Monday, April 4, 2011

Glenn Beck & the Cloward–Piven Strategy

Any enemy of Glenn Beck's is a friend of mine. I believe in the exact opposite of Beck's vision of the corporate world; so if that means taking up arms with a "radical left-wing crazy anarchist and socialist", then so be it. I'm all in. After all, what has capitalism done for me and 30 million other Americans lately? It's worked very well for the bankers and CEOs, but it hasn't for average working Americans...not for the past 40 years.

So, with that being said, let me introduce you to Frances Fox Piven, who is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and serves as one of the eight honorary chairs of the organization.

Wow! Remember her! Glenn Beck said she was just like the "99ers", those who were trying to destroy America and that they should be ashamed to call themselves Americans!

Frances Fox Piven was the one who co-authored an article in the May 1966 issue of The Nation titled "The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty" which advocated increased enrollment in social welfare programs in order to collapse the economic system and force reforms, leading to a guaranteed annual incomes. This political strategy has been referred to as the Cloward–Piven Strategy.

In the 1966 article, Cloward and Piven charged that the ruling classes used welfare to weaken the poor; that by providing a social safety net, the rich doused the fires of rebellion. (The way the GOP and your boss tosses you a bone once in a while to shut you up.) Poor people can advance only when "the rest of society is afraid of them," Cloward told the New York Times on September 27, 1970. The class of "poor" has steadily grown since that article was first published 45 years ago.

"Rather than placating the poor with government hand-outs," wrote Cloward and Piven, "Activists should work to sabotage and destroy the welfare system." (I don't understand...that sounds EXACTLY like something Glenn Beck would advocate!)

Cloward and Piven believed the collapse of the welfare state would ignite a political and financial crisis that would rock the nation; poor people would rise in revolt; only then would "the rest of society" accept their demands.

The number of Americans subsisting on welfare then (about 8 million* at the time) probably represented less than half the number who were technically eligible for full benefits. They proposed a massive drive to recruit the poor onto the welfare rolls. Cloward and Piven calculated that persuading even a fraction of potential welfare recipients to demand their entitlements would bankrupt the system. The result, they predicted, would be a profound financial and political crisis that would unleash powerful forces for major economic reform at the national level.

* In 2005 there were only 2 million Americans on welfare, but as of September 2009, around 4 million were served by a state cash-assistance or welfare program, more than 37 million received federal food stamps and about 10 million received unemployment benefits. If treated as exclusive numbers, there would be a total of 50 million Americans who received federal aid in September 2009. This data is based on a report published in USA today in January 2010.

After I've watched what the GOP, the bankers, and CEOs have done to the poor and middle-class over these last several decades (and what we've seen since the start of The Great Recession), the Cloward–Piven Strategy doesn't sound so "radical" or "farfetched" after all. Maybe Frances Fox Piven was years ahead of her time...or maybe she was just too late. After all, look around us today.

But if this strategy means reducing Glenn Beck to working for the federal mandated minimum wage of $7.25 an hour (or forcing him onto to welfare roll), I'm all for it!

Frances Fox Piven

When Frances Fox Piven wrote "The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty", she was a 33 year old political science and sociology major (when Glenn Beck was a two-year-old snot-nosed brat). At that time there was the Viet Nam War, LSD, campus protests, hippies, Jimi Hendrix, and Haight Ashbury. It was a different era back then, and if this article were written today and more geared towards the present circumstances, I would have suggested other "radical" ideas such as nationalizing the banking and oil industry and outlawing corporations all together.

You can hear Frances Fox Piven speak at the National Teach-In live stream on "Austerity, Debt, Corporate Greed - and what YOU can do about it!" - Tuesday, April 5th - LIVE STREAM from NYC at 2:00 PM EST (11:00 AM PST)  

Glenn Beck versus Frances Piven:

FROM MS Magazine: Who’s Inciting Violence–Frances Fox Piven or Glenn Beck?

FROM the HUFF PO: Frances Fox Piven, Glenn Beck Target: Beck Is 'Very Scary' (VIDEO) 

FROM The Nation: Glenn Beck Targets Frances Fox Piven 

FROM the HUFF PO: Glenn Beck Target - Frances Fox Piven Gets Death Threats

Some of Frances Piven's other major works include:

Regulating the Poor written with Richard Cloward, first published in 1972 and updated in 1993, which is a scrutiny of government welfare policy and how it is used to exert power over lower class individuals

Poor Peoples' Movements, published in 1977, an analysis of how rebellious social movements can induce important reforms

Why Americans Don't Vote, published in 1988 and a follow up book Why Americans Still Don't Vote published in 2000, each of which look at the role of current American electoral practices which tend to discourage the poor working class from exercising their right to vote

The War at Home published in 2004, a critical examination of the domestic results of the wars initiated by the Bush administration

Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America, a look at the interaction of disruptive social movements and electoral politics in generating the political force for democratic reform in American history.

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