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Scapegoating and victimization of poor and unemployed

News Neoliberalism Recommended Links Neoliberalism Bookshelf Classification of Corporate Psychopaths Neoclassical Pseudo Theories and Crooked and Bought Economists as Fifth Column of Financial Oligarchy
The Great Transformation Neoliberalism as secular religion, "idolatry of money" Techno-fundamentalism Over-consumption of Luxury Goods as Market Failure Globalization of Financial Flows Globalization of Corporatism
Greenspan as the Chairman of Financial Politburo Friedman --founder of Chicago school of deification of market Pope Francis on danger of neoliberalism Neoliberalism credibility trap Greenspan humor Etc
JackSnap

"[Slavs, Latin, and Hebrew immigrants are] human weeds ... a deadweight of human waste ... [Blacks, soldiers, and Jews are a] menace to the race." "Eugenic sterilization is an urgent need ... We must prevent multiplication of this bad stock." -- Margaret Sanger, April 1933 Birth Control Review .

Victimization of poor as lazy is another quintessential neoliberal policy, so to attribute is 100% to German's racism (while racism is a factor too) would be incorrect.

Shaming the poor as a new sport for the transnational elites and subservient politicians

Amorality and psychopathic tendencies of new transnational elite and a special breed of corrupted politicians who serve them are perfectly demonstrated in the new sport for crooked politicians, especially from the part of the US Republican Party which can be called neo-confederates.

Barbara Ellen in her Guardian column (Guardian March 2, 2013) pointed out that the Methodists, the United Reformed Church, the Church of Scotland and the Baptist Union have joined forces to publish a study called The Lies We Tell Ourselves. It highlights myths surrounding people and poverty, including Iain Duncan Smith's much trumpeted "families out of work for three generations" line (which, it turns out, has never been backed up by data).

The report argues that the government is "deliberately misrepresenting" the poor, blaming them for their circumstances while ignoring more complex reasons, including policy deficiencies. Moreover, they feel that this scapegoating is the result of collusion between politicians, the media and the public.

Increasingly, the shame is being taken out of poor-shaming. It didn't seem so long ago that most people would think twice about denigrating fellow citizens who were having a hard time. These days, it appears to have been sanctioned as a new sport for the elites. A politician is one thing but these attitudes are spreading and hardening among ordinary people too. Indeed, poverty seems a trigger to inspire hate speech that would be quickly denounced if it related to race or gender.

Is this our new default setting – that the needy are greedy? This chimes with a slew of government policies that appear to be founded on notions of bulletproof self-reliance, making no allowances for circumstances or sheer bad luck, and which many would require huge amounts of help to put into practice, never mind sustain. Meanwhile, the more fortunate are invited to pour scorn upon anyone who fails.

While there are people whose problem are self-inflicted for many this is not true. In reality substantial number of poor are former people of modest means hit by a serious disease and who run out of options.

And shaming poor is a pretty safe sport. The poor are poor. They have no money, no voice, no representatives, and no means to defend their interests. Poverty is a like collapse of domino – once the first domino falls, all others follow the suit. In such circumstances, if a group of people are "deliberately misrepresents" the real situation with the poor, then there's precious little they can do about it. The churches got it right – if anything, the truth seems so much worse that it must surely be time to put the shame back into poor-shaming.

Poor-shamers are bullies, and right now they're getting away with it.

Internal colonization

Gaylord: "This is not merely Germany vs. Greece, but rather the Western Banking Cabal asserting heightened control over the economies of the world,"

Exactly. This is about neoliberalism, not so much about Germans. It is about neoliberal polices of financial oligarchy within the Forth Reich (aka EU). And neoliberal vassal state (Greece) sliding into debt slavery by succession of Greek neoliberal governments. In essence this can be viewed not only as an "internal colonization" of southern states and East European state by northern states within EU but as logical development of the vassal state within the neoliberal economic system now adopted by EU. and it is transnationals which will be the main beneficiaries of sell out of Greek assets for pennies on the dollar.

"...This economic plunge happened because they followed and implemented creditor demands for austerity measures to the letter. It is the fact that Syriza has had the temerity to point out the failure of these austerity measures that has provoked the wrath of the likes of Wolfgang Schδuble and Jeroen Dijsselbloem, both of whom are hard-line ideological neo-liberals."

Also if Merkel had not insisted on bailing out the banks that Greece owed money to when it went bankrupt then the Greek debt would not have been transferred to the ECB and hence the taxpayers of the member countries. But the haircut provided proved to be insufficient and country was still under too much pressure of external debt to recover, What happened next is only logical.

Also Yanis Varoufakis suggested that Germany is attempting to force Greece out of the common currency union as a lesson to France, to put the fear of God into them. That might be a factor too.

Blaming the Poor for Poverty


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[Jun 26, 2017] The entire spectrum of political thought from the neoliberal center to the reactionary right is really about setting up punitive systems of coercion and control.

Notable quotes:
"... The entire spectrum of political thought from the neoliberal center to the reactionary right is really about setting up punitive systems of coercion and control. They hate the "losers" and want them punished. They really believe that the beatings should continue until morale improves, that if you make things unbearable people will pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and if they don't then they deserve all the cruelty that can be heaped upon them. ..."
"... The poor are errant children who need to be molded. Conservatives may whine about the "nanny state" but what they really want to see is either the negligent mommy state or the abusive daddy state. They want to "help" the poor the way a drill instructor wants to help you learn to obey and kill. And remember: it's for your own good. Perhaps I am being unfair, but beneath the platitudes this seems to be the motivating ideology of too much of the contemporary governing class. ..."
"... This is how totalitarian regimes operate and how they view the "brainiacs" of this World. Brainiacs are merely military assets to be deployed brutally against the enemy. Or, if the Brainiacs are perceived to be "Assets of the Enemy", they are targeted for destruction- First, Foremost and on the double! ..."
May 05, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
James Levy , May 4, 2017 at 1:14 pm

I used to think that much of modern conservatism was simply a misguided, wrong-headed alternative attempt to formulate policies for the general welfare. Then I read Corey Robin's book The Reactionary Mind and started reevaluating that presumption.

The entire spectrum of political thought from the neoliberal center to the reactionary right is really about setting up punitive systems of coercion and control. They hate the "losers" and want them punished. They really believe that the beatings should continue until morale improves, that if you make things unbearable people will pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and if they don't then they deserve all the cruelty that can be heaped upon them.

The poor are errant children who need to be molded. Conservatives may whine about the "nanny state" but what they really want to see is either the negligent mommy state or the abusive daddy state. They want to "help" the poor the way a drill instructor wants to help you learn to obey and kill. And remember: it's for your own good. Perhaps I am being unfair, but beneath the platitudes this seems to be the motivating ideology of too much of the contemporary governing class.

clarky90 , May 4, 2017 at 5:51 pm

IMO, Parise (an economist) is following a well-worn "playbook".

  • (1) Identify the group targeted for liquidation. (Roma, Jew, kulak, Aborigine, American Indian, American Deplorables .)
  • (2) Recruit insider scientists/intellectuals to to "discover" that the targeted group is sub-normal cognitively (unworthy of Life).
  • (3) Have a Noble Cause that requires Tough Action by Determined Leaders (Collectivization, Racial Purity, Bringing Christian Values, Saving the Planet .)
  • (4) Proceed, as Stalin would say, to "break the eggs to make the omelette". (Democide). This is the "unpleasant cleansing" that, however disturbing, must be done for the "greater good".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democide

It is happening, as I speak, in the beautiful little town that I grew up in, on the banks of the Ohio River, in Southern Ohio. (drugs and hopelessness)

Seventy-five years ago, it happened to my Jewish forebears in Belarus. Three hundred years ago my Minqua (Iroquois) forbears were destroyed by this murderous rationalization.

This sort of article is not an exchange of ideas, but rather a crafted assault on a vulnerable group of humanity (in this case, the Poor)

Thank you Yves for bringing this to our attention!

clarky90 , May 4, 2017 at 7:37 pm

This last century, Scientists, Intellectuals, Academics, and Religious Leaders have been viewed as Powerful Military Assets, or Military Threats by totalitarian regimes. They have been used to progress the goals of regimes. (The Nazi Doctors of Auschwitz)

Or, if they question the regime, they are the first to be rounded up, jailed or murdered.

The Khmer Rouge immediately murdered anybody who wore glasses or had soft hands.(Intellectuals).

When the Soviet Union invaded Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia in 1940, the first thing the NKVD did was round up local Scientists, Intellectuals, Academics, Religious Leaders and Cultural Leaders and deport them to the Gulags or, more likely, kill them.

The Nazis behaved in exactly the same way with the Cultural leadership of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia ..

This is how totalitarian regimes operate and how they view the "brainiacs" of this World. Brainiacs are merely military assets to be deployed brutally against the enemy. Or, if the Brainiacs are perceived to be "Assets of the Enemy", they are targeted for destruction- First, Foremost and on the double!

I believe that we have a naive view of "experts"; imagining benign, tweed coated/skirted, helpful, good-hearted, "Good Will Hunting" types. Thanks Hollywood!

Adam Eran , May 4, 2017 at 6:08 pm

MSM! Why this fairly screams David Brooks' name!

[Jun 26, 2017] Why hurting the poor will hurt the economy

Crocodile tears of WaPO staff... Who fully supported implementation of Washington consensus that robbed the nations in favor of international companies... this was a new mass scale economic rape of the Western countries and it was especially brutal in xUSSR area.
Mar 11, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

djb : March 11, 2017 at 06:42 AM

Why hurting the poor will hurt the economy - The Washington Post

that this topic even needs a special article about it is proof of the sad state of affairs of economics today

Why trying to help poor countries might actually hurt them - The Washington Post

Nobel-winning economist Angus Deaton argues against giving aid to poor countries

It sounds kind of crazy to say that foreign aid often hurts, rather than helps, poor people in poor countries. Yet that is what Angus Deaton, the newest winner of the Nobel Prize in economics , has argued.

Deaton, an economist at Princeton University who studied poverty in India and South Africa and spent decades working at the World Bank, won his prize for studying how the poor decide to save or spend money. But his ideas about foreign aid are particularly provocative. Deaton argues that, by trying to help poor people in developing countries, the rich world may actually be corrupting those nations' governments and slowing their growth. According to Deaton, and the economists who agree with him, much of the $135 billion that the world's most developed countries spent on official aid in 2014 may not have ended up helping the poor.

Angus Deaton (LARRY LEVANTI/AFP/Getty Images)

The idea of wealthier countries giving away aid blossomed in the late 1960s, as the first humanitarian crises reached mass audiences on television. Americans watched through their TV sets as children starved to death in Biafra, an oil-rich area that had seceded from Nigeria and was now being blockaded by the Nigerian government, as Philip Gourevitch recalled in a 2010 story in the New Yorker. Protesters called on the Nixon administration for action so loudly that they ended up galvanizing the largest nonmilitary airlift the world had ever seen. Only a quarter-century after Auschwitz, humanitarian aid seemed to offer the world a new hope for fighting evil without fighting a war.

There was a strong economic and political argument for helping poor countries, too. In the mid-20th century, economists widely believed that the key to triggering growth -- whether in an already well-off country or one hoping to get richer -- was pumping money into a country's factories, roads and other infrastructure. So in the hopes of spreading the Western model of democracy and market-based economies, the United States and Western European powers encouraged foreign aid to smaller and poorer countries that could fall under the influence of the Soviet Union and China.

The level of foreign aid distributed around the world soared from the 1960s , peaking at the end of the Cold War, then dipping before rising again. Live Aid music concerts raised public awareness about challenges like starvation in Africa, while the United States launched major, multibillion-dollar aid initiatives . And the World Bank and advocates of aid aggressively seized on research that claimed that foreign aid led to economic development.

Deaton wasn't the first economist to challenge these assumptions, but over the past two decades his arguments began to receive a great deal of attention. And he made them with perhaps a better understanding of the data than anyone had before. Deaton's skepticism about the benefits of foreign aid grew out of his research, which involved looking in detail at households in the developing world, where he could see the effects of foreign aid intervention.

"I think his understanding of how the world worked at the micro level made him extremely suspicious of these get-rich-quick schemes that some people peddled at the development level," says Daron Acemoglu, an economist at MIT.

The data suggested that the claims of the aid community were sometimes not borne out. Even as the level of foreign aid into Africa soared through the 1980s and 1990s, African economies were doing worse than ever, as the chart below, from a paper by economist Bill Easterly of New York University, shows.


William Easterly, "Can Foreign Aid Buy Growth?"

The effect wasn't limited to Africa. Many economists were noticing that an influx of foreign aid did not seem to produce economic growth in countries around the world. Rather, lots of foreign aid flowing into a country tended to be correlated with lower economic growth, as this chart from a paper by Arvind Subramanian and Raghuram Rajan shows.

The countries that receive less aid, those on the left-hand side of the chart, tend to have higher growth -- while those that receive more aid, on the right-hand side, have lower growth.


Raghuram G. Rajan and Arvind Subramanian, "Aid and Growth: What Does the Cross-Country Evidence Really Show?"

Why was this happening? The answer wasn't immediately clear, but Deaton and other economists argued that it had to do with how foreign money changed the relationship between a government and its people.

Think of it this way: In order to have the funding to run a country, a government needs to collect taxes from its people. Since the people ultimately hold the purse strings, they have a certain amount of control over their government. If leaders don't deliver the basic services they promise, the people have the power to cut them off.

Deaton argued that foreign aid can weaken this relationship, leaving a government less accountable to its people, the congress or parliament, and the courts.

"My critique of aid has been more to do with countries where they get an enormous amount of aid relative to everything else that goes on in that country," Deaton said in an interview with Wonkblog. "For instance, most governments depend on their people for taxes in order to run themselves and provide services to their people. Governments that get all their money from aid don't have that at all, and I think of that as very corrosive."

It might seem odd that having more money would not help a poor country. Yet economists have long observed that countries that have an abundance of wealth from natural resources, like oil or diamonds, tend to be more unequal, less developed and more impoverished, as the chart below shows. Countries at the left-hand side of the chart have fewer fuels, ores and metals and higher growth, while those at the right-hand side have more natural resource wealth, yet slower growth. Economists postulate that this "natural resource curse" happens for a variety of reasons, but one is that such wealth can strengthen and corrupt a government.

curse

Like revenue from oil or diamonds, wealth from foreign aid can be a corrupting influence on weak governments, "turning what should be beneficial political institutions into toxic ones," Deaton writes in his book "The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality." This wealth can make governments more despotic, and it can also increase the risk of civil war, since there is less power sharing, as well as a lucrative prize worth fighting for.

Deaton and his supporters offer dozens of examples of humanitarian aid being used to support despotic regimes and compounding misery, including in Zaire, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Somalia, Biafra, and the Khmer Rouge on the border of Cambodia and Thailand. Citing Africa researcher Alex de Waal, Deaton writes that "aid can only reach the victims of war by paying off the warlords, and sometimes extending the war."

He also gives plenty of examples in which the United States gives aid "for 'us,' not for 'them'" – to support our strategic allies, our commercial interests or our moral or political beliefs, rather than the interests of the local people.

The United States gave aid to Ethiopia for decades under then-President Meles Zenawi Asres, because he opposed Islamic fundamentalism and Ethiopia was so poor. Never mind that Asres was "one of the most repressive and autocratic dictators in Africa," Deaton writes. According to Deaton, "the award for sheer creativity" goes to Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya, president of Mauritania from 1984 to 2005. Western countries stopped giving aid to Taya after his government became too politically repressive, but he managed to get the taps turned on again by becoming one of the few Arab nations to recognize Israel.

Some might argue for bypassing corrupt governments altogether and distributing food or funding directly among the people. Deaton acknowledges that, in some cases, this might be worth it to save lives. But one problem with this approach is that it's difficult: To get to the powerless, you often have to go through the powerful. Another issue, is that it undermines what people in developing countries need most -- "an effective government that works with them for today and tomorrow," he writes .

The old calculus of foreign aid was that poor countries were merely suffering from a lack of money. But these days, many economists question this assumption, arguing that development has more to do with the strength of a country's institutions – political and social systems that are developed through the interplay of a government and its people.

There are lot of places around the world that lack good roads, clean water and good hospitals, says MIT's Acemoglu: "Why do these places exist? If you look at it, you quickly disabuse yourself of the notion that they exist because it's impossible for the state to provide services there." What these countries need even more than money is effective governance, something that foreign aid can undermine, the thinking goes.

Some people believe that Deaton's critique of foreign aid goes too far. There are better and worse ways to distribute foreign aid, they say. Some project-based approaches -- such as financing a local business, building a well, or providing uniforms so that girls can go to school -- have been very successful in helping local communities. In the last decade, researchers have tried to integrate these lessons from economists and argue for more effective aid practices.

Many people believe that the aid community needs more scrutiny to determine which practices have been effective and which have not. Economists such as Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, for example, argue for creating randomized control trials that allow researchers to carefully examine the development effects of different types of projects -- for example, following microcredit as it is extended to people in poor countries.

These methods have again led to a swell in optimism in professional circles about foreign aid efforts. And again, Deaton is playing the skeptic.

While Deaton agrees that many development projects are successful, he's critical of claims that these projects can be replicated elsewhere or on a larger scale. "The trouble is that 'what works' is a highly contingent concept," he said in an interview. "If it works in the highlands of Kenya, there's no reason to believe it will work in India, or that it will work in Princeton, New Jersey."

The success of a local project, like microfinancing, also depends on numerous other local factors, which are harder for researchers to isolate. Saying that these randomized control trials prove that certain projects cause growth or development is like saying that flour causes cake, Deaton writes in his book. "Flour 'causes' cakes, in the sense that cakes made without flour do worse than cakes made with flour – and we can do any number of experiments to demonstrate it – but flour will not work without a rising agent, eggs, and butter – the helping factors that are needed for the flour to 'cause' the cake."

Deaton's critiques of foreign aid stem from his natural skepticism of how people use -- and abuse -- economic data to advance their arguments. The science of measuring economic effects is much more important, much harder and more controversial than we usually think, he told The Post.

Acemoglu said of Deaton: "He's challenging, and he's sharp, and he's extremely critical of things he thinks are shoddy and things that are over-claiming. And I think the foreign aid area, that policy arena, really riled him up because it was so lacking in rigor but also so grandiose in its claims."

Deaton doesn't argue against all types of foreign aid. In particular, he believes that certain types of health aid – offering vaccinations, or developing cheap and effective drugs to treat malaria, for example -- have been hugely beneficial to developing countries.

But mostly, he said, the rich world needs to think about "what can we do that would make lives better for millions of poor people around the world without getting into their economies in the way that we're doing by giving huge sums of money to their governments." Overall, he argues that we should focus on doing less harm in the developing world, like selling fewer weapons to despots, or ensuring that developing countries get a fair deal in trade agreements, and aren't harmed by U.S. foreign policy decisions.

Deaton also believes that our attitude toward foreign aid – that developed countries ought to swoop in and save everyone else – is condescending and suspiciously similar to the ideas of colonialism. The rhetoric of colonialism, too, "was all about helping people, albeit about bringing civilization and enlightenment to people whose humanity was far from fully recognized," he has written.

Instead, many of the positive things that are happening in Africa – the huge adoption in cell phones over the past decade, for example – are totally homegrown. He points out that, while the world has made huge strides in reducing poverty in recent decades, almost none of this has been due to aid. Most has been due to development in countries like China, which have received very little aid as a proportion of gross domestic product and have "had to work it out for themselves."

Ultimately, Deaton argues that we should stand aside and let poorer countries develop in their own ways. "Who put us in charge?" he asks.

Inequality

[Jun 26, 2017] I hate the the use of word THE POOR by neoliberal politicians It is an insult like deplorable

Notable quotes:
"... "Struggling " is a far better term if we need a category for distressed citizens. Jobless of course leaves out The huge Category of low wage short hours households. Liberals want to help, want to be charitable, but the real social blight is lack of opportunity to make a decent living thru wage work ..."
"... Safety nets are not necessary if opportunity provides alternatives. More jobs more hours ..."
"... And instead we curb the jobs and hours expansion rate because we refuse to socialize even in part the pricing mechanism ..."
"... That was war time and we "tolerated" rations and price boards for the war effort ..."
"... A similar sense of urgency however can be instilled if leading circles embrace the effort ..."
"... We moved from the landed aristocracy to the landed gentry. Democracy still remains to be seen in full light of day, even relatively representative. ..."
"... Distribution system of US/EU capitalism has failed. [It is a ] systemic plunder* it passed ..."
"... Well yeah, but that is the best that we can get with largely unanswerable elites in charge of everything. Patronizing triangulation is the natural modus operandi for republican politics under a system of dollar democracy and arcane rules of compartmentalized representation. Sure, pure democracy is too cumbersome, but would a rough approximate of representativeness be too much to ask? ..."
Mar 11, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Paine : March 11, 2017 at 05:49 AM
I hate the the use of word "THE POOR " by liberal politicians It's like deplorable It's an insult

"Struggling " is a far better term if we need a category for distressed citizens. Jobless of course leaves out The huge Category of low wage short hours households. Liberals want to help, want to be charitable, but the real social blight is lack of opportunity to make a decent living thru wage work
Wage rates and hours

Households cope with this blight. They struggle tinline and hold on to some happiness in the Jeffersonian use of the word happiness

Paine -> Paine... , March 11, 2017 at 05:58 AM
Safety nets are not necessary if opportunity provides alternatives. More jobs more hours

And instead we curb the jobs and hours expansion rate because we refuse to socialize even in part the pricing mechanism

We know what potential for mobilizing idle hours exits thru correct and adequate micro nautics We did this in 1940 - 44

That was war time and we "tolerated" rations and price boards for the war effort

A similar sense of urgency however can be instilled if leading circles embrace the effort

A war on browning

But first the Threat of global browning. Has to become real in the minds of The citizenry

RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> kthomas... , March 11, 2017 at 08:10 AM
Most people are complicated and Thomas Jefferson was no exception. The better part of him was associated with James Maddison and largely came from Thomas Paine.

But TJ had far too many personal problems to be held up like a saint. To be fair his time was well before even a faint glimmer of effective democracy during the dawn of the modern quasi-electorally appointed republic, an institution designed to emphasize property rights economic and political efficacy over inherited bloodlines.

We moved from the landed aristocracy to the landed gentry. Democracy still remains to be seen in full light of day, even relatively representative.

ilsm -> Paine... , March 11, 2017 at 07:32 AM
Distribution system of US/EU capitalism has failed. [It is a ] systemic plunder* it passed

l'audace, l'audace toujour l'audace

RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> Paine... , March 11, 2017 at 08:17 AM
Well yeah, but that is the best that we can get with largely unanswerable elites in charge of everything. Patronizing triangulation is the natural modus operandi for republican politics under a system of dollar democracy and arcane rules of compartmentalized representation. Sure, pure democracy is too cumbersome, but would a rough approximate of representativeness be too much to ask?

[May 04, 2017] The entire spectrum of political thought from the neoliberal center to the reactionary right is really about setting up punitive systems of coercion and control. by their bootstraps, and if they dont then they deserve all the cruelty that can be heaped upon them.

Notable quotes:
"... The poor [under neoliberalism] are errant children who need to be molded. Conservatives may whine about the "nanny state" but what they really want to see is either the negligent mommy state or the abusive daddy state. They want to "help" the poor the way a drill instructor wants to help you learn to obey and kill. And remember: it's for your own good. Perhaps I am being unfair, but beneath the platitudes this seems to be the motivating ideology of too much of the contemporary governing class. ..."
May 04, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

The poor [under neoliberalism] are errant children who need to be molded. Conservatives may whine about the "nanny state" but what they really want to see is either the negligent mommy state or the abusive daddy state. They want to "help" the poor the way a drill instructor wants to help you learn to obey and kill. And remember: it's for your own good. Perhaps I am being unfair, but beneath the platitudes this seems to be the motivating ideology of too much of the contemporary governing class.

[Apr 11, 2017] The How Ayn Rand became the new rights version of Marx

Notable quotes:
"... Ignoring Rand's evangelical atheism, the Tea Party movement has taken her to its heart. No rally of theirs is complete without placards reading "Who is John Galt?" and "Rand was right". Rand, Weiss argues, provides the unifying ideology which has "distilled vague anger and unhappiness into a sense of purpose". She is energetically promoted by the broadcasters Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santelli. She is the guiding spirit of the Republicans in Congress. ..."
"... Like all philosophies, Objectivism is absorbed, secondhand, by people who have never read it. ..."
"... It is not hard to see why Rand appeals to billionaires. She offers them something that is crucial to every successful political movement: a sense of victimhood. She tells them that they are parasitized by the ungrateful poor and oppressed by intrusive, controlling governments. ..."
Apr 11, 2017 | www.theguardian.com

Her psychopathic ideas made billionaires feel like victims and turned millions of followers into their doormats

It has a fair claim to be the ugliest philosophy the postwar world has produced. Selfishness, it contends, is good, altruism evil, empathy and compassion are irrational and destructive. The poor deserve to die; the rich deserve unmediated power. It has already been tested, and has failed spectacularly and catastrophically. Yet the belief system constructed by Ayn Rand , who died 30 years ago today, has never been more popular or influential.

Rand was a Russian from a prosperous family who emigrated to the United States. Through her novels (such as Atlas Shrugged) and her nonfiction (such as The Virtue of Selfishness) she explained a philosophy she called Objectivism. This holds that the only moral course is pure self-interest. We owe nothing, she insists, to anyone, even to members of our own families. She described the poor and weak as "refuse" and "parasites", and excoriated anyone seeking to assist them. Apart from the police, the courts and the armed forces, there should be no role for government: no social security, no public health or education, no public infrastructure or transport, no fire service, no regulations, no income tax.

Atlas Shrugged, published in 1957, depicts a United States crippled by government intervention in which heroic millionaires struggle against a nation of spongers. The millionaires, whom she portrays as Atlas holding the world aloft, withdraw their labour, with the result that the nation collapses. It is rescued, through unregulated greed and selfishness, by one of the heroic plutocrats, John Galt .

The poor die like flies as a result of government programmes and their own sloth and fecklessness. Those who try to help them are gassed. In a notorious passage, she argues that all the passengers in a train filled with poisoned fumes deserved their fate. One, for instance, was a teacher who taught children to be team players; one was a mother married to a civil servant, who cared for her children; one was a housewife "who believed that she had the right to elect politicians, of whom she knew nothing".

Rand's is the philosophy of the psychopath, a misanthropic fantasy of cruelty, revenge and greed. Yet, as Gary Weiss shows in his new book, Ayn Rand Nation, she has become to the new right what Karl Marx once was to the left: a demigod at the head of a chiliastic cult. Almost one third of Americans, according to a recent poll, have read Atlas Shrugged, and it now sells hundreds of thousands of copies every year.

Ignoring Rand's evangelical atheism, the Tea Party movement has taken her to its heart. No rally of theirs is complete without placards reading "Who is John Galt?" and "Rand was right". Rand, Weiss argues, provides the unifying ideology which has "distilled vague anger and unhappiness into a sense of purpose". She is energetically promoted by the broadcasters Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santelli. She is the guiding spirit of the Republicans in Congress.

Like all philosophies, Objectivism is absorbed, secondhand, by people who have never read it. I believe it is making itself felt on this side of the Atlantic: in the clamorous new demands to remove the 50p tax band for the very rich, for instance; or among the sneering, jeering bloggers who write for the Telegraph and the Spectator, mocking compassion and empathy, attacking efforts to make the word a kinder place.

It is not hard to see why Rand appeals to billionaires. She offers them something that is crucial to every successful political movement: a sense of victimhood. She tells them that they are parasitized by the ungrateful poor and oppressed by intrusive, controlling governments.

It is harder to see what it gives the ordinary teabaggers, who would suffer grievously from a withdrawal of government. But such is the degree of misinformation which saturates this movement and so prevalent in the US is Willy Loman syndrome (the gulf between reality and expectations) that millions blithely volunteer themselves as billionaires' doormats. I wonder how many would continue to worship at the shrine of Ayn Rand if they knew that towards the end of her life she signed on for both Medicare and social security. She had railed furiously against both programmes, as they represented everything she despised about the intrusive state. Her belief system was no match for the realities of age and ill health.

But they have a still more powerful reason to reject her philosophy: as Adam Curtis's BBC documentary showed last year, the most devoted member of her inner circle was Alan Greenspan , former head of the US Federal Reserve. Among the essays he wrote for Rand were those published in a book he co-edited with her called Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal . Here, starkly explained, you'll find the philosophy he brought into government. There is no need for the regulation of business – even builders or Big Pharma – he argued, as "the 'greed' of the businessman or, more appropriately, his profit-seeking is the unexcelled protector of the consumer". As for bankers, their need to win the trust of their clients guarantees that they will act with honour and integrity. Unregulated capitalism, he maintains, is a "superlatively moral system".

Once in government, Greenspan applied his guru's philosophy to the letter, cutting taxes for the rich, repealing the laws constraining banks, refusing to regulate the predatory lending and the derivatives trading which eventually brought the system down. Much of this is already documented, but Weiss shows that in the US, Greenspan has successfully airbrushed history.

Despite the many years he spent at her side, despite his previous admission that it was Rand who persuaded him that "capitalism is not only efficient and practical but also moral", he mentioned her in his memoirs only to suggest that it was a youthful indiscretion – and this, it seems, is now the official version. Weiss presents powerful evidence that even today Greenspan remains her loyal disciple, having renounced his partial admission of failure to Congress.

Saturated in her philosophy, the new right on both sides of the Atlantic continues to demand the rollback of the state, even as the wreckage of that policy lies all around. The poor go down, the ultra-rich survive and prosper. Ayn Rand would have approved.

Twitter: @georgemonbiot

A fully referenced version of this article can be found at www.monbiot.com

Blaming the Poor for Poverty by Lawrence Davidson

Nov 04, 2013 | To the Point Analyse

Most of the poverty in the United States is artificially manufactured. It is poverty created in the pursuit of "free market ideals," expressed in recent times by the imposition of neoliberal economic policies – the sort of policies that cut taxes on the wealthy, do away with fiscal and other business regulations, shred the social safety net, and erode middle-class stability – all while singing the praises of self-reliance and individual responsibility.

As a result we have done very well in making the rich richer and the poor both poorer and more numerous.

How many poor people are there in the United States? According to Current Population Survey (CPS), which puts out the government's official figures, as of 2012 about 15 percent of the population, or some 46.5 million people, were living in poverty. The rate for children under 18 comes in higher, at about 21.8 percent.

The U.S. government measures poverty in monetary terms. In 2012 poverty was defined as yearly total income of $23,050 or less for a family of four. The figure is adjusted for individuals or other size families. Then there is the depressing fact that "most Americans (58.5 percent) will spend at least one year below the poverty line at some point between the ages of 25 and 75."

There happens to be more than one level to this economic version of hell, and so we should take note of the category of "deep poverty." Deep poverty is defined as having an income that is 50 percent of the official poverty level. This part of the population is growing.

In my area, which takes in southeast Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey, the percentage in deep poverty runs from 5 to 19 percent, depending on the county. These are people who, according to social service and charity workers, "have given up hope" and "given up on finding jobs."

Consider what all this really means. Our economic system is condemning at least 48.5 million people to high rates of un- or underemployment, poor performance in school and at work (when it is available), poor nutrition and eating habits, high instances of drug abuse, high crime rates, homelessness, high rates of preventable diseases, shorter life-spans, and all the other vicissitudes typically associated with a life of poverty.

Yet neoliberals and their allies would say none of this is society's fault or responsibility, rather it is the fault of the individual who, living in a "free" economic environment, makes his or her own choices and then must live with the consequences.

Well, that is one particularly inhumane way of looking at the situation. However, we have proof from relatively recent U.S. history that poverty can be ameliorated through government action without seriously disrupting "market choice."

Back in the mid-1960s millions of citizens marched on Washington for "jobs and freedom," and President Lyndon Johnson responded with his War on Poverty programs. Those programs reduced poverty significantly and did so without transforming the U.S. into a socialist republic. Unfortunately, this momentum was not to last.

Two things brought it to a crashing halt: a murderous war in Vietnam and the tragically wrongheaded neoliberal economic policies mentioned above. We are still stuck in this rut. We are still at war (though now it is in the Middle East) and our economic policies continue to be self-destructive.

Cognitive Dysfunction

The neoliberal outlook is demonstrably wrong in a significant way. The notion that the poor can make "free and rational choices" and thus can be held responsible for their situation is incorrect. There is accumulating evidence that poverty literally "messes with your mind" in a way that obstructs responsible choices.

In fact, the "free market" contributes to an environment that makes the poor decidedly unfree: confused, preoccupied, and feeling overwhelmed and hopeless. In other words, being poor makes you cognitively dysfunctional.

The latest research to show this was published in August 2013 in the journal Science and is titled "Poverty Impedes Cognitive Function." The gist of the argument is, "Poverty captures attention, triggers intrusive thoughts, and reduces cognitive resources." In other words, the more preoccupied one is with troubles, the less able one is to muster the "cognitive resources" necessary to rationally "guide choice and action."

Most people find themselves overwhelmed with problems now and then, but not constantly. What living in poverty does is to hit a person with a toxic cocktail of overwhelming problems day in and day out: financial problems, health problems, parenting issues, victimization by criminals and others, and the problem of just finding and keeping a job.

The authors also point out that the IQ difference between those living in poverty and those living above the poverty line can be as high as 13 points. This difference is not a function of genetics or race. It is created by the environment of poverty itself.

This study is political dynamite. It lends support to the assertion that as long as neoliberal economics claims our allegiance, we will continue to condemn tens of millions of our citizens to a life not only of want, but also of high anxiety and poor cognitive ability. This puts the lie to the popular myth that the poor are disadvantaged because most of them are congenitally lazy.

It likewise challenges the conclusions of such works as Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray's The Bell Curve, which attributed at least part of the statistical difference in intellectual performance between American blacks and white to genetics. In truth, whatever statistical difference there is does not reflect inherent intellectual ability so much as high levels of long-term stress, which reduces a person's ability to develop and apply their cognitive strengths.

It is quite interesting how the authors of the Science article conclude their piece. As it turns out, they have chosen to sidestep the real implications of their own data. Thus, they tell us "this perspective has important policy implications. First, policy-makers should beware of imposing cognitive taxes on the poor."

What does that mean? It means that policy-makers should try to reduce the number of forms the poor have to fill out, the number of "lengthy interviews" they have to experience, the number of "new rules" they have to "decipher," all of which "consume cognitive resources" that we now know the poor have less of than those who are better off.

Also, policy-makers should time their demands on the poor for specific periods when they are best able to handle them, such as when they receive whatever periodic income that they do get and momentarily feel less monetary stress. These conclusions constitute a rather shocking anticlimactic letdown!

The authors have helped us see the enormous damage poverty does. In response society has a moral obligation to deal with more than forms and lengthy interviews. History tells us that we can do, and indeed have done, much better.

Short of radical changes in our economic thinking, what the poor in the U.S. need is another "War on Poverty." Indeed, the obligation is not just a moral one. There is a collective economic self-interest to minimize poverty for to do so will decrease income inequality, increase overall health, promote social stability and lessen crime. It will also promote consumption, which should make the capitalists among us happy.

Do our politicians understand any of this? Seems not. Just this week the House of Representatives voted to cut the Food Stamp program by some $40 billion. That is neoliberal economics in action and proof positive that ideology and prejudice are stronger than scientific research when it comes to policy formulation.

Is there a way to reverse this stupidity? Yes, but it will take mass action. It is time to consider replaying the 1960s and force the politicians to act responsibly despite themselves.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Lawrence Davidson teaches history at West Chester University and is the author of "Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America's National Interest" and two other books.

On David Brooks and the "Moral Failures" of the Poor by Emmett Rensin

In These Times

On David Brooks and the "Moral Failures" of the Poor

We aren't bereft of morals, as Brooks argues-we are plagued with bad ones that blame the poor for their own condition.

There is a moral failure at the bottom of American poverty-but this failure does not belong to its own victims.

David Brooks believes that the hardships of poverty are the wages of sin. He calls it "The Cost of Relativism."

In Tuesday's New York Times, Brooks discussed the recent publication of Our Kids by Robert Putnam, the Harvard social scientist most famous for his book Bowling Alone. Our Kids, according to Brooks, is one of those books that has become so necessary under the idolatry of data, the kind that gives empirical credence to what any fool could've guessed: in this case, it is that the children of America's poorer high school graduates fare far worse than those of well-off college grads.

Brooks's column, meanwhile, is one of those little essays that have become inevitable in the era of his implacable employment, the kind that lends the comfort of confirmation bias to what Brooks already believes-in this case, that the root of the American underclass's supposed dysfunction is the moral failures of the impoverished.

Brooks knows that life for America's poor is becoming worse. But he does not believe that sympathy, strong social welfare policies or increased wages can constitute a cure. Rather, he sees the desperate minds of his generation "destroyed by a plague of nonjudgementalism"; starving for the return of "norms" to "hold them responsible." "There are no basic codes and rules woven into daily life," he says, and it is this absence-the refusal of society "to assert that one way of behaving [is] better than another"-that has brought about the declining quality of life for America's poor.

"People got out of the habit of setting standards or understanding how they were set," he writes. If only the least among us possessed enough moral courage to ask themselves tough questions. If only they could consider whether they're living "for short-term pleasure or long-term good," "for yourself or for your children," whether they "have the freedom of self-control" or are "in bondage to [their] desires." If only the poor were beacons of virtue-then perhaps their children would have a shot at the American Dream.

I am not surprised that David Brooks believes these things. I am not surprised that he argues for them with the kind of half-hearted bluster of a crank at last call, more tired than drunk on his own posturing. Reading between his lines these last few years, all I can see is "somebody please put me out of my misery" scrawled over and over on a prison wall. I imagine Brooks is as eager as anyone to discover how long this strange self-parody can last before an editor catches on. I comfort myself by believing that this is the secret curiosity guiding David Brooks these days.

Rather, I am concerned with how pervasive his logic of moral decay is in American life-not only on the Right, where we expect it, but in the celebrated good intentions of erstwhile "liberal" causes, in the programs of Democrats who ostensibly represent our viable near-left. I am concerned with the notion that the principle failure of poor parents is that they aren't enough like middle-class ones.

It is this idea that leads initiatives like Too Small to Fail, a nonprofit nominally led by Hillary Clinton, to spend significant sums of money buying bus banners and radio ads telling poor parents to read to their children-as if this is what will solve the educational achievement gap; as if "reading to your children" was principally responsible for higher test scores, despite the wealth of data demonstrating over and over that wealth and poverty are the strongest determining factors in American children's educational achievement (when as little as a few thousand dollars cash given to the parents of poor children can push as many as 10% of them over the threshold to a collegiate future). No, Too Small to Fail says, the trouble is that poor parents don't have the habits of rich ones.

It is this idea, too, that allows even President Barack Obama to advocate "responsibility" and "fatherhood" among black parents as a cure for what ails them-as if, despite being more involved in the lives of their children than any other demographic of single parents, the thing holding back our black underclass is the breakdown of Brooks's "basic codes" and not the systematic plunder of their wealth over the course of centuries. It is what allows him to recognize the growth of income inequality in one breath while insisting that a little free community college will meaningfully impact it. As if median income didn't divorce itself from productivity a generation ago, and had the two metrics remained together, the difference would be $40,000 per year, per median family. No, it's only that poor Americans are doing it to themselves through a lack of moral fiber.

It is this idea that animates commentary on the condition of Chicago, where we are presently enduring a mayoral election wherein the incumbent Democrat Rahm Emanuel insists his closure of 49 public schools was a necessary response to the schools' low test scores and the fact that these campuses were "underutilized." As if it's only an unhappy accident that 90% of the students so affected were poor and black or Latino.

It would be one thing if we didn't recognize the problem of American poverty. It would be easy if the moral scolding of our poor were confined to one section of our polity. Then we might pursue the many avenues of fiscal and monetary policy available to us. But among even those whose rhetoric suggests an awareness of the situation, even those who know that to be born monied in America is to be heir to a self-fulfilling prophesy of the kind of "good" behavior Brooks is crying out for, are so easily seduced by a reversal of effect and cause.

But out here, poor parents, poor kids and poor schools don't have the luxury of indulging Brook's harmful, costly relativism. They live by the most inflexible "code" of our national life: If you're poor, you're on your own. Good luck. Oh, and we'll be watching. Future pay will reflect performance.

Brooks finds some empathy in the end. "Every parent loves his or her children", he writes. "Everybody struggles. But we need ideals and standards to guide the way."

I can't disagree. But the thing is, we're not operating without standards. We're not without the unconscious rules, absorbed and followed, that David Brooks desires. We aren't bereft of ideals. Rather, we are plagued with bad ones-that discipline is proved by wealth, that the ideas of middle class luxury help children more than material wealth.

A better set might be the kind that makes the elected, empowered, ostensible advocates of America's poor ask "tough questions" about their culpability in the condition of "our kids." The kind that recognizes that there is a moral failure at the bottom of American poverty-but this failure does not belong to its own victims.