In January in Portland, Ore., Karen Batts, 52, froze to death in a parking garage. She had been evicted from a downtown Portland apartment building in October for being overdue on paying $338 in monthly rent.
Also in January, another Portland woman, who was both homeless and mentally ill, gave birth to a baby boy in the street in freezing temperatures and the baby died. A man found her wandering the street, barefoot and only partly clothed, with the baby under her coat.
These horror stories are just two among millions that could be told across the country. They’re an indictment of a dying system. They’re also testimony that the safety net of public aid programs that might have helped those who are suffering has been getting shredded for 40 years.
On the other side of America in January, we saw the hideous spectacle of Trump’s $200 million inauguration as the gold-plated billionaire took office. And Trump is bringing into the government people who have promised to further destroy the social safety net. This process didn’t start with Trump. Big business merged with government years ago, and it structures government to serve its needs.
The public welfare programs in the US, such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and food assistance, have their roots in the industrial era. Under the old industrial economy, which existed up to about the early 1970s, the billionaires and their corporations needed tens of millions of workers to carry on production. The welfare state was created to keep workers healthy during economic downturns, so they would be available for work later.
Today, technology is eliminating the jobs. Fewer and fewer workers are needed, and the corporations won’t have the government spend money maintaining workers they don’t need. What’s more, the greater efficiency of robotized production means the billionaires have a shrinking number of places to invest to turn a profit. This is another reason why the wealthy want to divert government spending into their pockets through tax breaks and privatizing public services.
You can bet they are not going to cut the $1 trillion a year that goes to the profitable military-industrial complex. Instead they will take food out of the mouths of our children, condemn old people to live in poverty, and leave the unemployed, the homeless, and those without health care to fend for themselves. This has been policy for both the Democrats and Republicans for years.
Though Trump pledged during his campaign to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, his cabinet appointees and prominent Republicans in Congress have said they want to privatize or otherwise cut these programs. They’ve already started revamping the Affordable Care Act, and there is little doubt that the ultimate result will be more people without coverage, higher prices and less care for those who are covered, and higher profits for the health care industry.
While the homeless die in the streets, the billionaires use the government as their private piggybank. Who will the government serve—billionaires like Trump, or we the people? People are demanding that the government serve the people’s needs. If the corporations cannot provide us with food, water, housing, health care and all the other necessities, then the government must.