Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Class war: Criminalizing poverty

Posted in class divide, poverty, United States by allisonkilkenny on June 16, 2010

As opposed to supporting raising wages and passing a public option in order to forge a more egalitarian future, it appears members of the elite have committed themselves to controlling the growing underclass by criminalizing poverty.

David Walker, a lackey of billionaire and Social Security pirate, Pete Peterson, openly pined for the days of debtors’ prison, which is actually already a reality in six states.

WALKER: You know, the fact of the matter is we have to change how we do things. We are on an imprudent and unsustainable path in a number of ways. You talk about debtors’ prisons, we used to have debtors’ prisons, now bankruptcy is no taint! Bankruptcy is an exit strategy! Our society and our culture has changed. We need to get back to the opportunity, we need to move away from entitlement, we need to provide reasonable risk but we need to hold people accountable when they do imprudent things. It’s pretty fundamental.

Right! We need to hold people accountable. Er, poor people – not the rich people, who sold them the shit mortgages, and gave them credit cards with astronomical interest rates. Those people are entrepeneurs and can go free.

Digby has been reporting on the demonization of the unemployed. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has proposed an amendment that would demand mandatory drug tests for welfare and unemployment beneficiaries. Because, as one of this blog’s less enlightened commenters put it, “you gotta make sure they’re not on the crack pipe.” After all, we know the only reason people are unemployed is because they’re all a bunch of Welfare Queen drug addicts. Mind you, cocaine addicted Yale and Harvard grads won’t face this obstacle when re-entering the business world. This is just a filter for the undesirables.

I have previously reported about hiring practices that act to preserve America’s permanent underclass. Some employers are now making it a practice to check potential employees’ credit scores. Background checks were already a major hurdle for convicted felons, another permanent underclass composed of millions of Americans, who may have lost their civil rights for something as stupid as a non-violent drug offense. Now, even someone with shitty credit is in danger of being turned away for the crime of being poor, which, ironically, is why most poor people look for employment in the first place.

Mind you, credit scores are not indicative of stellar behavior. Bernie Madoff probably had awesome credit, and he was one of the biggest thieves in the nation’s history.

However, logical policy isn’t the goal of these kinds of hurdles. Credit checks, arbitrary screenings, these are all tools to suppress and contain the expanding bottom class.

Poor people are also punished for pursuing higher education. They are forced  to take our extravagant loans that will take them years to repay, and the Education Department is taking their sweet time making up their minds if poor people should remain slaves forever for daring to seek out knowledge.

The Education Department said Tuesday that it had split off and delayed a decision on the most controversial part of proposed new student-aid regulations — the treatment of for-profit college programs whose graduates do not earn enough to repay their loans.

While a package of proposed new student-aid regulations was released Tuesday, a department official said no decision had been reached about what debt-to-income ratio would make for-profit programs ineligible for federal aid.

I guess the debt-to-income ratio means, “How far can we push these people until they snap?” Obviously, the Education Dept thinks they have a little more wiggle room even as some students kill themselves to escape their unbearable punishment. But these are just isolated instances. Nothing to get riled up about. Apparently, the government doesn’t things are “really bad” unless recent graduates line up at the edge of the cliff and start committing suicide en masse.

They are buried under enormous debt, and when they attempt to enter the workforce, many of them receive slave wages, so they turn to credit cards to buy such luxuries as food and shelter. This cycle keeps them forever living paycheck-to-paycheck in a hapless quest to pay off credit card interest rates. Meanwhile, private insurance is almost always too expensive to afford, and if they become injured on one of their dangerously unregulated jobs, they’re totally screwed. A few days in the hospital can rack up tens of thousands of dollars in debt.

If they lose their jobs, they are the mercy of an unfeeling ruling class, who can’t possibly empathize with their circumstances.

April 29, 2010:

Since the U.S. recession began in December 2007, Congress has extended the length of unemployment benefits for the jobless three times. Now, the lawmakers may have reached their limit.

They are quietly drawing the line at 99 weeks of aid, a mark that hundreds of thousands of Americans have already reached. In coming months, the number of those who will receive their final government check is projected to top 1 million.

It’s a deadline that has rarely been mentioned in recent debates over jobless benefits, in which Republicans have delayed aid because of cost concerns. The deadline hasn’t been lost on Teauna Stephney, a 39-year-old single mother from Bothell, Washington, who said she could become homeless once her $407 weekly checks stop in June.

“What are people like me supposed to do?” said Stephney, who said almost two years of benefits haven’t proved long enough for her to find work after she lost her last job in August 2008. Referring to lawmakers, she said, “I would like them to come and talk to me and spend a day in my shoes.”

Democrats who have pushed through the past extensions agree there’s insufficient backing to go beyond 99 weeks, largely because of mounting concern over the federal deficit, projected to reach $1.5 trillion this year.

“You can’t go on forever,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, of Montana, whose panel oversees the benefits program. “I think 99 weeks is sufficient,” he said.

“There’s just been no discussion to go beyond that,” said Senator Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat.

And now, in order to get that sweet, fat paycheck of less than $300 a week, the unemployed may have to leap through loopholes normally reserved for criminals, or job applicants. These people just need money to survive, but first they’ll have to prove they’re not “on the pipe.”

Remember, it’s their fault they don’t have a job, and it’s their fault they’re poor. They deserved to be locked into servitude, forever.

6 Responses

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  1. […] A lot of things that would have passed as spooky Orwellian fiction are now accepted as inevitable events. The state now has the right to exercise enormous power over citizens – to eavesdrop on them, hold them indefinitely without trial, taser, bully, and intimidate them into suppression even if they are exercising their First Amendment rights. The unemployed have their lifelines of state support dangled in front of their faces by an uncaring, elite ruling class, who occasionally taunts them by yanking away the carrot. […]

  2. Mark Jacobs said, on June 18, 2010 at 4:50 am

    In the Philippines, there are no state benefits. If your brother is disabled, you and your family will have to support him. If you are a single mother with 3 children by 3 different absentee fathers, you would get no support whatsoever, and you will have to go out and find work wherever and whenever (unlike in the UK where such a situation would be blessed by a state-supported luxury lifestyle at the taxpayers’ expense). I know from personal experience – my brother-in-law tragically passed away leaving his wife and 4 children on their own, fending for themselves. The children’s ages range from 3 to 9 years old, so they can’t help out much. There are many other countries around the world with no state system of support in place. This needs to be addressed before any of us Westerners can whinge on about how rubbish our welfare systems are.

  3. Matlo said, on June 18, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    MJ, Why does one cancel out the other? Of course things need to be better in other parts of the world, but having the benefits system in relatively wealthier parts of the world destroyed or minimized in no way helps poorer parts of the world.

  4. Mark Jacobs said, on June 21, 2010 at 4:31 am

    My point was that 3rd world countries need a form of welfare – any form. Not that we should disassemble our own welfare systems.

  5. […] been writing a lot about this demonization of the poor and unemployed, including how some employers now conduct credit score checks during the hiring process, and […]

  6. […] been writing a lot about this demonization of the poor and unemployed, including how some employers now conduct credit score checks during the hiring process, and […]

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