The Coastal Post - March, 1999

Welfare Reform A Criminal Enterprise

By Husayn Al-Kurdi

There has been one constant refrain in the history of that criminal enterprise known as the United States of America, and it has entailed the merciless and genocidal dispossession, exploitation and oppression of the vast majority of its own population as well as that of the world as a whole. No entity has ever projected the sheer violence or destroyed more places and people than the aforementioned entity and its associates. From the beginning, it was a racist, genocidal, colonialist project involving genocide against three peoples-Black, Brown and Red. It also exploited waves of poor Whites, many of whom had an indentured servitude status not dissimilar from the out-and-out formal slavery which was the lot assigned to Africans in the enterprise.

Today, a vicious U.S. government, acting as always as the executive political wing of a ruling class which virtually rules the whole world now in what has been called a New World Order, is carrying out a series of measures which will further impoverish tens of millions of people, marginalizing them into a desperate situation of homelessness, disease and hopeless poverty.

One of the main schemes in the current war of the ruling capitalist class against the poor takes shape under the guise of Welfare Reform, which is actually a reduction in services to tens of millions of poor people, mostly children and women and disproportionately Black, Red and Brown folks as well as a swelling mass of Poor Whites.

The Founding Fathers of the USA were rich, landowning aristocrats and merchants. George Washington was reputed to be the largest landowner in the region at one time. John Jay, a member of the set who became the first Supreme Court Justice, openly stated that "those who own the country should run it." Class warfare to hold down the threatening impulses to insurrection and freedom from below has been practiced from the start and will not end until the system itself is eliminated or decisively transformed. Until then, an all-out fight continues: the fight for the corporate capitalists to increase their profit margins by any means necessary while plundering and despoiling the planet and the struggle for billions of poor people, mostly people of color from the Two-Thirds World, what Malcolm X called the Dark World (and what apologists for the system still demeaningly refer to as the Third World, even after the Second World has ceased to exist!), merely to survive their execrable condition of misery and enforced servitude. Ultimately, the battle to eradicate this vicious system and bring actual social justice to fruition must and will be taken up.

A feature of this class struggle is the ever-ongoing tussle over the redistribution of wealth created in this society. The working class has been badly mauled by its tormentor in this contest, especially in the last 50 years or so. Real wages have been driven down as union membership has decreased. Tax expenditures, actual government giveaways to U.S. corporations, amounted to over $440 billion in 1996. In 1994, the U.S. Forest Service spent over $140 billion on roads and infrastructure to help the timber industry. Meanwhile, taxes on corporations have plummeted from 52 percent of the total in 1950 to a paltry eight percent in 1996. The average corporate executive who made 12 times the average worker in 1960 is now making an average salary 185 times what the hapless worker is taking home.

The overall picture of wealth concentration is unparalleled in its present day manifestation in and around the United States. Within its domain, the richest 20 percent of all households hold over 85 percent of U.S. household wealth. Thirty-nine percent of total household wealth is controlled by one percent of households.

The character of the massive looting which got going with a vengeance during the Reagan presidency (1981-89) was accurately portrayed by conservative commentator Kevin Phillips:

"Even as the poor, elderly and students must prepare to give up hundreds of billions of dollars in federal program support from now until 2002, tax preferences-mostly for corporations and the richest 25 percent of American families-are scheduled to grow by about a third and to total about $3.5 trillion over the next seven years. Packaged such as deficit reduction, this has become one of the decades' biggest rip-offs."

The U.S. government's own statistics acknowledge that over 40 million people are living below what it defines as poverty, with another 25 million or so poised at the brink. Official poverty rates for what they call Blacks and non-White Hispanics are more than three times those for Whites. However, almost one in 10 whites are themselves officially poor, including a majority of all people on welfare programs such as Aid for Dependent children (AFDC) and Food Stamps.

The system is quick to throw women and children overboard first. Female-headed households experience a shocking 44 percent rate of poverty. Female-headed families form 38 percent of the poor, while married-couple families constitute another 34 percent. More than one-fifth of the children in the U.S. are poor, almost twice the share of other age groups. Meanwhile, those who make it past age 65 are less likely to experience poverty. They will not include most Black males growing up in Harlem, two-thirds of whom are projected to die before that age, with most falling prey to heart disease, cancer and stress-related illnesses in their 30s and 40s.

Welfare reform is directed at programs such as AFDC, General Assistance and Food Stamps, which help impoverished people meet some of their basic needs. The largest program, AFDC, takes no more than two percent of the U.S. budget, but is being slashed while subsidies to military contractors and a variety of major multi-national corporations are actually raised. Those receiving AFDC saw their payments decline by nearly 50 percent in inflation-adjusted real terms between 1970 and 1994. Even so, just one-fifth of 23,000,000 officially poor adults and under one-half over 15,000,000 similarly classified children are enrolled in AFDC. Of 14,000,000 AFDC recipients, 67 percent are children.

So the legislative branch of the ruling class passed a law to reduce and/or eliminate various social welfare programs. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act was moved through Congress in the summer of 1996. This Act ended the so-called entitlement status of welfare, which formally guaranteed that any eligible American could receive benefits. It prevents unemployed people from receiving Food Stamps for more than three months out of every three years. It denies benefits to children of unwed teens and to many legal immigrants. It imposes a five-year lifetime limit for receiving federal cash assistance for at least 60 percent of each state's recipients. It also leaves it up to individual states to run whatever welfare program they see fit. For example, states can deny welfare benefits for teenage unwed mothers and their children, unless the mothers attend school and live with an adult. It will actually reward states with additional cash grants if they can demonstrate that they have reduced births to unmarried women! AFDC will be replaced by TANF, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. People on welfare can now be more easily forced into workfare schemes, used by city governments and corporations alike as a source of cheap labor, without enjoying the rights of unionized or even non-union workers. New York has pioneered this, already replacing much of its park maintenance staff with Work Experience Program employees.

California will be on the cutting edge of the anti-welfare drive. Immigrants, both legal and illegal are a main target for repression in the Golden State. Mexicans are the targets of choice. Ironically, they are among the original indigenous inhabitants of the area, long predating the self-styled (mostly White) National Californians who have set up their nefarious enterprises here. Of course, Blacks and Indians are continuing to experience genocidal conditions in the ghettos and on the reservations of apartheid America, with no letup in sight. The ruling class has been effective in pitting poor people against each other. Worsening conditions may help bring together a wide variety of nothing-to-lose-but-their-chains types who have yet to be heard from. When they are, the criminal enterprise will be in trouble. California will be in the vanguard-soon it will be a majority Two-Thirds World state. Then we may fight to have a society based on actual social welfare, equality and self-determination, rejecting oppressive capitalism and its psychotic project of racist and avaricious world domination.

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