Op-Eds Speaking Truth to the Powers-That-Be
All things in government and politics are about the distribution of power and money. This government shutdown is the Libertarian Republican minority’s “High Noon” with both the Neocons and the Center and Left of America.
The Republican party is involved in a civil war between Libertarians and Neocons. Neocons are not anti-government. In fact, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) dubbed “Romneycare” then “Obamacare,” is a neocon Republican invention.
Last night’s fight was not about the ACA (Obamacare), but about the 1%’s decades-long pet peeve: The New Deal.
What social welfare system do the Libertarian loons have in mind to replace New Deal America? Mutual Aid Societies and yes, poor houses.
The buzz on Libertarian networks is about mutual aid societies, the 18th & 19th Century charitable organizations which have their roots in the Dark Age practices of Medieval guilds like the Freemasons. The theory of a mutual aid society, which traces back several thousand years to the days of ancient Chinese craft guilds, is that everyone pays into the private group of their choice. Wealthier members at the top of the feeding chain gaining some additional influence by paying in more, thus allowing them to direct and dictate to the remainder of the members based on their share equity, how distribution of aid to their lesser members will roll.
The Libertarian far Right want the fate of the poor put back into private hands that are both secular (religious) and selective in their giving, insuring the power of White America won’t erode any further in the rising tide of minorities and diversification of religious and social viewpoints.
Before Medicare and Social Security, the so-called “social safety net“, assistance to the elderly too old to work, and the poor came in the form of the “almshouses” or “poor houses,” usually run under the thumb of a religious mutual aid society that either catered to their particular sect or required conversion to their belief systems to obtain food and shelter from them.
There are Libertarians convinced that returning to the pre-New Deal model is the road ahead into the 21st century, even though these private charitable groups failed spectacularly during the Great Depression
The economic collapse overwhelmed many of the mutual aid societies’ donors on the upper end, and millions of Americans found themselves living in “Hoovervilles,” cities within cities of slap-dashed shanties and shacks.
Many mutual aid societies just marginalized their poor. In some cases though, this private aid took on much darker tones. In more than twenty states, private or even state public assistance engaged in eugenics, a popular social Darwinist concept of certain circles of elite white America. Eugenics advocated “eliminating” the impure elements of society, those people whom deemed to be mentally, physically, or racially inferior and a drag on the prosperity of White America. These were American welfare programs that forced those seeking financial assistance to be reproductively sterilized to receive private and/or state aid.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and the New Deal brought consistency to public assistance, and removed the tyranny of servitude to white cultural and religious elites simply to put some food into the mouths of the hungry, or put a roof over the heads of the poor and homeless.
Mutual aid in the New Deal era took on a much more egalitarian “American” face.
All effectively are private mutual aid society concepts. They worked well when there were more workers than retirees, when jobs weren’t streaming off-shore, and when labor, not technology, was the backbone of American manufacturing.
Modern mutual aid only works for people who can afford to participate. It’s a growing problem in an America whose bedrock middle class is eroding with fewer and fewer high paying manufacturing jobs.
Attempts at private social welfare have never been enough in a major financial crisis to provide for millions of Americans affected. Of the three major economic depressions in American history, only the New Deal era provided enough support to keep millions of people from starving in the wealthiest nation in the world.
For-profit mutual aid companies cannot be a bedrock backstop because greed and excess compromise these systems:
The claim is generally made by the selfish Randian Libertarian types who see anyone with skin darker than a white suntan to be welfare loafers and cheats, that Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid are vast government morasses of money going to the truly undeserving, that are operated poorly, etc.
Government systems have accountability not found in the private sector. If a Blue Cross hypothetically screws over a customer with its shell game of health insurance plans that it rolls entirely to its benefit, without oversight, the consumer has no recourse. The other providers played the same game, and made switching, pre-Obamacare, thanks to things like pre-existing conditions, high family premium deductibles, and up-charges for ER treatment, difficult to impossible for most individuals. Government agencies are all subject to rigorous review, appeals processes, and accountability to Congress, for larger macro-issues like the “donut hole” where lawmakers, when they’re sane and sober, can effect legislative redress for problems.
Government is the only real “last resort” to cover citizens. The Great Recession reminded us why we had severe restrictions on Wall Street and America’s corporations via the Glass-Steagall Act and other checks on corporate greed. When the system melts down, all of the private “welfare” is only as good as the government able to shore it up when the lemmings running these companies all lead the economy over the cliff.
Government is the only completely neutral source of assistance for ALL Americans. Religion is a business, like any other. Much of the far Right that is religiously backed sees the decline in consumers of their services, with Christian protestants, the great white WASP powers of America, in the steepest decline .
The greatest recruiting for religions in America have been through their social welfare functions. We also know from Pew studies, that religious affiliation is highly fluid in America. Religion’s push into politics with Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson in the 1980s was the beginning of a movement to co-opt millions of middle-class and poor Americans to seek out the more extreme “born again” religious affiliations that back the Far Right.
Religious institutions’ financial security are only as good as their givers, and, as we saw during the Great Depression and the Great Recession, all are limited by the resources that dry up in the economy, or when their top-tier givers’ purse strings draw closed in hard times to secure their own padded futures. Many of these faiths are given state aid by their Right-Wing political cronies for doing social services, as the George W. Bush Administration advocated and happens in many Red states. That’s millions of your tax dollars passing through church coffers on their way to the poor, rather than being doled out directly, with the attendant siphoning that the church business takes for its operations.
The government provides assistance without regard to race, creed, or color. Religious institutions are highly segregated, which leaves minorities in far more dire straits in hard times without a governmental social safety net. In the halcyon days of the Koch Brothers’ vision of America, poor houses might have been the last resort for their kind of white Americans, but hen houses, shanties and sheds were often the best that minorities on the same economic footing could afford.
Government is the only true safety net for millions of middle class Americans and the working poor. Pay-for-safety systems generally skew towards those with the ability to pay. Millions of hard-working people who live from paycheck to paycheck usually cannot afford 401(k) plans, IRAs, ROTH IRAs, or often life and, until the implementation of the ACA today, health insurance.
The government provides recourse. Have a problem with a private carrier? Sue them. Maybe you get satisfaction in a few years with a lot of out of pocket costs. Have a problem with a religious institution? It’s God’s will, or using religions’ aptitude for guilt, perhaps you should be a little more grateful for the help you were provided with that filtered state money that would have been more had it gone straight to you without the strings.
It has been more than 83 years since the Great Depression. Memories of the life before the advent of the social safety net are few and far between. More than 60% of Americans like Medicare . 80% of Americans (70% of young adults and 90% of seniors) like Social Security just fine. 
Were it not for the hundreds of millions that the White Right John Bircher Libertarians have pumped into media and their network of Astro Turf grass roots groups to feed their hate for the New Deal, and play on the selfishness and white angst of so many, the connection between “Obamacare” and its value as another important part of that social safety net, would be pretty clear to a majority of Americans.
The Kochs, Club for Growth, et al see their White America slipping away to a much more tolerant, culturally and religiously diverse nation. This is all about preserving their power and money. If most Americans who front the Tea Party had experienced the America before unions and the social safety net, they would turn on their rich 1% masters in a country minute.
My shiny two.