The Third World in America

Having grown up in a poor, single-mother household in the inner city, stories like these about America 2012 are heartbreaking:

“Esmeralda Murillo, a 21-year-old mother of two, lost her welfare check, landed in a shelter and then returned to a boyfriend whose violent temper had driven her away. “You don’t know who to turn to,” she said.

Maria Thomas, 29, with four daughters, helps friends sell piles of brand-name clothes, taking pains not to ask if they are stolen. “I don’t know where they come from,” she said. “I’m just helping get rid of them.”

To keep her lights on, Rosa Pena, 24, sold the groceries she bought with food stamps and then kept her children fed with school lunches and help from neighbors. Her post-welfare credo is widely shared: “I’ll do what I have to do.”

For all of the progress of the women’s rights movement, it still has not stopped the feminization of poverty.

It is unconscionable that someone, especially a woman with a child, would have to live on 2 dollars an hour:

“Among the Arizonans who lost their checks was Tamika Shelby, who first sought cash aid at 29 after fast-food jobs and a stint as a waitress in a Phoenix strip club. The state gave her $176 a month and sent her to work part time at a food bank. Though she was effectively working for $2 an hour, she scarcely missed a day in more than a year.

“I loved it,” she said.

Her supervisor, Michael Cox, said Ms. Shelby “was just wonderful” and “would even come up here on her days off.”

Then the reduced time limit left Ms. Shelby with neither welfare nor work. She still gets about $250 a month in food stamps for herself and her 3-year-old son, Dejon. She counts herself fortunate, she said, because a male friend lets her stay in a spare room, with no expectations of sex. Still, after feeding her roommate and her child, she said, “there are plenty of days I don’t eat.”

“I know there are some people who abuse the system,” Ms. Shelby said. “But I was willing to do anything they asked me to. If I could, I’d still be working for those two dollars an hour.”

The increased poverty during the Great Recession is largely due to Clinton’s welfare reform gambit. Passed in 1996, “ending welfare as we know it” went a long way in winning Clinton a second term. Clinton achieved his short-term goal of reelection. Now we are living with the long-term consequences.

We have spent more on corporate welfare than on any type of assistance to poor people. Since 1996, corporate welfare is the only game in town. In fact, the corporate welfare state continues to expand with no end in sight. Through the Bush Tax Cuts, Obamacare, war and prison contractors, agricultural subsidies and charter schools, public funds are being handed off to the wealthy at an alarming clip. The country does not blink twice over these things.

Yet, when it comes to helping the neediest people in the country, we are met with comments like this which can be found below the article:

“What is the real problem here? We have a 29-year-old woman (Maria Thomas) who has four children she obviously can’t support. And she’s hardly alone. No one should keep having babies they can’t afford to raise. Why should I have to pay to help raise someone else’s kids?

This irresponsible breeding is the number one social problem in the United States today. Everyone has a “right” to have children. But no one should have the right to produce children and then make the rest of us pay to raise them.

I’m not against helping someone who has fallen on hard times get back on their feet. But we must find a way to persuade people who can’t afford a family to stop having children.”

But we are paying to raise other people’s children and we do it all of the time. It just so happens that we mostly pay for the children of the 1%.

The real issue here is that people associate poverty with being a minority. Americans should just cut to the chase and say they do not want to pay for black and Hispanic women and children.

Just do not complain when the people you have forced into desperation do things like this:

“Several women said the loss of aid had left them more dependent on troubled boyfriends. One woman said she sold her child’s Social Security number so a relative could collect a tax credit worth $3,000.

“I tried to sell blood, but they told me I was anemic,” she said.

Several women acknowledged that they had resorted to shoplifting, including one who took orders for brand-name clothes and sold them for half-price. Asked how she got cash, one woman said flatly, “We rob wetbacks” — illegal immigrants, who tend to carry cash and avoid the police. At least nine times, she said, she has flirted with men and led them toward her home, where accomplices robbed them.

“I felt bad afterwards,” she said. But she added, “There were times when we didn’t have nothing to eat.”

But then this will be used as further proof that the poor are somehow immoral people mired in a base “culture of poverty”. This is then used as further justification to end “dependency” and further cut back on benefits.

Oh, what a sick society in which we live.

It would not be so sad if we were not also a so-called religious society. We had a president for 8 years who wore his Christianity on his sleeve and presided over one of the sharpest increases in the gap between rich and poor ever seen.

We do not have to look halfway around the globe for the Third World. The Third World is here. The Third World is living on 2 dollars an hour, pushing people to do whatever it takes to put food in their families’ stomachs. The Third World is mired in superstition, whether it is the superstition of organized religion or the superstition of economics.

There was once a president who promised a “chicken in every pot”. Now our president has no problem with taking those chickens out of pots through proposing slashes to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. When those presidents are supposedly from the same party, then we are in a world of trouble.

We should pay for other people’s children because they are our children. If you do not pay for them now you will end up paying for them later, only at a much higher price to both our wallets and our social fabric.

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