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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 8/29/14

Being Poor - From the War on Poverty to the War on the Poor. The System of unWelfare

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Had things not gone somewhat better for me after that I would not have been able to make that court appearance or pay that egregious fine. A warrant would have been issued and I would have probably wound up in jail where they would get their claws into me. All the while my only crime was poverty.

My own brushes with the law have been thankfully infrequent but the reality is different for people in severely impoverished communities. The police in the town of Ferguson issued three search warrants for every household last year. Over two and a half million dollars in fines and court fees were levied on the people of a town with twenty thousand citizens. Is it any wonder the town erupted after another slaying of an unarmed black suspect?

The so-called "justice" system isn't the only way to make big profits off the penniless. There is the mostly unregulated payday loan industry that thrives on giving out loans with huge interest rates. Many people can't pay off the loans so they get caught in an endless cycle of debt often paying interest several times the principle. Like the criminal justice system, these entities usually have the complete backing of the government.

The Reagan Revolution was a success in turning the War on Poverty into a war on the poor. As promised, private enterprise swarmed in the poor places with predators and parasites. Instead of fighting poverty we made it illegal turning the poor into quasi-criminals. All they need now is a little push to get them over the edge.

While it is big money for a few companies the rest of us pay for it. We pay for living in a culture of fear, hopelessness and desperation. When people live under those conditions they often turn to addiction, crime and violence. When we abandon the poor to the predators and parasites, neighborhoods, communities and even entire cities become toxic. It wasn't just the gunning down of Michael Brown that created such anger. It was the cruel indifference everyone in that town was subjected to. So cruel and indifferent that a cop could feel like he could kill a man" because he was black" because he knew his superiors wouldn't question it" because his victim's family would be too poor and powerless to take action against him" because killing an unarmed black suspect had become so routine that the media wouldn't even cover it.

I am poor. Being a writer and a maker of music that no one pays for makes it likely my economic prospects won't change anytime soon. I can see the cracks grow under my feet. I know they might swallow me anytime. That is how I live. That is how a lot of us live. The current trends of the economy suggest that the ranks of people sharing a similar fate to mine will keep growing even among people with more practical vocations. I wonder how long we will continue to abandon the impoverished to the predators and parasites rather than deal with them responsibly and with some shred of humanity. Will we keep letting country rot until there is nothing but a small handful of super-rich and the rest of us are trapped in a slavery of debts we cannot pay?

We are already most of the way there.

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J.P. Whipple is a vagabond, outcast, sleeping in a truck and staving off starvation on the outskirts of the American Dream by playing music and selling books and other artworks. Among his chief hobbies is writing political and economic essays for (more...)
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