New Orleans The dishonesty of public policies meant to be both punitive and exploitive, while masked in the language of fiscal accountability or even worse an aberration of American so-called values, never ceases to boil my blood. There’s never been a better example than proposals on work requirements for the poor. The true purposes of such requirements has never been more transparent than now, when we are statistically at a time of almost full-employment. The only thing being disguised is the urgency behind the proposal for some politicians so that they can try to cover their tracks as they force mass deportations of immigrants, many of whom are doing jobs unwanted by others, and where employers will be crying for replacements and state coercion to fill the work orders.
After decades of fighting Nixon, Reagan, Bush and the Republican hordes on work requirements for welfare, we got them in spades from Clinton’s so-called welfare reform. Work requirements for food stamps, a program as much an US agricultural support program for farmers as a social welfare component of the safety net for poor workers without families or children, came in as well and were relieved during the Great Recession of 2008, but have been restored by some states now that employment has returned and job calls are going wanting. Some governors and legislators in states like Arkansas and Louisiana among others are calling for work requirements for single lower income individuals who are on Medicaid thanks to the expansion of the program under the Affordable Care Act.
What a farce! Politicians without a clue about how to create jobs or training programs requiring work when so many people are doing multiple jobs to just survive. The jobs clearly do not exist, yet they are still promoting work requirements because some well-heeled small business donor, who has them on speed dial, is complaining that no one wants to work for the minimum wage on offer and frozen for almost a decade. Meanwhile President Trump shouted that the Republicans are now the party of the working class, and, perhaps no better, The New York Times tried valiantly to introduce the new working class to its readers with rose colored glasses telling the story of nine of them where four of the nine were enjoying the benefits of a union, despite the fact that hardly one in ten now can claim such an advantage in their workplaces.
If they are going to continue to punish the poor by imposing work requirements for nonexistent jobs, there should be hard and fast conditions to such mandates:
- Substitute placement in public service or volunteer positions while receiving benefits similar to the food stamp requirement should be allowed.
- Guarantees of adequate and available training for jobs.
- Guarantees of living wages rather than minimum wages, inadequate to support decent food and housing.
- Guarantees of public protection against wage theft and exploitation on the job by employers determined to exploit the weakened rights of the worker with the loss of food, health, and welfare benefits.
If work requirement promoters are unwilling to attach the necessary guarantees and protections, then not only is this vicious scam exposed as nothing more than punitive and exploitive, then, fair enough, such work requirements must be barred.