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COVER STORY


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Clearly nothing is sacred for the wealthy and the corporations who run our country. Now they are again stepping up their assault on our children.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) recently reported that, “States are implementing some of the harshest cuts in recent history for many of the nation’s most vulnerable families with children who are receiving assistance through the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant. The cuts will affect 700,000 low-income families that include 1.3 million children.” The CBPP adds: “A number of states are cutting cash assistance deeply or ending it entirely for many families that already live far below the poverty line, including many families with physical or mental health issues or other challenges. Numerous states also are cutting child care and other work-related assistance that will make it harder for many poor parents who are fortunate enough to have jobs to retain them.”

In 1996, Congress created TANF to replace Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). Among other changes, this “welfare reform” law provided that the time you can get benefits is limited. States are allowed to set TANF benefit levels, and benefit levels vary widely from state to state.

Between 1996 and 2009, the number of children receiving welfare benefits declined by 60 percent, from some 9 million to about 3.3 million. Among children below the poverty threshold, the proportion receiving AFDC/TANF decreased from 62 percent in 1995 to 22 percent in 2008.

The original AFDC program was enacted in 1935, during the Great Depression. It was intended to tide families over until they could find work. Today, with automation replacing labor, there are fewer and fewer jobs to be had, and the wealthy have no interest in supporting people they can’t employ.

Political attacks on the welfare system began in the mid-1960s and accelerated during the 1970s and 80s as automation expanded. Even though the bulk of America’s poor are white, these attacks relied on racism, painting the welfare mother as a Black “welfare queen” who had “illegitimate” children and committed fraud to make a living. Now the safety net has been shredded for everyone’s children. There is something wrong with a society that refuses to care for its children. The wealthy few and the corporations who are behind this attack on the children are utterly without morals. They talk about the “immorality” of the poor on welfare, and the moral value of work, yet they lie, cheat and steal, foreclose on homes, take away pensions and health care, and collect government bailouts to make their money, and then have so little morals as to throw children off welfare. The failing capitalist system is to blame for the economic crisis, not our children.

Regardless, arguments about the value of work are becoming academic, because we are moving steadily toward a “jobless” society where most of the work is done by machines, not people. We are at the dawn of an age where we no longer need to work, at least not in the traditional sense, because society's new electronic tools are so productive that they are eliminating jobs and also creating unlimited abundance. We could have a cooperative society where all of us have a high standard of living without "working" in the sense of selling our labor power to someone else. Indeed, only a cooperative society makes sense under these conditions.

To build that society, the people must have political power. And to organize ourselves to win that power, the people must unite around the economic and political interests of those among us who have the least. This is the only way to guarantee that society gives everyone’s children all they need to thrive and reach their fullest potential. The immediate step that must be taken is to tax the rich to pay for the things society needs—including proper support for our children.


From the Editors:
Those of us who seek fundamental social change are engaged in a battle to win the hearts and minds of the people. This can't be done without a revolutionary press. For 40 years, the People's Tribune has brought our readers the stories of those who are struggling to move forward in a world where corporate power is threatening to crush them. Along with those stories, we try to offer some strategic perspective to help put the struggle in context and point the way toward victory. We need your help to continue doing this. The People's Tribune gets no grants and has an all-volunteer staff. We rely completely on subscriptions and donations from our readers to enable us to go on telling the truth. Please donate whatever you can. See the subscription/donation form on the right. You can also donate using Pay Pal on our web site, www.peoplestribune.org.






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