In 1979 an actor turned president coined the phrase “Welfare Queen” in an attempt to promote tax reform. Ronald Regan’s ploy worked. Welfare reform began and was continued by successive administrations. Unfortunately the tax cuts went to the top, benefiting the upper class at the expense of the middle class. Never mind that the welfare queen never actually existed.
Reagan had created a composite, a mythical woman who registered for welfare under multiple identities and was earning $150,000 a year. The public was outraged. Welfare benefits were cut, keeping our tax dollars safe for the people who earned them honestly. Or so we thought.
What most Americans weren’t paying attention to is how the largest employers were benefiting from our welfare programs. Walmart, McDonalds et al were paying many of their employees less than a living wage, forcing them to seek compensation from food stamps and medicaid. Not to mention the military.
But most of us didn’t see what was happening. We were too busy trying to make ends meet and too busy labeling the poor are as lazy moochers to realize that the super corporations were taking advantage of hidden subsidies. Aid for the poor was and still is stigmatized whereas aid for the rich is seen as an entitlement.
Pundits began pointing out that the real Welfare Queens were super corporations who underpaid their staff. As noted in last week’s blog, General Motors was paying their employees the equivalent of $37 an hour in 1955 compared to an average pay rate of $8.80 for Walmart employees today. People poured out into the streets as part of the occupy movement.
Fortunately, inequality and how it has come to be is becoming more and more visible due to the efforts of protesters, nonprofits, educators, columnists, writers and some of our lawmakers. Americans are beginning to see how unfairly the deck is stacked. What I see ahead is a revolution, hopefully not as bloody as the recent happenings in the Ukraine, and the redistribution of power. We need to bring back the middle class!