens of millions of Americans are now finding it difficult to make ends meet without food stamps and other government aid programs.

And that's just the way corporate America likes it.

Once again, the Rich & Powerful and the corporations have manipulated the system to enrich themselves and to screw over ordinary working-class people.

I recently had a debate with a friend, who disputed my contention that today's America has become an oligarchy, the sole purpose which is to enrich the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us.

"If that's true, then how to you explain welfare programs for low-income people?" my friend asked.

But as it turns out, even welfare programs for the poor ultimately benefit corporate America. Really, it's just a clever form of backdoor corporate welfare in the increasingly Third World-like nation called America.

So what's the solution to all this? Believe it or not, it's labor unions. Organized labor has been crushed over the past 30 years, since the Reagan administration's crackdown on unions. Currently, only 5 percent of private sector workers are unionized (versus 35 percent in the 1950s).

If organized labor can ever regain clout in America, more workers will be able to demand a living wage. And U.S. taxpayers will no longer be forced to subsidize corporate America's already sky-high profits.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Judge Judy is my favorite millionaire that I love to hate. She recently insulted an individual earning $1,200/month by asking, "why does a grown man take money out of my and Byrd's pocket for taking food-stamps?" His answer was classic, "I need to eat... every day. Your Honor"

Patrick Adkins said...

....and you know what could fund that Social Safety net?

I will tell you; If we got rid of those silly "Free Trade" agreements and put back in place the tariffs on imports that were there for many, many years to protect the American worker from mass imports.

It would pay down our debts, and fund that social safety net.

But, that was all ripped out by Globalist Republicans and internationalist Democrats who would rather sell the soul of America at the altar of Globalism, then see America prosper.

Pat Buchanan has been saying that for years, and you know what? He is right.

Good article. Thanks for writing it.

-Patrick
Your Paleoconservative Buddy in Detroit, Michigan
Owner
The Americanist
www.thoughtsandrantings.com

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your comments. It makes total sense to me. I hope some day we can have a Congress and President who really want to uplift people instead of use them. Also I think unions have grown and understand their role going forward is to help us rebuild the middle class and make this country great for all and not a select few.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Anon, thanks for your comment. You know, I wonder what percentage of the Rush Limbaugh crowd is aware that their hero, Rush, collected jobless benefits himself years ago? It's funny how they're a lot more forgiving of socialism and income redistribution when it goes into their pockets.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Patrick, thanks for the kind words.
re:
>>Pat Buchanan has been saying that
>>for years, and you know what? He
>>is right.

You know, I give Buchanan a lot of credit for stepping "outside the box" in his thinking. That's quite a departure from so many of today's predictable GOP commentators, who always seem to rehash the same tired talking points over and over.

I read Buchanan's "The Great Betrayal" years ago and I was quite impressed. I found that, at least on some issues, I was in agreement with him.

I particularly admired the fact that (unlike the vast majority of mainstream pundits these days), Buchanan is intelligent enough to grasp the crucial importance of manufacturing to a nation's prosperity.

One of the biggest fiascoes in U.S. history is when we pissed away our once world-beating manufacturing prowess over the past 30 years.

We foolishly sacrificed it all on the altar of "free global trade"---not realizing that most of our trade partners had no intention of doing the same thing. In fact, they were snickering behind our backs the whole time. "Free trade" is a fairy tale.

The situation today is so dire for the U.S. that the likes of China barely even bother going through the motions of pretending to participate in "free trade." And since we owe China over $1 trillion, our clout has diminished quite a bit over the years.

Anonymous said...

why work when you can game the system to your advantage...these lazy mofos need to get off their deadbeat asses and get a fucking job and stop stealing from the aggregate of society...ya hear that Wall St, Waltons, Krocs, Chuck and Davey.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Anon,
re:
>>>ya hear that Wall St, Waltons, >>>Krocs, Chuck and Davey.

Amen!

rudolphschnaubelt said...

good post. i agree that unions are the essential missing piece but first, people need too remember they are in it together and they can resist.

but yeah, really good post. thx.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Rudolph, thanks for stopping by and for your comment.

Batocchio said...

If organized labor can ever regain clout in America, more workers will be able to demand a living wage. And U.S. taxpayers will no longer be forced to subsidize corporate America's already sky-high profits.

It'll be a great first step, anyway.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Batocchio, thanks for your comment.

re:
>It'll be a great first step, anyway.

You know, I've spent time in Europe and I'm always struck by the vast difference in attitudes between working people there and here in the U.S.
In Europe, many people accept the need for unions and understand their role in making for a better society and economy.
What's amazing is that even many wealthy people in Europe also understand this. I recall reading an interview with a German CEO who said he was a supporter of organized labor and understood the need for workers to have a voice. He even said that it helped his company, and the German economy as a whole if workers had union representation and. He said it was good for the nation if workers felt they were well-compensated and had good benefits. For a start, he said, happy and content workers tend to create better products. It's difficult to build advanced, high-tech Porsches if your workers are all low-paid, demoralized and bitter.
It's all quite a change of pace from my many conversations with American workers over the years. The vast majority of working people I've talked to here in Texas show utter contempt for unions. Basically, they all just regurgitate what they heard on Rush Limbaugh. It's quite frightening. I really feel I was born on the wrong continent.

lokywoky said...

Caught a snippet of a TED talk tonight. The speaker (I don't know who it was) said that in the UK the underclass was referred to as "unfortunates" as in these people were individuals that had things happen to them that mostly were beyond their control - and the rest of society did not look down on them but therefore had sympathy for them and understood why they were there.

In the US OTOH, we have "losers". This placed a burden on the lower classes of their circumstances being totally their own fault, and they were deserving of them. this results in two reinforcing bad outcomes. It starts with the obvious blame game. Blame by the rich and others, and self-blame by the individuals themselves. Both of these lead to undesirable outcomes. Blame by society leads to the shredding of the societal safety net, and blame by the individual leads to depression and lack of motivation. Each is self-reinforcing so the ultimate result is a perpetuating cycle of deepening poverty and reinforcement of the faulty belief system that creates the problem in the first place.

It is quite amazing to me to understand just what a difference a word choice can make when a society uses one word or another one. But think about it - and remember when we have used those conscious choices to talk about other groups of people in the past - for good or ill and how differently things turn out with those simple word choices.

We can change our world with a simple refusal to use a derogatory word that has been chosen for us by people who are trying to control the outcome of our public dialogue. One that is beginning to work right now is undocumented immigrant vs illegal alien right at the present time. We can all choose our words more carefully for a better world.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Lokywoky, thanks for your comment.
re:
>>We can all choose our words more
>>carefully for a better world.

I definitely agree. Language and word choice is very important. One word choice that has always angered me is the U.S. corporate media's insistence on using the term "right to work" for the states that are anti-union.
I mean, "right to work" sounds very positive. Who could be against "right to work"? But in reality, all it means is that you've got these backward, hick, Southern states that are hostile to labor unions. (And, not surprisingly, these states---like Mississippi and Alabama---are among the most low-income states in the U.S.)

Frank Moraes said...

Last month, I wrote a personal story on the same topic:

I Was a Middle Class Food Stamp Kid

Basically: my parents owned a convenience store and people spent their food stamp money there. So a large part of my family income came from food stamps.

I am so tired of people complaining about this kind of stuff. The economy is very complicated. Helping the poor helps everyone.

David said...

A few years from now, when people like you have given the government absolute control over everything in the name of stopping the eeeevil corporations (none of whom hold a legal monopoly on the use of force), and said eeeeevil corporations no longer exist, I'm going to be laughing very hard when the government isn't so eager to give up all that power.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi David, I don't think you read my post (you can read, can't you?)
In my post, I attacked the outrageous use of taxpayer-funded corporate welfare to pad the profit margins of corporations (which incidentally is much closer to "socialism" than it is "capitalism").
I believe most Americans are with me on this one. Yeah, I'm sure there are still a small, dwindling number of Ditto-heads who would disagree (but happily, these are mostly aging, angry white males whose views---and voting patterns---are increasingly irrelevant in today's America).

David said...

Your petty insults do nothing but demonstrate your lack of maturity, Marc.

What your post says and what people like you are helping bring about are two different things, Marc. And what many of your posts make clear is that you only oppose tax-payer funded welfare going to those you don't like; you clearly have no problem with giving it to people you support.

Money extorted from people by force is wrong no matter who gets it, whether it's a wealthy corporation or a poor individual. If you and those like you feel the need to help people, you're more than free to put your own money to the task, rather than petitioning government to take it from people without their consent, under the absurd belief that the ends justify the means.

CoinTelPro said...

I'd like to step in with my own 2 cents on this matter.

re:
>>>Money extorted from people by
>>force is wrong no matter who
>>gets it

I agree with you on this. Now, maybe you can come here to where I live and talk to some of the literally dozens of "Conservatives" that I know personally who have spent most of their lives working in nice, cushy civilian jobs with the government.
(Yes: that's right. These are all self-described "Conservatives" who are always rambling on about how "government is evil" and how "all non-defense spending should be ended.")
And yet, these fucking hypocrites have no problem with the government stealing money at gunpoint from taxpayers like me and putting it in their pockets.
Frankly, people like this are evil. They are LYING their way into their government jobs. If they openly said during their job interviews how much they hated government they would (rightly) have never gotten their jobs in the first place.
No employer (whether public or private) would ever give someone a job who has contempt for the entity they're applying for.
It's entirely understandable, too. Such people cannot possibly be good workers. If you hate the government, there's no way you can be a good government worker. What's more, people like that are like a morale-draining cancer in the workplace. I mean, no wonder the U.S. government is so fucked up these days: you've got all these hypocrite "Conservatives" working for it.
People like this make me want to vomit. They're stealing money from me and they are dishonest. As their employer, I really believe people like that should not only be fired---but they should also be forced to pay back the tax dollars they stole from taxpayers like me.
As I once told one of these "Conservative" government employee/leeches: I personally would rather have a crack addict steal money from me at gunpoint. I mean, give the crack addict some credit: at least he has the balls to shove a gun into my face and look me in the eye when he steals from me.