The Industry of Poverty

The Mad Kitten is a chunky little hefty hefty kitten. You have to understand that she is virtually pocket sized. I forget how small she is until I am around someone else’s cat and then it hits home. She is chunky, what in the 70s would be called “husky” but not fat. For whatever reason she is a solid little mass of muscle. I got curious and picked her up in one hand, a 20 lb weight in the other, and I am guessing she is a solid 13 lbs.

A solid little husky ball of “I-have-my-own-life.” Except, of course, when it comes to the love parade and the litter box.

MK poops standing up. I am sure that she is oh so pleased I am broadcasting this to the world. It is the strangest thing to see. It started when I got her and lived in a small RV. I had to get a litter box small enough to fit in one of the double sinks so it would not fly around when I drove. As she got older, she would put her rear feet in the box, stand with her front on the counter and do her thing.

When I became land bound, the size of the box did not change but I have had to learn to place it next to a wall because she still – puts her back feet in and then stretches up on the wall so she is vertical and does her thing. She refuses to poop outdoors.

It’s funny how if you grow up with something you think that is the way things are supposed to be. Mind you, she has lived, albeit temporarily, with other cats that used the litter box in a feline manner, but no impact.

The US government has subpoenaed Twitter for all the information associated with Wikileaks tweets and followers of Wikileaks. Names, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, payment information (if any). They banned Twitter from announcing the subpoena but a court released Twitter to do just that.

You have to remember, this probably has very little to do with the cables at this point and more to do with disrupting the network, I suspect, to prevent the coming Wikileaks release. If you haven’t heard, this spring there will be another release of internal and confidential memos, only this time from what has only been identified as a “major US bank” that will document and reveal institutional corruption and a business model devoted to fleecing their customers. Just about everyone suspects the bank in question is Bank of America, including BoA which just closed down a 3 month internal investigation to try and determine what Wikileaks could have (the rumor is that Assange got a hold of a flash drive that copied a hard drive).

I have been doing a lot of reading of late, going back in time and looking at the social theorist work of the past that has fallen out of favor or out of print for the radio show “The Open Book” I am doing over on grace independent Monday nights. On that show, as I find books in the public domain, I am simply reading them with no commentary as they don’t need one. What is truly frightening is how these books predict exactly what is going on now, down to the evolution of the big box stores. They also predict a recession that is based in the collapse of the housing market coinciding with a revelation of the intertwining of big business and government, all at the expense of the majority of the population.

The greatest factor condemned is the concept of “free-market economy” and these writers indulge in a kind of fanciful imagining of the future that unfortunately has proven to be dead on in both how things have evolved since the 1800s to now economically, socially and psychologically. Down to my rants about intimacy and the ability to think, these writers predicted the fall of the human relationship because society would become totally based upon the concept of ‘more’ and that everyone and everything would become commoditized and valued only according to its potential to be considered a profit. And, that all this profit would only benefit the upper 3% of the classes.

The consensuses was that a society based upon free-market economy would eventually make all human life expendable and, eventually create a recession/depression that would “destroy” itself in order to make room for a repeat growth. The cycle identified was “growth – destruction – rebuild – growth – destruction and then end destruction.” In other words, it was not truly a cycle but a path. Because within the beginning of the path was a necessary destruction of education, creativity and will in order to support the need for creating a perfect consumer. As one writer put it, the end goal of free-market economy was not to preserve the classes as levels of profits but to create a new one – the pauper, that was incapable of contributing and would become such a drain that the choice would be to let the pauper die or destroy the market to eliminate the pauper class.

Sri Lanka has declared wheat a terrorist and is using its army to combat it. They have shut own bakeries that use wheat flour, the army is purchasing (at market cost) produce and rice from farmers and reselling them to the population at a fixed lower cost to try and stabilize the price of food. Their point being that wheat is not native to Sri Lanka or its diet and the introduction of wheat is threatening Sri Lanka’s food security. They cannot grow wheat in Sri Lanka; they would have to import it to satisfy the population if the diet changed. They also point to the fact that wheat based diets are not as healthy as the one they currently have and project health costs that they are not prepared to fund.

Both Cuba and China are slowly introducing aspects of free-market to their societies but with great controls as they do not want their societies to become based in it. To say this is like playing with fire is an understatement.

The thing is, free-market economies do not work – they are exceedingly destructive to the social fabric of a nation and a guarantee of increased levels of poverty. Communism, with its absolute drive to equalize all does not work because it is destructive to all manner of innovation, production and self-sustaining economies. Socialism does not work because it contains the worst of free-market and communist economies. Government regulation tends to be too whim based to be effective. Government control tends to be too fear based to work. Non-government intervention is scatterbrained. So what is left?

That is one of the questions. Woven into it is a question of morality, and I am not talking about religious morality but broad morality. This goes beyond “thou shalt not kill” and resides in the (biblically worded, yes) question – “am I my brother’s keeper?”

Free-markets say no. Communism says “what brother?” And Socialism says “Only the brother I belong to.”

What are the economics of humanity? In trying to define poverty levels and scales, what we are really trying to do is to define a base level of existence. In doing so, we are trying to set up a social rationale that says, “you are suffering, but you are ok and I need do nothing about your existence because it still stays in the realm of the economy.” Our social services are set up to prevent people from going below that level, but not really to raise them above it. They may think they are set up that way but the rest of the integrated economic and social structure is set up to make sure that there is always a level of poverty in place. After all, you cannot have wealth unless there is poverty. Wealth, mind you, is very different from success.

One of the biblical quotes most often thrown about to justify the presence of poverty is poor Christ’s off the cuff remark of “the poor you will always have with you.” I don’t think that he meant “the same poor, ” I think what he meant is there will always be someone in need of our compassion and help. One of the things he (like very many prophets of many religions) was trying to teach is that it was morally unacceptable not to participate in resolving that situation. The concept of “the poor” with the prophets was that it was a temporary condition that any one could fall into but the community and individual had a moral charge to prevent from becoming a life sentence.

Social fashions grabbed that phrase and created a class of inherited poverty, especially in the States but you can see it in all other class and caste systems around the world. In Rhode Island, where I live which is why I keep trotting out these examples, one of our largest employers is Social Services. Our economy has a stake in the poor always being with us and that, right there, means that efforts to resolve and eradicate poverty and homelessness are not going to work. Poverty has become its own industry, albeit, one that hates itself.

The manufacturing facilities of poverty are public school systems and affordable housing initiatives because both create and sustain areas separated from communities and economies.

Every industry has a product that it markets. Healthcare is another huge industry here, along with retail and hospitality. Those three have understandable markets and products. But what is the market and product of the social services industry? To provide for the disadvantaged. In order to provide this one must always have the disadvantage hanging around and in need.

What is interesting to me, as I continue to delve into understanding where I live, is the little blip in the reporting of statistics that goes on concerning the income here. Depending on where you look the figure $26,588 pops up. Now, depending on where you look, that is either the average household income or the average per capita income. The actually per capita income here averages about $15, 525. Over 29% of RI-ers live below the poverty level, over 40% of our children live below the poverty level and yet we are the 17th richest state in the US. Mind you, those figures and percentages are based on the old model of understanding of poverty, not the coming new one that will adjust for cost of living. I should also point out that all of those incomes are before taxes. Take out the taxes and imagine, at a generic low-ball estimate, the average cost of an apartment here (without utilities) is $500 a month. Now do you begin to get the picture? Now do you begin to see why Social Services are one of our largest industries? Oh yes, and we are graced with one of the highest unemployment, cost of living, property crime and personal crime rates around.

Rhode Island is teensy compared to other places. Barely 2000 square miles and barely 1.2 million people. I think that if Rhode Island can figure its way out of this mess, it can serve as a model for any other state.

The question is, how?

c.2011 Cassandra Tribe All Rights Reserved


About cassandratribe

"There are few artists that can do what Cassandra Tribe does. Whether with her poetry, her videos or her blog, Cassandra examines the truths that most of us can never come close to realizing and shows it for what it is, both beautiful and frightening at the same time. She exposes our inner-most workings like the cross-section of a powerful but flawed machine, our gears and springs, nuts and bolts removed and laid out before us. She is a true artist. Her new video, Requiem for a God, is the latest example of Cassandra's willingness to tear open and examine the very things that make us human. Shooting the film entirely by herself, she also eliminates all the little excuses we come up with to keep us from ourselves and our truth. You see, even when she's not trying to be, Cassandra Tribe is a beacon of truth and humanity in this darkest of worlds." (Michael E. Quigg, The Culture Network, June 2009)
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