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The New War on Poverty


The New War on Poverty

Annelise Orleck

The 2016 presidential race is revving up, the Supreme Court and National Labor Relations Board are weighing union and workers’ rights cases, and questions of tax reform, living wages, and the right to unionize are hotter than they’ve been in generations. It may feel to some as though all the current talk of economic inequality came over us rather suddenly. But, of course, the current focus on inequality did not come out of nowhere.


Good overall assessment, yet Ms. Orleck leaves out Bernie Sanders in this important concluding paragraph:

"In the 2016 presidential campaign, we are once again discussing the ideas of universal health care as a right in the United States, federally-subsidized day care, free public universities, and progressive tax reform. And millions of protesters are taking us back in time to rehash debates that raged in the eras of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson.

"Welcome to the new War on Poverty."

I do applaud the way she wove the energy of O.W.S. into the variety of movements for decent wages that arose out of it.


While concerns about poverty nudged up a bit, as the middle class fell to less than 50% of the population, we see liberals' efforts to redefine poverty itself. They now call minimum wage workers the poor, implying that no one is worse off. The message remains that our deregulated capitalism is so successful that everyone is able to work, and there are jobs for all. That message is a lie. Of course min. wage workers have low incomes. However, their incomes are two to three times higher than our former "overly generous" welfare benefits, and we said those on welfare were so well off that they could afford big screen TVs and designer clothes.

The Clinton Democrats brought the war on the poor to fruition in the 1990s, and liberals responded by raising the banner of middle class elitism. Now think a minute: Not everyone can work (health, etc.) and there aren't jobs for all. The US shipped out a huge share of our jobs since the 1980s, ended actual welfare in the 1990s. The last I heard, there are 7 jobs for every 10 people struggling to find one. What do you think happens to those who are left out?


Yes, Occupy began as an extraordinary people's movement that could have changed the course we're on. Dems and lib media quickly redefined Occupy itself as a middle class workers' movement, and the rest of us -- the poor, and those who get why it matters -- walked away. Beyond its use as a marketing term, that was the end of the Occupy movement in the US.

So then, what would you suggest the country to with the masses of jobless poor, and many of the unemployable? Build a few more Gitmos?


The bottom line on America's poverty crisis: Not everyone is able to work, and there aren't jobs for all. It is impossible to tackle poverty without a legitimate system of poverty relief. At the least, you can't get jobs that aren't there. If jobs come along, you can't get one without a home address, phone, bus fare, etc. -- all those things people lose when they are dropped from the job market. We have a surplus population -- more people than are currently needed by employers.


Increasing the minimum wage stimulates business activity. So is the government pouring money into our crumbling infrastructure.