Monday, April 21, 2014

The Cloward-Piven conspiracy/strategy is REAL!

You can't trust anything out of Glenn Beck's mouth, so I was surprised to find out that the Cloward-Piven strategy actually existed.

The Truth According to Glenn Beck

Cloward and Piven were sociologists who came up with a strategy in the 1960s to increase government spending on welfare to the point of destabilizing government. At that point, the government would change to socialist or communist. Cloward and Piven executed a lot of their strategy in New York City, but there have been setbacks, such as welfare reform. Nonetheless, their strategy is still underpinning Democratic policies, such as the stimulus, ACA, Dodd-Frank, and any Democratic voting laws.

Strangely, Beck doesn't evaluate how well or poorly the strategy is going. He gives no current numbers on how many people are dependent on government or how soon that burden will topple us. I guess a reality check isn't Beck's thing when he's on a roll. Instead, he announces "case closed."

The Truth According to Wikipedia

This is where I learned the shocking truth that Glenn Beck wasn't totally full of shit. Cloward and Piven did indeed want to create a fiscal crisis, which they write frequently about here (a transcription of their original article). They advocated signing up as many poor people as possible for welfare and other programs, and making sure that they receive the maximum legal benefits. The reason was primarily to put huge strains on the government, but also to get more money into the hands of the poor, to rally the support among the poor for political change, and to provide a stronger, more reliable electoral base for the Democratic Party.

Contra Glenn Beck, the stated goal wasn't total annihilation of the government, but instead direct payment from the federal government to every person. This wasn't a well thought-out goal. There was no math in their proposal--how much the payments would be to each person, how that would affect the economy, how the money would be raised.

Cloward and Piven admit some problems with their plan:
"A welfare crisis would, of course, produce dramatic local political crisis, disrupting and exposing rifts among urban groups... Group conflict, spelling political crisis for the local party apparatus, would thus become acute as welfare rolls mounted and the strains on local budgets became more severe. In New York City, where the Mayor is now facing desperate revenue shortages, welfare expenditures are already second only to those for public education.
...welfare costs are generally shared by local, state and federal governments, so that the crisis in the cities would intensify the struggle over revenue... If the past is any predictor of the future, cities will fail to procure relief from this crisis... for state legislatures have been notoriously unsympathetic to the revenue needs of the city (especially where public welfare and minority groups are concerned).
If this strategy for crisis would intensify group cleavages, a federal income solution would not further exacerbate them... legislative measures to provide direct income to the poor would permit national Democratic leaders to cultivate ghetto constituencies without unduly antagonizing other urban groups, as is the case when the battle lines are drawn over schools, housing or jobs. Furthermore, a federal income program would ... permanently relieve them of the financially and politically onerous burdens of public welfare*--a function which generates support from none and hostility from many, not least of all welfare recipients.
... it should also be noted that there would be gains even in defeat."
Cloward and Piven were enamored with crisis as a vehicle for political change. They observed that the Great Depression and the black protests and riots were very effective in spurring legislation. However, they were quite wrong about the how the welfare burden crisis would play out. The federal government never came close to giving direct payments to every person. The closest was a short-lived proposal in 1972 by presidential candidate George McGovern, who was defeated in a landslide. Instead, welfare more and more became a target for derision as failed social engineering. Welfare reformers from the conservative side haven't been wonderfully successful in changing welfare dependency either.

Cloward and Piven moved on, and were leaders in the push for the Motor-Voter law. If not for Glenn Beck, we probably wouldn't know about this earlier plan of theirs.

The Truth According to the Daily Kos

An author at the Daily Kos points out that had Obama wanted to follow the Cloward-Piven strategy, he would have tried to torpedo TARP, causing even more disruption in employment. That would have provided an even bigger crisis, which would have allowed for nationalization of a bunch of industries, even larger increases in aid programs like food stamps and unemployment payments. The author also doubts that there was a Cloward-Piven strategy, but instead it was only one article.

Truth Filter

From my experience, I'm inclined to think that Cloward and Piven did have a plan, but that plan wasn't fully implemented and didn't work as mapped out. There were crises from welfare demands, but the solution didn't take the form of direct checks to the poor. I doubt that Cloward and Piven's vision was particularly influential. It's not was though welfare or community organizing didn't exist until Cloward and Piven created them. Welfare most likely would have developed just as it did, regardless of these two.

That's a big problem. These two saw welfare as a way to alleviate poverty and build a political base, but they didn't see welfare as a subsistence trap. They didn't discuss the perils of living off of guaranteed low-level income such as losing the drive to improve and losing the skills and habits of working. That consideration didn't seem to enter their consciousness at all.

Richard Cloward died in 2001, but Piven has continued their work. She still supports direct payment from the federal government to all citizens and residents. The payments should be substantial enough for people to live in dignity. This means that employers will have to pay even more since their competition is a substantial handout.

Piven doesn't see any difficulty with this idea. She doesn't question how tasks will get done if everyone could be paid for not working, or the effect of a surge in wages on living costs. She also states that the US is a fabulously rich country, rich enough to afford wars all over the globe. Piven clearly lives in a self-made fantasy world. She is incredibly clueless when it comes to economics. Sad that she's been a professor for decades now, so she's been teaching these economically ignorant ideas to a couple generations already.

I suppose the good news is that I don't hear many other people repeating those ideas. The vast majority of people want jobs, not payouts for just hanging around. Cloward and Piven never got the welfare system they wanted, the direct federal payment system they wanted, or the more socially equal society they wanted. Most people wised up and realized that world vision was an impossibility. That's good progress there.

Protest in Boston, 1966
Image: thenation.com

P.S. Direct connection between Barack Obama and Cloward-Piven: none except in Glenn Beck's mind.

12 comments:

Dangerous said...

Every time I read or hear about "welfare", I immediately counter with "corporate welfare". Naturally, he Cloward/Piven argument is utterly flawed from many perspectives. I'm sure there are dedicated adherents who will also tend to support Democrats, but Beck et. al. only bring these up to try to paint ALL Dems as far-leftists, as if there some sort of secret conspiracy.

Mostly, this is Beck's answer to the far more open plan by the GOP allied with the far right to end all programs that help the poor, arguing it's in their best interests to starve or die of illness. They do so openly (except that impolitic last part, which they couch in softer terms.

Corporate welfare, on the other hand, is just as open a strategy and a tried-and-true one. Corporate interests can always find politicians who will look the other way on all manner of misbehavior, from fixing prices to polluting the environment to using slave labor in other countries. The recent example of the rancher in Nevada who refuses to pay to graze is cattle on federal land comes to mind. Plenty of politicians lined up to support his court-defeated arguments and defend his supposedly brave stand against an out-of-control government. In fact, he's just another corporate thief.

This guy, and lots of corporations, are no different from the welfare cheat who receives dozens of checks under different aliases. The difference is that nobody on the left is defending that guy.

So Cloward/Piven never had a chance to succeed because the vast majority of left-leaning people don't want people depended on welfare. We simply accept that it happens and the humanitarian need outweighs our outrage at laziness and cheaters. We see it as a multi-generational challenge without any magic solution. The Right sees it as a burden best avoided and ignored.

To sum up, how do you answer this question: What do we do to support those who can't or won't support themselves?

ModeratePoli said...

@dangerous, For people who can't support themselves, we can support them at a modest level if their families can't support them. If it's a temporary situation, we should help them find work. For those who won't support themselves, we shouldn't reward that at all.

How to translate that into policy is much harder.

Dangerous said...

I agree that an effective policy is difficult to devise since dependency is a difficult program. Further, the line between "can't" and "won't" is subject to interpretation.

But the politics is easy and leads to many perverse policy proposals whose goals are not in line with short or long term reduction in dependency. Simply rail against the programs, which the people who pay for them would rather not, and reap the electoral rewards. The Cloward/Piven strategy was a thought experiment to counter that obvious political disadvantage programs to help the poor face. Hence the notion of paying everyone a floor-level stipend from the collective productivity of the economy is not a terrible idea that still has some recent advocates since it is a good balance to the excesses of the top 1%.

Let's not forget, however, that welfare programs for the poor are actually big benefits for businesses from slumlords to liquor stores. It's a way to distribute the excess we have in this country to prevent having to face third-world conditions within our borders. While few people actually prefer to live a meager existence on welfare and other handouts, for many it's the only choice. Take it away, and their next-best choice isn't work. It's theft or other crime.

Most suburbanites like me intrinsically recognize and accept the trade-off, even if we don't like it. In rural and small town America the poor are better hidden, but they get government handouts too. Take them away and suburbanites quickly see that the nearby cities quickly fall apart and blight grows even faster. Clever politicians can gain votes in swing districts attacking welfare programs for a cycle or two, but reality eventually catches up as it's clear that those politicians serve very wealthy peoples' interests not the middle class.

So I would support a Cloward/Piven style baseline distribution payment for everyone indexed to a subsistence living, supplemented with food stamps for the needy (to try to prevent use of the money on simply liquor or drugs) paid for from general revenues to reduce or eliminate these programs as a political issue subject to easy demagoguery. I also recognize I would be a net loser in this scenario, but only slightly. The big losers would be the very wealthy -- or at least they would claim so. The extra customers for the businesses they own would more than make up for the extra taxes they would pay.

ModeratePoli said...

@dangerous, here are some replies, point by point.

1)Definitely. Can't work vs won't work is difficulty to determine exactly and open to interpretation.

2) I disagree that the direct stipend was a thought-experiment. I think they wanted it. Even 40 years later Piven still wants it.

The idea of sharing the riches has some appeal. It's what they do in Alaska and Norway. But the negative consequences we've already seen, in this country as a whole. The sense that you should receive money just for being alive and breathing, and maybe it's not enough money, that's hasn't been a good route.

3) "The poor are big business." Any source of money will attract hangers on. In particular I have a distinct dislike for landlords raking in housing subsidies.

4) Won't the world be scary without welfare? Yes, it would be. That's why I'd like gradual but steady reforms. I think it's also important to implement E-verify for employment, so that there are more lower-end jobs for people currently on welfare. We also need lower population numbers--of everyone. I plan to write a post on that touchy subject sometime.

5) A bit off-topic, but I have a question. You said the politicians attack welfare, but after a few cycles people begin to see the negative effects. I don't think I've seen that up here in Mass. What have you seen?

Dangerous said...

Well, for most of us it's a thought experiment that produces theoretical results. Piven is hardly alone and other some countries even do it, don't they?

Living in the Philly suburbs for decades, I have seen how cutting human services programs at all levels degrades the poorest communities. Crime rises and negative consequences like drug abuse increases. But poor women don't stop having children.

The cities themselves usually attempt to pick up the slack, but don't have the resources and people who can afford to leave. The degradation slowly invades the suburbs.

Maybe some people saved a few bucks in taxes, but lost it in standard of living for the community. Since PA bounces between GOP & Dem, the cycle reverses and cities come back somewhat.

It's not a hard and fast rule. There are as many Philly regions and Detroit regions.

Brett Gates said...

I'll just leave this here. Obama is a socialist with a socialist agenda and it's working brilliantly. This country is doomed.


http://www.theblaze.com/contributions/what-obama-and-i-learned-at-columbia-how-to-destroy-america-from-within/

ModeratePoli said...

@Brett, you get a point for having a link, but lose it for not summarizing your link at all. Try to have some substance if you're going to post.

By the way, the Tea Party are about as accurate as the 7th Day Adventists. Your forecast of doom--I've heard that before.

Brett Gates said...

Point taken. Let me make it perfectly clear I am not part of the "Tea Party", I am not a Democrat, Republican, or Independent. I am an American and my rights and future are being abolished. Cloward/Piven is happening; and it's at it's final phases. Obama's part and the finale of this plan is happening. Anyone who denies this or somehow twists the facts otherwise is ignorant and is right where the Obama Administration wants them. Elimination of the 2nd Amendment is a priority. There are 4 star, 3 star, 2 star generals being dismissed from their duties for "conflict of interest". These generals were directly tied to the command in one form or another of ICBM's. The militarization of our local police departments is jaw dropping. Weapons intended for the war are being put into their hands for a civil war. These "drills" that are happening in metropolitan areas all over the country are not for our safety; they are not for our protection...they are drills to enforce martial law in the event of economic collapse; which is coming rest assured. There are FEMA camps popping up at a frantic rate, military vehicles being shuffled all around this country...sometimes in broad daylight; but in many communities they are moving them at 2,3,4 AM. Helicopters and drills happening during these times as well. The massive rise in police brutality is merely a test to our people. How far can we push them? How much will it take for them to retaliate against us?
Obama owns the automotive industry, banking industry, and now the healthcare industry. The "bailouts" were a JOKE and a brilliant two fold maneuver by Obama. He took control of the companies he "bailed out", and increased government debt in doing so. Taxes are going to rise and rise as government overspending continues. These rises in taxes will annihilate the middle class. If he doesn't get congress to do what he wants, he does it anyway. Don't get me started on our immigration crisis. All Washington is doing is sending gasoline to the fire. Stationing our Border Agents 80 MILES from the border. Why? Because they want them here. More minority voters, more rapists and murderers to create a lawless land, more spending, more taxing. If people can't see it, they are dumb.

Regards

Brett

Brett Gates said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brett Gates said...

And if I may, please view this small video from the group Anonymous. I think it makes a portion of what I'm saying perfectly clear.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQzz-TpRfC4&index=10&list=UUMjd-1F53XKknIcMPtAOmJQ

ModeratePoli said...

@Glen, I'm going to refute some of your points.
**Cloward/Piven is happening; and it's at it's final phases. Obama's part and the finale of this plan is happening. Anyone who denies this or somehow twists the facts otherwise is ignorant and is right where the Obama Administration wants them.

You just can't assert it's happening, you have to show evidence. The "anyone who denies" bit is a no true Scotsman fallacy. I don't believe it, does that mean I don't have an independent mind? No it doesn't. Show the evidence. Show that it's due to Obama, and not the general trend in the US. For example, Bush increased the size of the federal debt enormously, but it's hard to believe he did it as part of the Cloward-Piven strategy. So Obama's debt shouldn't be judged prima facie that way either.

**Elimination of the 2nd Amendment is a priority.

People have more guns and ammo than ever. There isn't anything close to elimination of gun rights.

I don't think I'll read the rest of your paranoid babble.
-FEMA camps, if they existed, would be on video.
-Obama doesn't run the auto companies, or the banks that were bailed out. They are run by their CEOs, like the non-bailed out companies. If they took orders from Obama, there would be much more load forgiveness going on.

-The tax increases are on people making $250K or more, so not your typical middle class person. Don't you know that from your own experience? How much have your taxes gone up?

Glen, I expect to discuss the points I raised. If you ignore them and just post a bunch of stuff, your new comments will disappear. Why? Because I expect readers to be open to data and discussion. If you can't do that, you don't belong on my comments page.

ModeratePoli said...

@brett. Sorry, I called you Glen by mistake. I'll get it right in the future.

Also, summarize the video from Anonymous. I'm not going to watch it, so you need to make the points if you want me to hear them. If you can't summarize it, keep working at it until you can.