There’s no point beating around this bush. An anti-poverty movement led by the middle and upper classes is doomed to failure. Equally, a partisan movement will never manage to get much done. That said, it’s never a bad thing when people discuss these things – there are 45 million people living in poverty in America, after all. Poverty looks like everything.
I believe the difficulties in getting past the chafe that is being presented as important issues and getting to the crux have been designed by people whose full-time jobs are just that. It’s very hard not to consider yourself an eccentric loner when no like minded individuals are reported about in anything but a derisive manner. This whole essay is a blinding glimpse of the obvious and I applaud Linda. When I get my fellow baby boomers casually mentioning that the main problem ‘we’ have is generational welfare recipients, I start relearning a lot of Woody Guthrie songs and feel like I’m in some kind of time warp.
Well Linda, as a ‘Libertarian’, you should be aware that medicare, worker’s comp, sick leave, maternity leave and any other social program is rejected by Libertarians who believe government should only exist to establish a standing army and ensure that our court system is in good working order. Libertarians, like corporate America, talk about self responsibility and the need to avoid ‘handouts’.
If poverty is to end in America, we need to bury the idea that we should all pull ourselves up by our boot straps and instead focus on a collective solution in which the better off sacrifice some of their wealth to assist those without any wealth. It requires a socialist movement like in more advanced countries (Sweden, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Canada, Australia, etc.) where corporations have been unsuccessful in highjacking democracy for the sake of more profits for a few. The reason that you don’t have such poverty in the countries I have just mentioned, is because the Libertarian centrist theories were thrown out a long time ago and people demanded justice for all. It is because a social contract was struck that made poverty eradication a central issue instead of fighting terrorism or balancing the budget.
You’re right that the Occupy movement lacked direction, but Americans are still stuck in a mindset that resents assistance in any form from their government with the reasoning that “we don’t need hand outs”. But those “hand outs” like medicare, maternity leave, food stamps, welfare, civil service jobs, sick pay, workers comp, social security and any other form of government assistance is vital if we are to end poverty once and for all. The 99% pay enough taxes to afford a solution, but our taxes are funnelled into the pockets of the 1% like the military industrial complex, Big Oil and the banking industry.
Today we live in a society that is not a functioning democracy. Instead corporate America, which has purchased out government lock, stock and barrel, continues to feed the public the line that “we don’t want hand outs” to the joy of Wall Street. Their pliant media, which depends on corporate America for their advertising revenue, refocuses the problem on government (as if the public had something to do with it!) rather than on the puppet masters. Government is a problem, but only because it is not representative of the 99%. This was the only message that Occupy tried to deliver.
Marx never discussed abortion or flag burning or gay marriage. Instead he focused on the basics. Fair wages for all workers. Power to the working class. Jobs for everyone. An end to obscene wealth and a collective that represents the 99%. This is not some collection of ideologies in which we can never find common ground. Instead this is an ideology that all of the poor in America share regardless of our positions on peripheral issues.
Marx never had any problems with democracy except one… that the bourgeoisie would find a way to rig the system. In our case this is precisely the problem. Only if we can jettison the corporate influence from government, can we possibly begin to address our basic needs.
My advice to you Linda is to shed your mainstream ideas about libertarianism and putting your faith in a government in D.C. that couldn’t care less about what you think and instead embrace socialism, the only ideology of the working class.
Libertarianism in any form leads inevitably to corporate feudalism and fascism. Unless one understands the nature and workings of our economic system one is doomed to naive delusion and ultimate failure.
Yes, we have to look for common ground and speak in ways that reach out to our fellow citizens but we cannot avoid real issues that are made decisive by those who profit from doing so. The best approach is to discuss them rationally with an emphasis on our common working class interests cutting through the corporate propaganda and to patiently explain how things actually work in reality; who benefits and who suffers the consequences. Without progressive working class consciousness, we are powerless beyond the most minor, photo-op reforms.
And “partisanship” is not always a bad thing if one moves beyond the two-headed corporate party. Progress has been pushed and implemented thanks to organized efforts by left parties like the Communist Party in the past as well as by Greens.
“Middle Class” is sometimes way poorer than we make it out to be. I worry about a friend’s suicidal feelings. She’s in her 50s, way intelligent and can’t get a job to pay the rent.
She described herself as a center-left libertarian - which is confusing, because traditional libertarianism - and what is still “libertarianism” in many places outside the US/English-speaking world, refers to a branch of the radical anarchist left - anarcho syndicalism - hardly “center left”. So my reaction to her self-description is one of confusion and a suggestion that maybe she does need to do more reading - and maybe even get out of Salty Lake City and spend some time in a “coastal city”.
Her comment about the disfunctionality of US welfare rules is well-taken. Are people who have needed assistance ever asked to help craft assistance programs? But then she confuses Medicaid with Medicare…
But every time I hear someone say that the problem is “partisanship” or “divisiveness” in the US congress I just have to laugh? What “partisanship”??? The two parties agree on practically everything!
Actually, the left needs to reclaim the word “libertarian”. In most of the world, “libertarian” still refers to anarcho-syndicalism and is quite anti-capitalist. The closest thing in the US to this is the IWW. Note that Noam Chomsky refers to himself as a “libertarian”.
One minor correction - Marx did not propose “fair wages for all workers”, he opposed the whole idea of wages - specifically the idea of one sweat and creative potential being robbed by a boss for profit, under the contrived guise of it being a mutually beneficial market exchange between free individuals. If workers collectively own the means of production, then a worker owns the productive output of his/her entire human potential, and no wage is needed - from each according to their abilities to each according to their needs.
You should be worried. I lost a 50 something friend last year-masters degree, brilliant. Lost his dream job in 2007 to relocation, went on a downward spiral of untreated bad health (he had heart trouble) and increasingly crappy jobs until he used his gun to kill himself. His suicide note read, “No job, no money, no hope.”
This is, of course, what the right wing thinks is the proper way for all of us moochers who have outlived our productive years to conduct ourselves.
Better to reclaim anarcho-syndicalism along with democratic cooperative ownership. Libertarianism, in spite of its more naive petty-bourgeois hipster adherents, has always been the anarchism of and for business and in practice becomes anarcho-fascism. Small business folks often buy into this not understanding the difference between themselves and multi-national corporations.
You missed my point. Only in the USA does the word “libertarian” mean anything but a socialist movement.
According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Libertarianism can be either right-wing or left-wing: “Perhaps as a result of Nozick’s fame, libertarianism is often thought of as “right-wing” doctrine. This, however, is mistaken for at least two reasons. First, on social—rather than economic—issues, libertarianism tends to be “left-wing”. It opposes laws that restrict consensual and private sexual relationships between adults (e.g., gay sex, extra-marital sex, and deviant sex), laws that restrict drug use, laws that impose religious views or practices on individuals, and compulsory military service. Second, in addition to the better-known version of libertarianism—right-libertarianism—there is also a version known as “left-libertarianism”. Both endorse full self-ownership, but they differ with respect to the powers agents have to appropriate unowned natural resources (land, air, water, minerals, etc.). Right-libertarianism holds that typically such resources may be appropriated, for example, by the first person who discovers them, mixes her labor with them, or merely claims them—without the consent of others, and with little or no payment to them. Left-libertarianism, by contrast, holds that unappropriated natural resources belong to everyone in some egalitarian manner. It can, for example, require those who claim rights over natural resources to make a payment to others for the value of those rights. This can provide the basis for a kind of egalitarian redistribution.” So, Linda self identifying as a Libertarian can be considered perfectly appropriate. I tend to agree with her argument that the poor must originate and direct their own liberation, a premise Freire (1970) outlined in his work “Pedagogy of the Oppressed.”
Being “middle class” in Amerika, whether you work for a pay check or own a small business puts you in a box and subjects you to subsidizing the wealthy AND the poor via taxes, insurance, etc. The working poor demographic has been growing for the past 40 years.
The author is spot on believing that “apartisanship” being the only way to improve the lot of the impoverished. Political parties create poverty to enrich their owners. Outlaw parties and religion and you will solve most of the world’s problems.
This article addresses the question of how do America’s oppressed workers gain back from the economic and political systems what they have lost in the past 50 years; how they can begin to garner a larger share of the wealth created by their labor from their employers; what sort of federal and state government programs they need to live a better life. Social policies supported by local, state, and federal governments can be developed to improve their lot. However, with government at all levels controlled by individuals who believe the ideology promoted by the wealthy and corrupted by the the money of the wealthy, such programs as exist in the socialist democracies of Europe are highly unlikely to be proposed and installed in the USA. Capital has won this round of the struggle. It’s hard to see how workers can organize without strong leadership to resist the economic and political power the wealthy now hold in the USA.