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The Politics of Mean

The Holes in the Means-Tested Safety Net

by TEKA-LARK FLEMING

“Men can starve from a lack of self-realization as much as they can from a lack of bread.”

Richard Wright, Native Son

The U.S. and its puritanical roots is the basis for many of its problems including racism. The idea that some people might get $1.00 more than they deserve according to Jesus Christ is enough to make corporate America cut off some people’s noses as an example of what they’ll do to the rest of our faces.

In countries where the population is more monolithic and less attached to the most heinous interpretation of the bible in the developed world their social services are universal.

There is this idea that other people aren’t evil leeches trying to squeeze an extra penny out of the wealthy for sheer entertainment value.

In many places there is a belief that making sure that they have a society where people aren’t afraid all the time is a better society. A society where people aren’t living on the street, hungry and unable to go the dentist is the bare minimum that a civilized society can provide.

The affordable healthcare act is great, but single payer would have been better.

In the U.S. we have a means tested safety net. It is problematic for many reasons. I’ll use the reasons from the Beveridge Report. It was written by Sir William Beveridge in the 1940s. Its mantra was to “Abolish want.”

According to that report a means tested safety net is problematic owing to following reasons:

1. It has a stigma. It is for poor people only, so everyone knows you’re poor if you’re using it. In the US being poor is a very bad thing to be.

2. It lacks broad political support, since everyone isn’t getting the same amount of help it can be used as a political bargaining chip.

3. It’s amazingly hard to access. By the time you get assistance you’re very far down the economic rabbit hole.

4. It has high administrative costs.

5. It is a poverty trap. It’s so hard to get and to keep instead of encouraging those to look for work it discourages it, since the wages are so low in the U.S. that work would mean an even worse quality of life. You’re essentially trapped in soul crushing poverty owing to a lack of choices.

Our society is set up, so we can’t care about what is happening to the person around the corner. Our society is set up, so that we we are all working to not die. This is all on purpose. This system was set up to keep us afraid.

Means tested programs have been very mean in the U.S.

What we need is a universal support program. A version of universal support program is the Nordic Model:

“The Nordic welfare states are based on a shared political goal of encouraging strong social cohesion. The Nordic social model is renowned for the universal nature of its welfare provision, which is based on the core values of equal opportunities, social solidarity and security for all. The model promotes social rights and the principle that everyone is entitled to equal access to social and health services, education and culture.” ― Norden.org

Universal supports are about more than everyone getting free stuff. It is also about more than just healthcare.

Universal supports are about art. It is about literature. It is about having time to have a picnic in the park.

Universal supports are about the idea that our society should give everyone an opportunity regardless of class, race or gender to be self-realized human beings.

We need family leave, universal childcare for all incomes levels, a single payer national health system,  a national housing service for all income levels, we need a national theater company, a national publishing company and free higher education for everyone.

We the people need to take control of the conversation.

I want our money spent on art instead of bombs.

And what would you like our money to be spent on?

What you think matters. What all of us think matters.

The market has shown itself to be a barbarian. The people must civilize our society against the beast of the market.

We all need a break.

We need a pro-mobility program.

In the CBC article “1970s’ Manitoba poverty experiment called a success” it stated that from 1974-1978, 30% of the people in Dauphin, Canada were provided a guaranteed income called a “Mincome.”

Evelyn Forget, a health economist at the University of Manitoba findings found that school completion rates went up,  hospitalization for mental health issues went down significantly and of course there was no poverty.

Technology has made everyone working obsolete, so why should everyone have to work?

I’m waiting for the party of the people the Democrats to come up with some solutions to our economy beyond job training and a sliver above livable wages. I’m waiting for them to come up with a vision for the people other than for us to be born, go to school, go to work and die.

I want to see a ten point alive plan for the people of the U.S.

Teka-Lark Fleming is the publisher of the Morningside Park Chronicle newspaper. It is a weekly print newspaper covering Black L.A. from Inglewood to the Eastside. Contact publisher@mpchronicle.net