The Immortality of Poverty

We’ve all heard the saying, “nothing is certain in life but death and taxes. I would add a third inevitable item to this list: poverty. Lyndon B. Johnson waged a phony war on it, and liberals have raged against it for ages. And still it remains. Poverty is inexorably tied to human greed, and as long as one exists, so will the other.

In the Middle Ages, the poor were labeled peasants. Being a peasant under the harsh realities of feudalism must have really, really sucked. While the lords got the best of everything, peasants swore an oath on the Bible to not only their lords, but the dukes, earls and barons who owned those lords’ properties.

The peasants were also called serfs, clearly differentiated from their superiors, who were also referred to as nobles. The nobility had a great deal- the serfs performed all the physical labor, while they reaped the rewards of that labor. The peasants still had to pay not only rent for a tiny share of land to live on, but a special tax called a tithe which went to the all-powerful Church. This 10% tithe still has an enduring popularity in the world of Christian fundamentalism, which falsely claims it is mandated somewhere in the Bible. It isn’t. The Church collected so much “tithe tax” (peasants often had to pay in produce, since they had little cash), that some of the massive barns they built to store it can still be seen today.

Some of the most unfortunate souls in past times were forced to stay up all night and beat the lily pads outside the castles of royalty, to drown out the croaking frogs that might otherwise keep those kings, queens, princes and princesses awake. The poor in Elizabethan England didn’t share in even a Reagan-style trickling down of the wealth from such legendary figures as Queen Elizabeth I, Henry VIII, Sir Francis Drake or Sir Walter Raleigh. Before the Reformation, the extensive monastery system in England would assist the poor, but this was not available in the later part of Tudor England.

Charles Dickens and other reformers attempted to illuminate the awful conditions of the poor in Victorian England. The East End of London was more abysmal and dangerous than any modern American ghetto. A large percentage of females of all ages were forced to resort to the world’s oldest occupation in order to eke out what passed for an existence. Homelessness was so rampant that doss houses- pathetic group dwellings which sold a filthy cot or even a spot on the floor for the night, littered the East End’s landscape.

In nineteenth century America, as in much of Europe, there was at least a partial sense of responsibility for the poor, that was reflected in state poor laws, which mandated that towns take care of their own poorest residents. By the 1870s, the term “tramp” had become familiar to all; describing poor, rootless men who traveled by foot or illegally rode the railroads in an effort to find work. Some families were so strapped for food they sent their children out to scavenge through garbage, in a precursor to today’s dumpster divers.

Outright slavery, indentured servitude, sharecropping, squatting, unpaid interns, illegal immigrants- the desire on the part of those with money has always been to get the cheapest labor possible. I sincerely believe that the One Percent personally wants to bring back slavery. Illegal immigrant labor is about as close as they can come at this point. Around the world today, there are actually still some 30 million slaves. 10 million are in India alone, which provides so many of those H1-b visa workers, who are bringing down wages in IT in the same manner illegals helped to bring down the wages of those on the bottom rung of the employment ladder.

The longest war in human history is still being waged. The rich have always waged war upon the rest of us, especially the poor. Class warfare isn’t something that will suddenly happen if the wealthy actually have to share in all that “sacrifice” they keep demanding of everyone else. It’s been happening forever, and it’s really happening now.

When a minimum wage worker ends up paying more taxes than a billionaire (which has happened far too many times), that’s warfare. When a wealthy driver with a bad record pays less for insurance than a poor driver with a good record (which is common), that’s warfare. When a poor person who can’t keep up payments on a loan has their interest rate raised, making it even harder to pay, that’s warfare. When a poor person is caught with crack and gets a much harsher sentence than a wealthy person caught with powdered cocaine, that’s warfare.

When the CEO making $40 million in compensation cuts the remaining perks and benefits of his non-management workforce, that’s warfare. When a student who rolled up a huge loan debt that can only be repaid with a high-paying job, is offered only low-paying positions that never even used to require a degree, that’s warfare. When politicians demand that recipients of truly minimal government aid be required to work or volunteer, thereby cutting into any time they might have to actually look for a paid job, that’s warfare.

When companies hire interns and don’t pay them, often for extended periods of time, that’s warfare. When business owners lie about not being able to find workers when all statistics show there are far more job seekers than jobs, that’s warfare. When politicians look to slash bottom-tier social programs that grant modest benefits to very poor people, while supporting the building of stadiums for billionaire sports team owners at taxpayer expense, that’s warfare.

When anyone loses a job or a home because of the costs of a catastrophic illness, that’s warfare. When a homeless person is forced to “move along,” even though he has nowhere else to be, that’s warfare. When the price of a small apartment is beyond the means of the average worker, that’s warfare. When the cost of living continues to skyrocket in all areas, while companies increasingly refuse to give any pay raises to non-management personnel, that’s warfare.

When pensions are being eliminated, and aren’t even a possibility to average workers under the age of forty, that’s warfare. When debtors prisons are making a comeback, as they are, that’s warfare. When layoffs and outsourcing go hand in hand with incomprehensibly lavish executive pay, that’s warfare. When the minimum wage isn’t raised for years, and an increasing number of politicians actually want to abolish it, that’s warfare.

This subject is foremost in my mind now, with the upcoming July publication of my second nonfiction book, Survival of the Richest. I am about as anti-war as a person can be, but I’m going to the front lines on this one. We need more people to fight back, against the relentless onslaught of the One Percent, as it continues to do what it has always done.

Abraham Lincoln said, “The Lord must have loved the common people. He made so many of them.” This kind of aw shucks, disingenuous “pro” poor rhetoric, which seeks to persuade the poor that their awful financial circumstances is actually some kind of blessing, has always been popular with politicians. Religious types love to quote the Bible and remind us, “The poor you will always have among you.” This little gem is supposed to assuage our concern for the poor, just like the “you will hear of wars and rumors of war” quote is supposed to make us resigned to perpetual war.

There is nothing sacred, or spiritual, about being poor. With all the wealth at our disposal, it’s criminal that poverty still exists. I truly hope that my new book will be an effective weapon for our side in this eternal class warfare.

About donaldjeffries

Author of the critically acclaimed best sellers "Hidden History: An Expose of Modern Crimes, Conspiracies, and Cover Ups in American Politics,""Survival of the Richest: How the Corruption of the Marketplace and the Disparity of Wealth Created the Greatest Conspiracy of All," and the newly released "Crimes and Cover Ups in American Politics: 1776-1963." Author of the 2007 sci-fi/fantasy novel "The Unreals," which has been described as a cross between The Wizard of Oz and The Twilight Zone, and compared to A Confederacy of Dunces and classic Russian literature. A second edition of "The Unreals" was published in February 2015 by Pocol Press. Long time JFK assassination researcher. Seeker of truth, proponent of justice and fairness. Enemy of corruption. Sender of as many "tiny ripples of hope" as possible.

Posted on March 30, 2017, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. What! You are against the rights of property being supreme? I have sarcastically said many times that the 1% simply wants a return to the good ol days of Ante Bellum property.

    Now with technology ramping up with self contained artificially intelligent robots obviously the great problem facing the 1% is just too many surplus people about, people who will cost too much to maintain.

    Oh what are they to do? Oh the horrors of the choices they shall have to make in order to secure their place in the world. Will their decisions turn them genetically psychopathic? Well, so much speculation, too bad most of us will not be around to know the results of their philosophical determinations. It is a hard choice and they will have to make it.

    What? You do not expect us 99% to prevail do you? Pshaw…

  2. What is the solution? The dictatorship of the proletariat does not really work. Any centrally controlled economy will, sooner or later, start working for the benefit of the central controllers. Socialism does not reduce poverty for the same reason: redistribution eventually leads to systemic corruption in that those with always find ways to avoid having to share with those without. Free markets, or what we call free-markets, of course, are eventually the worst. For a trade to be free, either party should be able to walk away from a transaction. A trade with one party under the gun is certainly not free, and neither is one where a party cannot walk away because its survival is threatened in some other way. Theory conveniently assumes that “manna falls from heaven” so that everyone’s survival needs are met regardless of the happenings in the markets; or everyone has an initial income; or everyone can borrow unlimited amounts of money. In that la la land no one is forced to accept any available employment simply to survive, and everyone has enough time and resources to consider “investment options” and “invest” in appropriate opportunities to maximize their wealth. No amount of sophisticated modelling on top of wrong assumptions is going to help. In spite of all attempts at high versus low rates, strong versus weak currencies, free-trade versus protectionism, high social spending versus austerity, financial innovations versus restricting short-selling, centralized versus decentralized economies, disparity has only been worsening. Technological development can as easily make things worse. If everyone were to get a Ph.D. in a technical field such as Engineering or Finance, not the useless fields that are increasingly derided, it would only lead to more unemployed Ph.D.’s with greater debt than had they not undertaken any education. Discussions on these topics have been going on for hundreds of years with no resolution in sight. Basically both sides have some aspects of the truth which is why neither side can convincingly disprove the other.

    For us to get out of this rut, we need to revise our assumptions in line with reality: (1) We cannot change human nature, there will always be those who are altruistic and those who would not mind stealing from others and any system has to take that into account (2) Everyone wanting more money means everything else being the same, people would want more money than less (in other words no one will want to work an extra eight hours just to earn ten dollars more, even though they will have more money then). (3) Other than ensuring survival, different people want different things and there is no “rational” behaviour that people must follow. What is called “rational” is basically a simplification those modelling financial systems use, and no one is bound to obey the needs of their convenience (4) free markets apply to trading surplus goods versus surplus wealth and are not meant for survival essentials, because people would be willing to go to any length for that up to and including class wars. So yes, if people can only earn 40 dollars working eight hours but need 50 to survive, they may work 8 more hours to gain the extra 10 dollars but that is not “free” trade of labor for wages. If you make people work 20 hours just to survive, expect your system to break down (6) time is a uniformly limited resource and if someone needs to work more than 24 hours a day to get their daily requirements, given their current skills and available resources, you cannot expect them to work harder (7) in our systems the concept of personal responsibility has to be applied with care because results for individuals often depend on actions taken by others, beyond their control (8) when people agree to be part of a system, they agree to abide by many restrictions, such as for instance property rights. For a system to be stable, for people to willingly accept being a part of it, at least their survival should not be at risk within it. Ideally a system would simply provide everyone with enough essentials for their survival, leaving them 24 hours a day to do whatever else they wished.

    So is it possible to create a system that ensures everyone gets their survival needs without the need to impose any restrictions on economic activity? That is the problem we have to solve. There would appear to be a way to do it: the trick is to make it in the self-interest of producers to provide essentials to the group to ensure everyone has enough to survive. We can do that by re-defining money more rationally and in a way that it is always inherently more profitable for producers to do so. We have been working on a simple model for this that is about to be published as a book, but the main point is to emphasize that we have to look for solutions taking the nature of humans as given and money as something we define. Current systems operate the other way because they either assume everyone should be in it for themselves and make more money (where the definition of money is simply glossed over), or everyone must help each other and work for the common good. Neither really works.

  3. the poor generally have a very high birthrate….the dynamics of hyper-growth, which is exponential, mathematically indicates the emergency. “the bigger it gets, the faster it grows” .this in essence is a detonation function.

    • That is a factor, but then was there less poverty when the population was smaller? Around 1900 I think India had a 100 million people, which would be similar to the population density of US today with about 300 million. There was lots of poverty still.

  4. Trump has definitely put us in warfare! Health insurance is a necessity not a luxury! Social security is paid for out of wages, this is earned not a hand out! Etc. #RESISTANDPERSIST!

  5. Long on listing the problems, short of listing the solutions. Mike.

  6. Revolt and overthrow is indicated.

  7. Great writing, great post, great blog — great interview on the Sunday Coast to Coast Am show. Very well done, and much thanks for it!

    Of course, since THEIR infrastructure consists of THEIR non-media, so-called think tanks – – where they interview the same people on CNN, Fox, NPR, PBS (PBS, and most of the NPR shows, financed by the Koch brothers, of course), etc. and the various foundations, and other organizations they own, which the public is bombarded with as “news” (Fake News, the one of two things I agree with the Trumpster on – – the other being stopping that TPP, etc.) it is difficult for many to understand how they are propagandized 24 hours a day!

  8. You can have that phony degree you paid thousands for but the market they call the labor pool doesn’t mean you get just rewards. That degree means nothing if your not one of the chosen. Who chooses the chosen, not anyone from this realm for sure.

    Ever notice incompetent people climb the ladder to higher rewards while good workers stay at the bottom. Turds float in all situations. The world works in a much different way than you are made to believe. Believe a belief. Did you ever take notice there’s a lie hidden in there. Let me show you, be – lie – ve a be – lie – f, See it now. That’s how your reality is pulled over your eyes.


    I heard Mr Jefferies on CTC AM last nite, at last the truth for a change, instead of the
    rantings of conservatives and Republican hacks. I don’t know what good it will do
    but its nice to keep it coming.

  10. Its about time there is someone who can write for the masses to comprehend. I often refrain from introduceing people to Noam Chomsky because it tends to confuse and frustrate them saying its hard to fallow. Just because people have a limited vocabulary dose not mean thay are a simple minded idiot. Comprehension is the first step towards knowledge and that equals power.

  11. The issue with H-1B’s and other high end guest worker programs is a little more insidious than it seems. People talk about immigrant labor depressing wage, but the actuality it, these program make it impossible for native born tech workers to work whatsoever. Being willing to work for the “immigrant” wage or salary does not solve the problem. In fact, employers have already decided who they are going to hire and how they are going hire them before the interviewee even walks through the door. If there even are interviews in the first place.

    If employers intend to hire American workers at an American wage or salary they do so. If they want to hire foreign workers at the lower foreign worker salary, an American worker who is willing to work for that rate is regarded as a figure of suspicion and will not be hired even if there is some way for that person to get a foot in the door. And there probably won’t be.

    For another thing, foreign workers have means of being hired and trained which are not available to American workers. In some case, although I am not absolutely certain how prevalent this is, workers are hired as members of work group only some of whose members are fully trained. Others are partially trained or are the product of what are called programming “boot camps”. The trained workers are then expected to train those who are untrained, and sometimes do their work for them. In some cases, members of these work groups are relatives.

    This is a time-honored way of training workers, actually. Maybe it is an effective way of doing things even though it goes against our tradition of extreme individual and social atomization. But point is, even if it is an effective way of producing a skilled workforce, this mean of entering the workforce is not available to native born Americans. Furthermore, for a company to hire native born Americans in this way probably would be illegal under the terms of civil right laws and precedents.

    This not a theoretical to me, necessarily. I have a background in liberal arts for the most part, but I have more science and mathematics than most liberal arts majors. In the 1980’s I took two community college programming courses and did pretty well in them. Wouldn’t it have been nice if I could gave gotten hired as part of a work which contained my brother the senior programmer and got to learn on the job while getting paid $6K a month? Many Americans would call this practice corrupt and say that it should not be allowed. But that misses the point. Foreign guest workers already are being hired and trained by this means. The alternative for me if I wanted to pursue this career would have been to get years of training at the expense of my own cash and at the possible expense of my health as I tried to to work full time and take demanding university courses. Then at the end of this process, the employment system would tell me whether or not they wanted my services. As someone who is a poverty survivor who lacks the niceties of the middle class applicants including the nicety of that meaningless credential, the high school diploma, I might have a hard time getting a job. And I would still be competing against foreign workers who did not have to do what I had to do in order to be considered qualified for the first level. Maybe competing is the wrong term. I wouldn’t be competing. The employers would have decided already who they were going to hire, and it wouldn’t be me. Or even that more typical American applicant who did grow up in a middle income setting and went straight on to four year college in a tech subject.

    I always warn people. When you are unemployed, be careful about attending interviews which involve any travel expenses. In many cases, the employers have already decided who they want to hire, and it is not you. All you are are doing is helping them be able to show that they have interviewed some spectrum of applicants just in case they are even involved in legal proceedings, and they are doing it at your expense. Maybe they are doing just so that they can feel but you are still the paying the expenses, not them. Remember, they already know who they want to hire, and all they are doing is waiting for that person to walk through the door.

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