Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Gov. & FL Republicans: Winning "War on the Poor"

President Lyndon Johnson publicly declared “War On Poverty” in 1964. In 2011, Rick Scott took office as Florida governor and began waging secretive, undeclared war on Florida’s poor.

Haunted by his own underprivileged upbringing and defined by the drive to overcome it and get rich at any cost, Scott swooped into office in January 2011 with what seemed an ax to grind against people unable to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and make it big like he did.

That ax has been chopping away ever since. It’s the same ax that ambitious arch-conservatives all across the country have been wielding for years. With economic policies in Florida and nationwide steadily stalling more and more of our middle-class American dreams, right wing power-seekers such as Scott have worked hard to insulate corporate titans and the super-rich from PR fallout and populist backlash. They’ve done it by first demonizing and then scapegoating the poor in the minds of millions of middle-class folks.

Ceaseless, focus group-tested propaganda blames middle-class stagnation on “big government spending” on “entitlements” and poor people’s lack of “personal responsibility.” Then comes the battle cry, It’s your money! And then, the promise to: put your money back in your pocket. Next thing you know, marginally middle-class and paycheck-to-paycheck working folks have unknowingly enlisted in the war on the poor – by permitting it.

First, Gov. Scott and Republican legislators turned Florida’s unemployment assistance program into just about the coldest-hearted in the country, and then some. Thanks to their 2011 legislation, only 17 percent of jobless applicants even qualify for benefits. That ranks us in last place, behind 49 other states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The average total weekly benefit last year was $221.51. That also ranks us dead last. And the maximum number of weeks you can receive benefits is 16. That ranks us 50th. A rank set of rankings, indeed.

Meanwhile, Scott & Co. generously continued to green light more than $3 billion in corporate welfare and tax evasion, annually. But because they sell that to the middle class as necessary, business-friendly “incentives” for “job creators”… the focus for cost-cutting remains on the poor.

Once jobless Floridians were squeezed to the limits of human decency, attention turned elsewhere. With healthcare costs a huge part of the state budget, the governor and allies set about making the federal-state health insurance program for the poor, Medicaid, their next target. Now Florida’s near the bottom when it comes to poor people qualifying for Medicaid.

As we go through this “spring of our discontent” with a broken healthcare system and a government fractured by seemingly irreconcilable differences of opinion over how to best fix it, middle-class Floridians still sitting on the sidelines of the fight rather than taking sides ought to give this war on the poor some fresh thought.

Consider what happens next, after the poor have been fully wrung and left out to dry, die, whatever they choose to do with all their new personal responsibility. Who do you think elected officials serving at the behest of wealthy individuals and corporations will turn to then, to maintain the sweet status quo for their patrons and benefactors?

What the hell…you can always move back to New York, right?

Daniel Tilson has a Boca Raton-based communications firm called Full Cup Media, specializing in online video and written content for non-profits, political candidates and organizations, and small businesses. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

This piece was reprinted by the Columbia County Observer with permission or license.

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