the individual responsibility act of 1996

George Snedeker snedeker at SPAMconcentric.net
Sat Dec 30 12:02:19 MST 2000



we could use a Marxist analysis of the personal  Responsibility Act of 1996,
which is often referred to as a reform of public  welfare. to begin with,
this act dumps people into low paying jobs and weakens labor unions already
weak position. it does not solve any fiscal crisis of the state, because
relief does not cost that much to begin with. the 1996 law was often stated
in purely moral terms as a way of helping the poor kick the habit of
dependency. as we know it was really quite punitive. the Mayor of New York
City wanted homeless people to rake leaves to earn  their keep in shelters.
it is helpful to look back at the functions of relief in the history of
capitalism.

the most well known example of such an analysis is REGULATING THE POOR by
Piven and Cloward. they argue  that relief has had two functions: to pacify
the working class during times of revolt and to discipline the "working
poor" so they will be willing to take the low paying shit jobs. this is why
relief payments are kept so low,  below the poverty rate in all states. of
course racism came to play an important ideological role justifying the
treatment of people on public assistance in the same way that it has been
used to divide the working class.  here lies the connection to the Prison
Industrial Complex which also disciplines the working class. think of the
use of cheep prison labor. corporations no longer need go all the way to
Asia.

this does not quite answer the question as to why now? perhaps the ruling
class has been trying for some time to abolish the safety net which protects
the working class. Reagan did his bit and Clinton did his.

living on public assistance is not fun. I did it not for five years, but for
ten years, in part because I was disabled. we are the "worthy poor." they
let me go to both college and graduate school while on public assistance. in
the mid 70s they put the disabled on SSI, another form of public assistance,
so as not to confuse the "worthy" with the "unworthy" poor. still it was not
easy, but it was necessary. I kicked my own dependency on the state when I
got a job which allowed me to support myself.

I'd like to see some Wall Street investors picking up garbage or raking
leaves if it builds character?

George






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