The Sick Ayn Randian War Against Everyone Who Isn't Rich
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Eighteen million Americans were “food insecure” in the United States in 2012. The Great Recession has increased the number of Americans who do not have sufficient food by 30 percent. The fastest growing group of people who need some assistance with obtaining sufficient food to maintain a basic standard of living is the elderly. Approximately 20 percent of American children live in poverty. Food insecurity and hunger leads to a long-term decline in life spans and a diminished standard of living for whole communities.
Last week, Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to cut $39 billion from federal food assistance programs. Their vote is more than just the next act in the ongoing politics of cruelty by the Republican Party in the age of Obama. It is a decision that will kill poor people.
In America, discussions of poverty are linked in the public imagination to stereotypes about race, class and gender. The face of poverty is not white (the group that in fact comprises the largest group of recipients for government aid). Instead, it is the mythical black welfare queen, or "illegal immigrant" who is trying to pilfer the system at the expense of hard-working white Americans.
Discussions about poverty are also easily transformed into claims about morality and virtue. While the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is very efficient and involves little if any fraud on the part of its participants, stereotypes about the poor can be used to legitimize the policing and harassment of Americans in need of food support through mandatory drug testing and other unnecessary programs.
Here, the long-term end goal for Republicans is revealed for what it is—a desire to make poverty into a crime.
Such a project serves a broader effort by conservatives to further transfer resources upward to the 1 percent from the American people. Republicans' decision to further punish the poor, while the United States is in the midst of one of the greatest economic calamities in recent memory, also exists in the context of a Republican Party whose last presidential nominee suggested that 47 percent of the American public are leeches and parasites.
Their vote to cut food assistance programs (as well as the social safety net more broadly) exists in a bizarre political moment. The Republican Party is possessed by a radical and destructive ideology that is a mix of Ayn Randian fantasies, austerity and neoliberalism run amok, and libertarianism processed through the freak show performance and eliminationist schtick of right-wing talk radio.
The Republican Party’s hatred of poor people overlaps with its use of white racial resentment and symbolic racism to win over white voters in the post-civil rights era.
For decades, conservatism and racism have been political intimates in the United States. The Great Recession and the rise of austerity politics have facilitated a frightening union of those forces on the American Right.
With the introduction of the “Southern strategy” during the Nixon era, and now spurred on by the election of the country’s first black president, the Tea Party GOP has been fully transformed into what is best described as a “Herrenvolk” political organization.
“Herrenvolk," literally the "master race," is a description of a society in which citizenship is tiered and hierarchical along lines of race. The dominant group receives the full benefits of social services, transfer payments and other supports from the State. The out-group, marked as the Other, is viewed as not deserving of such resources.
South Africa and Nazi Germany were Herrenvolk societies. The United States, during its centuries-long slave regime, and then the many decades of Jim and Jane Crow, was also a society organized along similar principles of racialized citizenship. In this arrangement, the poor and others among the out-group are stigmatized as “useless eaters” who should be separated from the body politic if some other use cannot be found for them.