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The War Against the Poor

Posted on Nov 7, 2011
[casey] (CC-BY-ND)

By Frances Fox Piven

(Page 3)

The organized right justifies its draconian policies toward the poor with moral arguments.  Right-wing think tanks and blogs, for instance, ponder the damaging effect on disabled poor children of becoming “dependent” on government assistance, or they scrutinize government nutritional assistance for poor pregnant women and children in an effort to explain away positive outcomes for infants.

The willful ignorance and cruelty of it all can leave you gasping—and gasp was all we did for decades.  This is why we so desperately needed a movement for a new kind of moral economy.  Occupy Wall Street, which has already changed the national conversation, may well be its beginning.

Frances Fox Piven is on the faculty of the Graduate School of the City University of New York. She is the author, along with Richard Cloward, of “Regulating the Poor” and “Poor People’s Movements.” Her latest book, just published, is “Who’s Afraid of Frances Fox Piven? The Essential Writings of the Professor Glenn Beck Loves to Hate” (The New Press). To listen to Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Piven discusses Glenn Beck’s bizarre fascination with her click here, or download it to your iPod here.

© 2011 Frances Fox Piven


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By Zeitgeist, November 11, 2011 at 7:13 am Link to this comment

Hind sight makes everyone wise. There is no point in blaming bankers or corporations
or even the government of ” we the people “. The fault is every bodies..we all enjoyed
while the going was good ,unquestionably ,uncritically, unsuspecting believing blindly
Nobel Laurates , Economist theoreticians,forgetting ethics. By indulging in excessive
consumerism, we took pride that some of us could become unbelievably wealthy and
irresponsibly even dreamed that everyone could also, just by virtue of being an
American.. All of us who didn’t have the means also started behaving mindlessly like
millionaires reveling in rank consumerism, without tarrying to think where was the
money coming from.If the bankers and the corporations exploited our own debauchery,
who should take the blame? All of us were alike in our unreasonable pursuit of
happiness. So stop it !  Let’s get down to basic work. We all are now paying for our
over- vaulting ambition and “we the glorious 99% ” are in our ” finest hour” to borrow
the pithy phrase from Winston Churchill.
The bottom- line of the remedy is to bring back to America “manufacturing and

production of GOODS sending the money-grabbing “Financial Service industry” into the
back offices where they should have belonged to in the first place. We should not
allow the ” services ” to boss over industry.Abolish the designation,“Finance Manager”
They are there to SERVE the activity of Production and Manufacturing of Goods and,
Trade and Commerce, on the terms and conditions dictated by the manufacturing and
marketing sectors.The bankers must take orders and not give them. Our mistake was
in giving Finance Managers and the Economists, undue importance. Their fancy
theories were a total dis- connect from human beings ;  centering only on generating
greedy profits for a few shareholders. It was a zero- sum game touted as a win- win
game that has brought this “cancerous growth ” .We must now,together fight it out by
becoming more sensible and moderate and realistic in our habits .We have found out
that excessive consumerism does bring in prosperity to the rich only but not to the
consuming society that does not produce any Goods. Pollution brought out by
manufacturing could be dealt with effectively . SO, START MANUFACTURING AND

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By Nikki Alexander, November 10, 2011 at 2:59 pm Link to this comment

I always wonder why human beings are poor to begin with. What kind of political-economic system creates poverty in the first place and how could we conceive an alternative system?

Think about the N’avi in Avatar and the arrival of the Sky People.

We need to start from scratch and ask the right questions.

Abundance is natural - we see it everywhere in nature. What is interfering with natural abundance and depriving so many people (and other species) of their inherent ability to be in dynamic exchange with the world around them?

Identify the mechanisms that produce scarcity and inflict poverty on most of the human race. These are man-made, artificial mechanisms conceived by antisocial minds that we blindly accept as if there is no alternative.

How can there be such a thing as the “working poor”? If you are working you shouldn’t BE poor.

This system is rigged to favor a select few at the expense of everyone else. We can change that if we study the system itself and ask, “What conditions would foster well-being for the whole society?”

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By Morpheus, November 9, 2011 at 9:42 pm Link to this comment

Wall Street is not the cause, it is a SYMPTOM!
We can’t afford to get distracted.

Read “Common Sense 3.1” at ( )

We don’t have to live like this. “Spread the News”

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By goredbytheright, November 9, 2011 at 12:51 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I don’t condemn the rich for being rich.
Whether they were born into it or earned it through hard work, I have no problem with them.
What I do condemn is when they completely stack the deck against others or buy influence so they can take what little the guy at the bottom has left over, such as pensions , Social Security, and Medicare, which the guy at the bottom has also sacrificed for in the form of lower wages and deductions.
Middle Class and the poor folks are not criminals although quite a few people treat them as such.

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By Textynn, November 9, 2011 at 12:26 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I don’t think it’s a mistake that in the past the news started at 5:00 which was the minute most working people finished their work day and were heading home and then again at 10:00 at night when most working people were already sacked out because they had to hit it again at 7:00 am.  Up until now, we only heard a miniscule fraction of what the OnePercent were doing to us and who the major players were, and then that was heavily spun.  NO MORE!! AND THEIR FREE RIDE IS OVER.  WE ARE DONE SUPPORTING THESE UNAPPRECIATIVE PARASITICAL SOCIOPATHS. FOREVER.

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By anaman51, November 9, 2011 at 12:13 pm Link to this comment

I’m not asking for anything special from my government. All I want is what I was told would be waiting for me in the event that my entire life’s work came to nothing: enough support to live out my days without having to eat cat food to survive. It was supposed to be a given, this end-of-life support, the same support my parents had when they retired. It was supposed to be provided by this nation in return for my lifetime of hard work, the same nation I helped build, one house at a time.

Realistically, not everyone can achieve the American Dream. Many of us work hard all our lives only to see it come to nothing in the end. There was nothing left of our paychecks after the bills were paid to put money aside for retirement. In my case, I worked until my body broke down, and I had no choice but to stand down. I served in the Navy when I was young, but all the benefits that were supposed to come with that service have been taken away. That seems to be the government theme these days, to take away what was promised and leave the helpless even moreso.

Yes, it’s class warfare, and it’s been going on ever since The New Deal came into being. The GOP feels that only the rich deserve to live decently after sixty, and they’re making sure the poor are punished accordingly for not having the decency to kill themselves once they became unable to pay taxes any longer.

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By o.i.812, November 8, 2011 at 5:45 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

So a few are supremely wealthy and use that wealth to influence, well, whomever,
whatever.  So be it.  Some use it for good.  I somewhat understand the complaint,
the poor me, having struggled through low paying jobs in uncomfortable
situations while the voice inside me is screaming, nigger, slave.  It makes it hard
to spend money on shitty food in Cisco restaurants, on new anything.  Being
money poor leads to time rich- and how you choose to spend that defines your
poverty.  What is your ripple effect going to be?

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By EmileZ, November 8, 2011 at 12:50 pm Link to this comment

I would love to see this article turned into a feature length documentary, or even a longer, more sprawling, six-part, sort of reverse “Eyes On The Prize”.

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By balkas, November 8, 2011 at 11:48 am Link to this comment

the time cldn’t be riper to finally stop dichotomizing us
system of rule into two systems: republican one and
democratic the other.

verbally one can do that and the onepercent [or is it
anywhere from 0001% to 30% ?] will surely continue
doing that.

splitting asunder verbally what cannot be split asunder
empirically is one of the oldest ruses ever employed for
enserfment of people.

it is of enormous value to the clero-sybaritic-wasteful
class of extremely selfish people to keep splitting
people into two categories [or any shade in between]:
godful and godless, good, and evil, smart and stupid,
hopeful and hopeless, lazy and not lazy, deserving and
undeserving, peaceful and warlike, educated and
uneducated, etc.

[did u guyz know that pristine and highly civilized
societies such as indigenes of n.america and much of
afrika had no word “stupid” to limn [and thus abuse] a

ok! i made this up—only partially, tho! but it makes
lots of sense to not call people stupid, regardless!

on level of doing things, one cld split u.s politicians
into two categories: asocialist [for greater and ever
greater inequality, fears, insecurities, bloodbaths] and
socialist [for ever greater equality, peace,
interdependence, etc.]

[and guess which category is being demonized?]

alas, in u.s 99.9999% of all u.s judges, cia/fia, army
echelons, columnists, ‘educators’, politicians fall in the
former category.
mathematics don’t lie. they are very educational. and
the ratio of prowar, anti-equallity, etc., say, just
politicians in u.s., to that of antiwar ones appears from
10k-100k to one.
now, that’s educational! tnx

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By gw2007, November 8, 2011 at 11:43 am Link to this comment

The Associated Press released today that there are 49 million Americans living in poverty; that’s 1 1/2 Canadas. Shamefull. Tax the rich and corporations who are stashing 9 trillion US$ in offshore accounts to avoid taxes according to the Boston Research Group. Communism’s looking good based on these numbers. After all, Wallmart would not last a day without China.

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By BrooklynDame, November 8, 2011 at 11:25 am Link to this comment

I loathe the term ‘class warfare’ as it’s currently being used.  There is a war but it’s
certainly not on equal terms; one side has nearly all the tools they need at their
disposal (including lobbyists, media spin doctors and bought-and-paid-for
elected officials) while the other side is consistently vilified and told that it is
greedy for just wanting a seat at the table. There’s a war but the 1% declared it
against the rest of us years ago.

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By mrfreeze, November 8, 2011 at 8:43 am Link to this comment

But….but…. Just talk with some of my conservative friends who always have two things to say about poverty (especially in America):

1) It’s a lifestyle choice….if you’re poor, you deserve to be poor. It’s your own fault… harder, “become entrepreneurial,” embrace “the American Dream,” read “Think and Grow Rich,” “get a better attitude,” “they should have studied harder in school,” blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah….......

2) And my favorite: “The poor today live better than most people in history. WTF are they complaining about?” After all, they all have TV’s, cell phones, refrigerators…....

Of course my conservative “friends” are a bunch of self-righteous, condescending ass-holes. Most of them come from a modicum of privilege. The worst of them grew up during the “morning in America” days of R. Reagan. Few of them are “trickling down” anything. Most complain about taxes they aren’t paying and about regulations that don’t affect them.

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By balkas, November 8, 2011 at 7:44 am Link to this comment

i do not know if any value accrues from knowing or saying that war for
poverty [for most people] and riches [for 0001-1% of the people] had
started millennia ago in mesopotamia, hindus valley, egypt, china.

the warfare for poverty [spiritual-bodily-educational] then spread to
greece, rome; and later to germanic, slavic, gothic, celtic, euroasian tribes.

and these peoples brought the warfare to americas. thus, nothing new
ever happened in u.s. it had always been business as usual; waging wars
[via ‘education’, religion, enactment of ‘laws’ [read, please, diktats] never
ending warfare against weakling nations, repression at home, etc]

asians who left the continent for america 2,3,4,5 millennia before the
sumerian system of mastership over majority of its people had been
established, retained an unspoiled structure of society until euros, led by
clero-nobility decided to utterly destroy it.

and they did! now, the question arises how to restore the pristine
structure of governance and society we once had? and facing such an
enormous evil governmental structure nearly everywhere.

i think that most people vastly underestimate this evil and what it is
capable of doing to keep it going forever!  tnx

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By Shenonymous, November 8, 2011 at 6:58 am Link to this comment

On the fly…It takes two to tango and it takes two to make a war. 
This is not a war, this is a massacre the 1% as symbolized by Wall
Street is committing on the poor.  Unlike the middle “class” the poor
cannot make war, they have no resources.  They must tuck in their
tails, put their heads down before their massas, believe as some
Republicans insist they are responsible for their own abject poverty,
and just suffer what is dealt them, or die.

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By joegod, November 8, 2011 at 6:28 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

the sick sad truth of it is that many people can’t bear to face and/or deal with
this issue. Most people do their best to ignore homeless people on the street
or talk about why our system exists indefinitely with a large amount of people
homeless ,jobless,and/or hungry. We’ve been conditioned to accept this as an
inevitability. Until we can get past our pre-conceived notions and artificial
explanations about why things are the way they are(which mostly have been
pounded into our collective psyche since birth), how can we actually make the
changes necessary to solve these problems?

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By Robespierre115, November 7, 2011 at 11:28 pm Link to this comment

@blogdog, agree with you on every point except the postmodern notion that class war is somehow unattached to ideaologies or specific philosophies. Left Vs. Right is useless when it comes to Democrats Vs. Republicans, but it is very relevant when it means Bakunin, Kropotkin, Luxemburg Vs. Ayn Rand, Thomas Friedman, Ronald Reagan.

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By gerard, November 7, 2011 at 9:39 pm Link to this comment

It is utterly amazing, when you stop to think about it, how so few can create so much havoc and misery and so many have such difficulty in getting the ear of their government.  And in a democracy, at that!
The world’s richest, most “powerful” country, yet it can do nothing for 99% of its people?  Frankly, I doubt it.  Come on, you guys.  Get with the program!
Otherwise we have a financial Titanic on our hands.

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By Arwen, November 7, 2011 at 8:05 pm Link to this comment

What a lucid, concise, precisely
targeted piece. I have a new

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By blogdog, November 7, 2011 at 6:48 pm Link to this comment

keep pushing till no doubt remains among the under classes everywhere - the war
is not a war ideologies (e.g. Left vs Right, Conservative vs Liberal, etc.) - the only
war that matters is between the oligarchs and the under classes - to the oligarchs
we’re all cannon fodder - make them feel it - call for a massive global, general
strike, withhold from the oligarchs all goods and services that can only be
delivered through the labour of the under classes - don’t give them the time of
day, no matter what they offer to pay

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