We’ve written often about bold plans for addressing poverty, but they’ve always focused on strategies to build capacity or wealth in those in poverty. Trump has another idea. Look for Ta-Nehisi Coates’ testimony before the US House panel examining reparations in America and maybe a bonus video for your Sunday at the Movies with Retake.
The Barely Known Economist Who with Koch Funding Has Reshaped America. Not many of you will have heard of James McGill Buchanan, who while being a Nobel laureate, remains a relatively obscure economic theorist who conducted his research with funding from the Koch brothers. After Buchanan’s death in 2014, his papers were made public, but only reviewed recently. In her book, Democracy in Chains,Duke historian Nancy Maclean analyzed Buchanan’s terrifying view of humanity and the role of government. Buchanan viewed ‘the people’ as prey, those who own capital as being the entitled and government’s proper role being to protect the landed from the prey. Of late, I’ve written a good deal about the shift from Keynsian views of the role of government to a more laissez-faire perspective, so I will spare you a long post on this. Lynn Parramore of the Institute for New Economics in her article, Meet the Economist Behind the One Percent’s Stealth Takeover of America examined Buchanan’s work and how it has profoundly influenced the American economic, political and governmental world in which we find ourselves today. If the excerpt below whets your appetite, click here to read the full article
With Koch’s money and enthusiasm, Buchanan’s academic school evolved into something much bigger. By the 1990s, Koch realized that Buchanan’s ideas — transmitted through stealth and deliberate deception, as MacLean amply documents — could help take government down through incremental assaults that the media would hardly notice. The tycoon knew that the project was extremely radical, even a “revolution” in governance, but he talked like a conservative to make his plans sound more palatable…. MacLean details how partnered with Koch, Buchanan’s outpost at George Mason University was able to connect libertarian economists with right-wing political actors and supporters of corporations like Shell Oil, Exxon, Ford, IBM, Chase Manhattan Bank, and General Motors. Together they could push economic ideas to the public through media, promote new curricula for economics education, and court politicians in nearby Washington, D.C. “
Trump’s Plan for Addressing Poverty in America
On Wednesday night, I attended a panel covering the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) and the proposed Holtec development to store far more dangerous spent nuclear fuel rods. One of the panelists noted that many of the nuclear generating stations across the country were also exceeding their capacity for storing their nuclear waste. WIPP is currently the nation’s only storage facility. But regulations prohibit WIPP from storing the far more volatile and toxic “commercial” nuclear waste that these nuclear plants need to store somewhere. So, what is the Trump administration’s solution? Simply change how you define commercial waste so that the new definition allows WIPP to store commercial grade waste. This is a bit like being diagnosed with cancer, not being happy about it, so redefining it as a cold and thinking that you’ve solved the problem.
The same strategy is at work in how Trump wants to define poverty in America. Since the 60s, America has used the Federal poverty measure to define poverty very precisely using consumer spending patterns adjusted to inflation to determine how many Americans live in poverty. Those numbers are used to determine the level of public investment needed to support those living in poverty. When conservatives have control of policy development, then there is almost no focus on addressing poverty and when moderates and progressives have power, more efforts are made to address poverty, but in both cases, since the 60s, the government, the media and policy makers have used the same standard to measure how many Americans are living in poverty: the federal poverty measure. Enter Trump and his bold plan.
Trump would like to redefine the method used to calculate the inflation element of the federal poverty measure, a sleight of hand that would instantly reduce the number of people meeting the new poverty measure and reducing those eligible for federal programs where eligibility is determined on the basis of this measure. Without having to change any laws or any regulations, people who have depended upon federal supports will no longer qualify for those benefits. These people’s economic condition will not have changed at all, but should Trump’s chicanery prevail, they will suddenly become even more poor because they will have lost benefits upon which they had depended. A Truthout article, Trump Administration Wants to Redefine Poverty and Shrinking Public Aid, researched the impact of this recalculation of the federal poverty level
The University of California Center for Labor Research and Learning estimates that by 2028 in California alone this could result in 60,000 people losing access to Medi-Cal; 1 million Californians receiving lower subsidies to help them buy health insurance; and up to 3.7 million Californians losing access to Cal-Fresh, the state’s food stamps program, which allows people earning up to 130 percent of the federal poverty level to receive some benefits. Nationally, the Children’s Defense Fund and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities have concluded that over the course of a decade, 300,000 children would be kicked off the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicaid.”
One might want to look at this as just another moral offense by a uniquely aberrant US President, but Democratic President Bill Clinton used the same strategy when claiming to have vastly reduced reliance on welfare, not by lifting families out of poverty, but by changing eligibility for supports. As another example, when Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s austerity measures increased unemployment in England threefold, rather than helping the unemployed access employment or temporary financial supports, the government made 30 different adjustments in criteria determining who was deemed to be unemployed. Voila, unemployment reduced.
Click here to read the Truthout article.
Clearly those in control have no genuine interest in addressing poverty, just in manipulating regulations and terminology to give an impression that our economic, social and environmental concerns are being addressed. So our public policy has morphed into: “You know that cancer you’ve been diagnosed with. Well, good news, I’m changing the diagnosis in your chart. You have a cold now and I am prescribing some antibiotics. You can pick up your prescription in the lobby. Have a good day.”
Paul & Roxanne