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.