The war for poverty or poverty from war
By James Thompson
On January 9, 2014 the bourgeois liberal Princeton faculty economist Paul Krugman, who completed the best US education money can buy at MIT and Yale, wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times entitled “The War over Poverty.” http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/10/opinion/krugman-the-war-over-poverty.html?_r=0out In the piece, Prof. Krugman discusses the fallacious received view in this country and throughout the other capitalist controlled countries that the plight of the poor is due to some vague fault of the poor. Admirably, Prof. Krugman argues against this insane attempt to blame the poor.
He goes on to argue that low income people in the US “are much healthier and better nourished than they were in the 1960s” and ties this to the success of anti-poverty programs initiated 50 years ago. He concludes “the problem of poverty has become part of the broader problem of rising income inequality, of an economy in which all the fruits of growth seem to go to a small elite, leaving everyone else behind.”
The article elucidates the differences between liberals and conservatives on the issue of poverty. He characterizes conservatives as “callous and mean-spirited.” He sums up the conservative position as “government is always the problem, never the solution; they treat every beneficiary of a safety net program as if he or she were ‘a Cadillac driving welfare queen.’ And why not? After all, for decades their position was a political winner, because middle-class Americans saw ‘welfare’ is something that Those People got but they didn’t.”
He characterizes the liberals’ position as “Meanwhile, progressives are on offense. They have decided that inequality is a winning political issue. They see war-on-poverty programs like food stamps, Medicaid, and the earned income tax credit as success stories, initiatives that have helped Americans in need-and should be expanded. And if these programs enroll a growing number of Americans, rather than being narrowly targeted on the poor, so what?”
He draws the conclusion “So guess what: On its 50th birthday, the war on poverty no longer looks like a failure. It looks, instead, like a template for a rising, increasingly confident progressive movement.”
Although some of Prof. Krugman’s arguments are not completely without merit, he still remains a well-paid cheerleader for bourgeois liberal “safety net” programs. We must concede that such programs as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid have benefited a great number of people across all economic classes. Even people among the wealthiest classes have benefited from “safety net” programs because they shamelessly shuffle their poorer loved ones off to these programs so they don’t have to pay for their subsistence. The same people hypocritically argue that “safety net” programs should be eliminated. Some doctors even argue that Medicaid and/or Medicare should be eliminated while they bill their patients’ Medicaid and/or Medicare.
What Prof. Krugman and his bourgeois liberal readers fail to recognize is that the US government functions to protect the interests of the capitalists with little or no regard to the interests of the people of this country. He makes a swift tangential reference to the “class war” but fails to recognize that the class war is raging in this country. Even Warren Buffett has warned us that the capitalists are winning the class war with little opposition from the people.
He also fails to recognize that interest among the people in alternative socioeconomic systems such as socialism or communism has grown remarkably recently. Since he does not recognize this reality, he cannot make the connection that income inequality leads to such tendencies.
Although the struggle between liberals and conservatives is real, Prof. Krugman does not seem to recognize that as long as the US government functions to protect the interests of the wealthy, reforms such as the “safety net” programs mentioned above will be under constant attack. And they can be eliminated by the government at any time if it is deemed to be in the interest of the capitalists.
Prof. Krugman also fails to recognize and factor in the fact that the most important interest of the capitalists is to constantly expand profits. Prof. Krugman has also failed to recognize that the necessity for capitalists to constantly expand their profits has led to an era of unending imperialist wars of occupation across the globe. Prof. Krugman fails to recognize that these wars have been conducted for the benefit of the capitalists so that they can continue to expand their profits. He also fails to recognize that the taxpayers have spent far more of their hard-earned money on the wars than the capitalists have made in expanded profits. It should be noted that throughout history capitalist governments have repeatedly spent taxpayer money to protect capitalist profits overseas and the money they spend to protect the profits exceeds the profits themselves.
In short, the Bush and Obama administrations have spent an extraordinary amount of money on killing working people in foreign countries to protect the profits of the capitalists in those countries. Unfortunately, the working man in the US foots the bill. It should be noted that the money expended is nothing compared to the loss of human life as well as permanent physical and mental injuries among the combatants and people in the foreign countries where the imperialist wars are conducted. Of course, the surviving, injured combatants return to the US and their working families must care for them using the pathetic “safety net” programs available. Prof. Krugman fails to note this point as well.
So, a combination of multiple imperialist wars being fought for the benefit of the wealthy at the expense of the poor working people as well as the wholesale exportation of jobs and industry to foreign countries in pursuit of the lowest wages possible have resulted in sustained high unemployment in the US. Meanwhile, the stock market rises and profits continue to expand because capitalists benefit when wages fall. However, there is an end to this process and it is called a crisis of overproduction commonly referred to as an economic depression.
What Prof. Krugman and other bourgeois liberal pundits fail to discuss is that the responsibility for the downward spiral of the economy rests with the capitalist system itself. As long as the system functions to benefit the capitalists, working people will continue to suffer and their suffering will expand proportionally with the expansion of profits.
Another thing that conservatives and liberals are oblivious to is that “safety net” programs tend to perpetuate inequalities between rich and poor. “Safety net” programs are carefully designed to provide a subsistence level for certain segments of the population such as elderly, disabled and to a lesser extent, unemployed pregnant mothers. They allow certain impoverished individuals to survive and such programs are funded by extracting a minimum amount of money from the public wealth created by working people. This enables the wealthy to continue extracting a maximum amount from the public wealth created by working people. In other words, if the public wealth was conceptualized as a pie, “safety net” programs would be a mere sliver. On the other hand, the piece of the pie reserved for the wealthy would be gigantic. The “safety net” programs also serve to reduce the general misery of the public just enough to prevent them from engaging in revolutionary activities. The capitalists must walk a fine line to provide just enough misery relief to prevent revolution and at the same time must limit the misery relief in order to expand their profits. This serves as the basis for the struggle between liberals and conservatives.
Herein lies the difference between bourgeois liberals and Marxist-Leninists. Social democratic bourgeois liberals fight for reforms that they justify on the basis of charity and maintain it is the right thing to do. They characterize their detractors as “callous and mean-spirited.” Marxist-Leninists agree that reforms that benefit working people and the poor are for the good. However, we recognize that such reforms are not sufficient and can easily be overturned and/or manipulated by the capitalists when socioeconomic conditions permit. Marxist-Leninists maintain that only by advancing from capitalism to socialism can humanity build a system which benefits all working people. In a socialist system, workers would achieve political dominance and would form a government that would function to protect the interests of workers.
Perhaps such ideas were not taught to Prof. Krugman and his classmates at MIT and Yale. Such ideas would probably not be received very well at Princeton either.
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