President Lyndon Johnson declared the war on poverty 50 years ago this month. The critics (usually Republicans and Libertarians) claim we lost that war. After all, our poverty rate back then was about 19 percent, and today it's over 15 percent --- not much of a change.
These know-it-all critics say that government money spent on programs like food stamps, subsidized school lunches, Medicaid, TANF, unemployment benefits and tax subsidies for the working poor has all been wasted.
Kathy Wooters, a Tea Party supporter from a Houston Texas suburb, is among those who think the federal government should just get out of the way. Wooters, who is 57 and a mother of four and grandmother of nine, said she taught her children to fend for themselves and avoid debt.
"We have too big of a government. We can make wise decisions with our money, rather than have the federal government dole out more assistance to those who want everything for free."
Critics like Kathy Wooters (e.g. Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, etc.) also say that we've piling on more and more government help, and that this assistance just fosters laziness --- which is absurd. But what if we hadn't had those government programs over the last 50 years?
According to a recent study resulting in a 38-page report from Columbia University (presented at the Association for Public Policy and Management Conference in Washington, DC on November 8, 2013), poverty wouldn't be 15 percent today --- or even 19 percent as it was in 1964. It would be a whopping 31 percent today --- almost a third of our population (meaning, in one way or another), 1/3 are currently moochers in the "richest country in the world".
But America is only the richest nation because of all it's natural resources (land, oil reserves, etc.) and because we have the most millionaires and billionaires. But we also have the highest inequality than in any other developed nation on Earth. American billionaires, just those on the Forbes 400 list, have a combined total net wealth of over $2 trillion.
$1 trillion is seen in the image below in $100-bills on pallets of $100 million each. $1 trillion would cover a football field on pallets stacked two-high. Now times this by 2. This is America's 400 wealthiest job creators, and 6 of those are the Walmart heirs who have over 1/10th of $1 trillion.) * This doesn't include what is hidden away in offshore bank accounts.
Many people (including Kathy Wooters) also benefit (in many ways) from government assistance in their daily lives, but often they don't even realize they do --- especially if their primary source for information comes from Fox News or Rush Limbaugh --- those who advocate policies for like-minded people, promoting the interests of the ultra-wealthy.
The difference between the very rich and the rest of us has grown astronomically since President Johnson declared his war on Poverty 50 years ago. The top 1 percent of Americans have more than doubled their share of the national income since 1964. According to Pew Research, income inequality has now returned to levels not seen since the 1928.
Using tax returns to estimate income shares, Professor Emmanuel Saez's data shows that the top 10 percent received half the income --- up from 42 percent since 1995.
But the pro-Republican Wall Street Journal, owned by the same company that owns Fox News (and who advocates on behalf of corporate America and the top 0.01%), is trying to convince us that the rich hasn't been getting rich at the expense of the poor; and that there has been no rise in inequality since 1995 --- and that not much has changed since 1979.
But the Congressional Budget Office disagrees, and found that between 1979 and 2007, income grew by:
- 275 percent for the top 1 percent of households,
- 65 percent for the next 19 percent,
- Just under 40 percent for the next 60 percent, and
- 18 percent for the bottom 20 percent.
A new study from University of Massachusetts-Amherst economist Arindrajit Dube finds that just by raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour, could help lift nearly 5 million people out of poverty --- reducing the poverty rate among Americans between the ages of 18 and 64 by as much as 1.7 percentage points. That would bring about 4.6 million people out of poverty directly and reduce the ranks of the nation's poor by 6.8 million, accounting for longer-term effects.
And what about the unemployed (especially the long-term unemployed), who people like Kathy Wooters believe are getting all "this free stuff? The U.S. is looking at the worst long-term unemployment crisis since soup kitchen lines peaked during the Great Depression. Americans who have been unemployed for more than six months are often hit with major financial and personal hardship. Around 10 percent must file for bankruptcy, more than half report putting off medical care, and many say they have lost self-respect while jobless.
But the GOP and Tea Party fanatics are trying to convince the American people (those who still have jobs) that the unemployed are choosing to suffer, because they are refusing to find work ("Feed me for free because I'd rather starve to death than find a job.")
From Mother Jones: Meet the Americans Who've Lost Their Unemployment Benefits: "I'm Thoroughly Petrified."
"When you apply for a job at 50, people laugh at you. When you apply for a job at 65, people just look at you like you are crazy."
People like Kathy Wooters, Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, John Stossel, and Rush Limbaugh probably wish that all those poor and unemployed would just shut the hell up and crawl under a rock and die.
Or at the very least, they want these less fortunate people to just remain silent while living on the streets without food, shelter and healthcare --- because no nobody would offer them a job --- and the Republicans and Tea Party folks don't want to "dole out more assistance to those who want everything for free."
What we need is not less government, but better government, because what were once "free markets" in the U.S. have become "fraudulent markets". We have a tax code that primarily benefits the rich and large corporations, with incentives and trade agreements to offshore jobs overseas (while depressing domestic wages) which have put 48 million Americans who want a job out of work (causing huge declines in the labor force), leaving 22% of all households with no earners, giving millions of Americans no other choice but to become "moochers" (or die).
Even though unemployment benefits were "meant" to only be temporary (because previous recessions weren't near as deep or long-lasting as the last one), when arguing against extending unemployment benefits for those who were laid off from jobs, Kathy Wooters and other like-minded Ayn Rand types like to quote an old Chinese proverb:
"Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime."
They only thing is, these people did learn to fish. It's not for a lack of skills, it's that all the fishing jobs went to other countries who paid the fishermen less –– or they had H-1B visa workers imported from other countries to replace them for lower wages –– or they had robots replace them. By using the broader measurement of unemployment, the U-6 or the U-7 rate, the unemployment rate over doubles –– and this means there are more than 6 people unemployed for every job opening –– meaning, Americans don't lack skills, they lack jobs.
"Over the 12 months ending in October 2013, hires totaled 53.0 million and separations totaled 51.0 million, yielding a net employment gain of 2.0 million. These figures include workers who may have been hired and separated more than once during the year."
May have been?
Besides just being temporary jobs, many (if not most) TEMPS are part-time workers --- and on average, there are more TEMP workers than there are Walmart workers (America's 2nd largest job creator), and Walmart also hires a lot of TEMP workers. So many of these people (for economic reasons, and not because they are lazy) are also moochers. (The government is America's largest job creator.)
And of those who do managed to hold on throughout their working careers, after working all their lives to make the top 0.01% rich (or if becoming disabled while in the process of doing so), only THEN would they become "legitimate moochers" when drawing a Social Security check (another government program that Kathy Wooters or members of her family may never need).
But people like her, Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, John Stossel, and Rush Limbaugh (besides just allowing businesses to steal their pensions), would also like to cut Social Security benefits and raise the minimum age for retirement to 70 years old, without even acknowledging that many people have no choice, and are forced into early retirements by their employers.
And what are the chances that an employer will even hire a 70 year-old in this job market, especially when 50-year-olds are being discriminated against for age?
And if they could, the GOP would like to eliminate Social Security entirely. That way, we'd have no moochers at all (just a lot more poor, desperate, hungry, and desperate homeless people). As it is now, according to the Social Security Administration, most Americans will eventually become a moocher sooner or later. That's what good "government" is supposed to do, take care of its people when the economy (for whatever reasons) can not , and not specifically to make people "dependent" on government --- even for people like the Kathy Wooters.
People like Kathy Wooters (and the rest of her Dixiecratic and anti-government, Tea Party anarchists) should know that, sometimes it's better to remain silent and be thought a fool, rather than speak and remove all doubt.
(Image below) Paris Hilton is not a "moocher", she earned her money the old fashioned way, she inherited it --- but she may be a tax avoider. Her estimated net worth is about $100 million (or about one full standard pallet stacked 5 feet high with $100-bills). Among her fleet of cars is a $200,000 Bentley --- which she could pay for with cash from the interest she earns on a checking account. Cute wheels, don't you agree?
"Stop picking on Paris Hilton! She's a nice girl, it's not her fault she was born into a wealthy family!"
True, just as it's not the fault of those who didn't have the same good luck and instead, were born into poverty. The rich are only rich because of good luck. And the poor are only poor because of less good luck, not because they are lazy moochers.
Some say it's actually the rich (by using rent-seeking and many other means) who are the real (and the biggest) moochers --- such as Walmart using government programs for the poor to subsidized wages for their under-paid employees.
The Walmart heirs (who also inherited their wealth) are racing to become the world's first trillionaires. The combined net worth of the Walmart heirs is over $100 billion. The image below is 10 pallets of $100 million each, for a total of $1 billion X 100 = the Walmart heirs net worth. They each earn over $1 million a day, just from the dividends on their Walmart stock.
No...Mitt Romney's 47%, the working-poor and poor, the disabled and elderly, the over-worked and under-paid, and the unemployed will not go gentle into that good night... not if they still have a chance to save themselves.