Sunday, January 11, 2015

The number of homeless children has reached an all-time high, while most wealthy Americans say that the poor have it easy

(In this photo, "A delegation from the Massachusetts WPA Recreation Program presents a model yacht, which they have built, to the President." New Deal policymakers created many programs for children, teens, and young adults. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.)

Here are some recent news headlines about child poverty, based on data, studies, and reports from the National Center on Family Homelessness, the U.S. Census Bureau, UNICEF, and the Journal of the American Medical Association, Pediatrics:

"Number Of Homeless Children In America Surges To All-Time High: Report," Associated Press, Huffington Post, November 17, 2014.

"Silent Crisis: 1 in 5 American kids is poor," CNN, September 23, 2014.

"Child poverty in U.S. is at highest point in 20 years, report finds," Los Angeles Times, October 22, 2014.

"Child poverty in the U.S. is among the worst in the developed world," Washington Post, October 29, 2014.

Unfortunately, there is probably not a whole lot of hope for these children, because more than half of super-wealthy Americans--the people who disproportionately influence public policy with their campaign contributions--think these children have it easy.

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center indicates that most wealthy people agree with the statement, "poor people today have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return." And here's another layer of cruelty to add to that simplistic sentiment: According to a study by researchers from Northwestern and Vanderbilt universities, published in 2013, about 92% of wealthy Americans disagreed with the proposition that the "The federal government should provide jobs for everyone able and willing to work who cannot find a job in private employment" ("Democracy and the Policy Preferences of Wealthy Americans," table 5, page 57).

Do you see the irony here? On the one hand, the wealthy express consternation that people are "getting stuff for free" (to use a Bill O'Reilly-type phrase) but, on the other hand, they don't like the idea of them working for it in a public jobs program either, even if they can't secure employment in private business. Wow.

What the heck is going on here?

Well, a recent op-ed from one of our holy "Job Creators," and a recent statement by Bill Gates, as well as many other clues, are pretty good indicators of what's going on, and that is this: Many wealthy people think of themselves as gods, and want to dole out charity and jobs when, and only when, they feel that their divine intervention is needed. Many super-wealthy Americans want to govern us, either through Congress, as they're doing now, or perhaps, in the future, directly.

"Lower our already-low tax rates, and let us add to our already-record wealth, and then, we promise, we'll create those good paying jobs!"

In a Washington Post op-ed, a wealthy businessman and his wife bemoaned "big government," and implied that if tax rates on the wealthy were lower (in fact, by historic measures, tax rates on the wealthy are already very low), "philanthropists like us could give to local charities and businesses could...create the jobs the poor desperately need" ("Pope Francis, the Kochs and how the wealthy can help the poor," November 28, 2014).

It seems that no matter how much wealth the wealthy accumulate, and no matter how low their tax rates are, they are always going to tell us, "Hey, just one more round of tax cuts! Just a few more billion in my portfolio! And I promise, I'll make millions of jobs!!" And many people--perhaps too caught up in the global fascination with Kim Kardashian's rear end to be bothered with a close examination of historical tax and unemployment rates--follow along and say, "Yeah, you can't possibly tax the job creators!"

"We can dole it out better than the government!"

We also recently learned that Bill Gates--founder of one of the biggest philanthropic foundations that you will never get a grant from (in fact, they have a standard operating procedure akin to "don't call us, we'll call you".....and you know how that goes)--recently told economist Thomas Piketty that he doesn't want to pay more in taxes, and that he can help the world more efficiently than government can (never mind the fact that Social Security is arguably the greatest poverty reduction program in human history).

"Poverty is great, because then people will be motivated to be gods like us!"

Wealthy businessman Kevin O'Leary, from the TV show Shark Tank (a show where aspiring entrepreneurs are routinely belittled by wealthy entrepreneurs, for the entertainment of the masses) said that "It's fantastic" that the 85 richest people on the planet have more wealth than the 3.5 billion poorest people: "And this is a great thing because it inspires everybody to get some motivation to look up to the 1% and say 'I want to become one of those people.'" He also added, "I'm not against charity!"

A choice: Democracy, or a reliance on charity and the holy "job creators"?

Democratically-formed institutions and policies have done far more to mitigate poverty than charity or the holy "job creators" ever will. Think Social Security, unemployment insurance, FDIC, the G.I. Bill, the Earned Income Credit, the minimum wage, food stamps, and more. These things have been with us for a very long time because they work. And we could do a lot more, for example, a permanent WPA and CCC, if powerful forces weren't so busy weakening the federal government's anti-poverty efforts (for example, the refusal of Republican-managed states to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, despite the fact that the federal government will pay very close to the entire amount for that coverage, and the refusal of Republicans to accept a public jobs program for unemployed veterans).

What do you feel more comfortable with? Democratically-formed institutions, or a wealthy few setting themselves up as gods, determining when and where they will create jobs, and who and what is deserving of their sacred benevolence? President Franklin Roosevelt once warned us that "...the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism..."

As I have written before, charity can be very good thing, but a reliance on charity to solve our nation's most pressing problems will take us down a very dark path. Indeed, it already has, as the record number of homeless children shows.

No comments:

Post a Comment