Politics Magazine

Success of 50 Years Of Fighting to End Poverty Minimized by 30 Years of Neoliberal Economics, But …

Posted on the 12 January 2014 by Andy96

… social change is happening and growing inequality is the great enabler.

Relative to Bill Moyer’s 8 stages of successful social change and postings in Popular Resistance, we are in Stage 6, “Majority Public Support.”

8 Stages of Successful Social Change

According to the review of this framework in Popular Resistance, “During the current phase, the movement seeks to create broad and deep consensus over the issues that have been raised in the ‘Take-Off[ Occupy Wall Street].’ Our job is to win over the hearts and minds of the American people.”

As Bill Moyer puts it, “The movement must consciously undergo a transformation from spontaneous protest, operating in a short-term crisis, to a long-term popular struggle to achieve positive social change. It needs to win over … an increasingly larger majority of the populace and involve many of them in the process of opposition and change … The majority stage is a long process of eroding the social, political, and economic supports that enable the powerholders to continue their policies. It is a slow process of social transformation that creates a new social and political consensus, reversing those of normal times.”

In a follow-on Popular Resistance article, the authors expanded on the majority stage:

Our goal is to build a mass movement, which has the support of super-majorities of Americans and has mobilized up to 3.5% of the population. Therefore, the target of our protests is not the government or a corporation, the target is the people, to educate and mobilize them. … The foundation of the current phase is massive public education and building support in all segments of the population for the values of the movement. This is done through grassroots organizing in the local community. People will gain a greater understanding of how the problems of the present system affects them; how the present system violates their values and principles; and how it is in their own self-interest to do something about it.

The PR article continues on with examples of how this mass mobilization has recently manifested by citizen action.

Another manifestation of stage 6, or Majority Public Support, comes from a recent article by Paul Krugman, The War Over Poverty. In his article, Krugman points out the fear on the right and the new found courage on the left, “Fifty years have passed since Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty. And a funny thing happened on the way to this anniversary. Suddenly, or so it seems, progressives have stopped apologizing for their efforts on behalf of the poor, and have started trumpeting them instead. And conservatives find themselves on the defensive.”

Krugman goes on to review the old right-wing neoliberal lies for why the war on poverty has failed and then points out that right-wing authoritarian lies are changing, changing because fewer of the 99% believe the old lies as they fall closer to, or into, poverty. Krugman explains this countervailing force of increasing inequality on the success of the War on poverty this way:

… if progress against poverty has nonetheless been disappointingly slow — which it has — blame rests not with the poor but with a changing labor market, one that no longer offers good wages to ordinary workers. Wages used to rise along with worker productivity, but that linkage ended around 1980. The bottom third of the American work force has seen little or no rise in inflation-adjusted wages since the early 1970s; the bottom third of male workers has experienced a sharp wage decline. This wage stagnation, not social decay, is the reason poverty has proved so hard to eradicate.

Or to put it a different way, the problem of poverty has become part of the broader problem of rising income inequality, of an economy in which all the fruits of growth seem to go to a small elite[The ONE%], leaving everyone else [The 99%] behind.

Krugman concludes with:

You can see the new political dynamics at work in the fight over aid to the unemployed. Republicans are still opposed to extended benefits, despite high long-term unemployment. But they have, revealingly, changed their arguments. Suddenly, it’s not about forcing those lazy bums to find jobs; it’s about fiscal responsibility. And nobody believes a word of it.

Meanwhile, progressives are on offense. They have decided that inequality is a winning political issue. They see war-on-poverty programs like food stamps, Medicaid, and the earned-income tax credit as success stories, initiatives that have helped Americans in need — especially during the slump since 2007 — and should be expanded. And if these programs enroll a growing number of Americans, rather than being narrowly targeted on the poor, so what?

So guess what: On its 50th birthday, the war on poverty no longer looks like a failure. It looks, instead, like a template for a rising, increasingly confident progressive movement.

Broad and deep consensus over the issues” enables social change. This consensus is growing as inequality/poverty expands in both impact and realization. The right-wing authoritarians realize the recognition of inequality is spreading and they have resorted to a new set of lies to try to maintain inequality while the left has started pushing for improvements in the tools for fighting inequality and reducing poverty.

As inequality grows, social change is inevitable.


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