Steve Funaro’s March 2 article in The Northerner is to be commended as a classic standard for U.S. dominant ideology supporting the class system and justifying inequality. Its ubiquitous myths and lack of facts demand debunking.
It’s almost scary that the author is a senior and has learned nothing about reality; he’s just a neocon megaphone. He can even, in the tragic debacle of the illegal U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, pair up “Bush” and “preemptive” in a sentence, thinking he’s making some positive point. Yes, “American society has mutated into something FDR never intended it to be” or 60 years of policy from other presidents either: unilateral military behavior, president in military garb, cowboy-rhetoric – “bring it on,” and all. Due to length limits, I can’t tackle the “war” this time, but look forward to a discussion in case other misguided souls spout nonsense.
“People” shows up 10 times in his article, with “some people” and “these people” being beyond redundant. So point-by-point, I’ll get down to people, specifically, U.S. citizens. I’ve already mentioned preemptive Bush, the first “some people” in this article. Next are those mysterious “others” wanting social security and other entitlement programs to stay as they are, but I can’t imagine who they could be, as in comparison with other industrial societies, the U.S. spends proportionately less on social welfare programs, with all but a few modern societies providing family allowances, extended disability and unemployment payments plus old age pensions as a right of citizenship unrelated to work history; the U.S. (wealthiest country in the world) ranks a shameful 22nd in infant mortality rates, down from seventh place in the 1950s; a 1988 study found that half a million Americans could be found in any given week living in shelters, sleeping on the street, or eating in soup kitchens; 30 million Americans are chronically malnourished, half of them children, three-fourths are people of color.
Next, “extremely lazy people,” by-products of the new deal he says. Which new deal? The 1980s one that reduced or eliminated most assistance programs, by the mid-’90s slashing one-third state and federal funding primarily in the four social welfare programs affecting poor women and their children? Or the wealthy-welfare one: $5 billion a year food stamp program in the form of tax deductions for business related meals and entertainment; $10 billion annually to wealthy landowners and corporations from the farm aid program intended for family farms; Medicaid for the rich consists of $47 billion of tax exempt health insurance plans that typically cover management but not all other employees; the nation’s largest military contractor, General Dynamics Corp. (surprise surprise) didn’t pay federal income tax for 13 years in spite of $2 billion in profits; 60 percent of U.S. companies pay no income tax at all, etc. Who’s lazy?
The next “people” are wondering why they should save for retirement when there’s social security, the ol’ government free food and money trick. Why get a job blah blah blah. Mr. Funaro must live in Disneyland, because no job, no social security, it is based on earnings credits. This being the case, one had better get a couple of jobs because with wages not keeping pace with the cost of living, retirement on social security alone is a myth like all the points raised in this article. Monthly payments will not cover the most minimal expenses and life savings won’t cover medical expenses. Those all-play- no-work healthy people? The number of poor adults working full time is twice as high as the number of nonworking adults receiving welfare; 15-20 million people live in a household with one full time, year-round worker whose net income is under 150 percent of the poverty level.
Next paragraph, oh too right, it isn’t just Social Security that needs an overhaul. In the 2006 proposed budget, says the parrot, almost $55 billion is to be spent on social issues, and we’ve about reached our limit? Over a billion a month is spent on the “war” but that’s ok. Boy Scouts collecting for the poor are taking their donations to military bases because military families can’t live on what the government is paying them although the U.S. spends more on its military than any country in the world and proportionately less on education and social services. Under 2 percent of the 1994 federal budget and under 5 percent of state budgets was spent on Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and over half of all poor Americans are not enrolled. So much for the welfare-is-sucking-us-dry myth.
Last but not least, a textbook comment on Mr. Funaro’s arrogant conclusion, “people can learn a better way to make a living-working for it. “Clearly, poverty in America is not due to lack of commitment to the labor force but to a shortage of jobs with decent wages and family related benefits.” To Mr. Funaro and other like minded “people” I say, make like a college student and do a little research (try the “Port Huron Statement” for an eye opener, or “The Pentagon Papers,” or Noam Chomsky, or Bureau of Vital Statistics, or “Social Things” by Charles Lemert, there’s no shortage of information), then draw conclusions from evidence, not what you’re spoon-fed. Or, since it is hard to believe a senior in college can be so firmly entrenched in false consciousness, and he is a College Republican member, can this be a political stump for Republicans?
Sharon Stevens-Hearing Sociology, Associate in criminal justice