Dealing with Poverty while being a Michigander

As most of you probably know, with the election of Rick Snyder in Michigan came the new Emergency Financial Manager laws. What those laws have entailed has been well documented by Rachel Maddow, among others. What’s been less covered is the fact that it was recently quietly signed into law that welfare recipients in Michigan can only receive 48 months of benefits for an entire lifetime.

As organizers note, this is going to have devastating consequences for Michiganders.

From Michigan Welfare Rights Blog:

  1. As of October 1, 2011: 11,000 people will be cut off from welfare benefits, and that will continue through until 40,000 people are eliminated from the system. 75% THOSE PEOPLE WILL BE CHILDREN WITH THE AVERAGE AGE OF 7 YEARS OLD.
  2. Unemployment insurance was cut from a 24 weeks to 20 by the state.
  3. The Low Income Energy Efficiency Fund which gave DHS, THAW and Salvation Army energy assistance funding every year — adding to $575million in help for the poor since 2002 — has been completely eliminated by ABATE and the Attorney General and the Michigan Court of Appeals; although federal money is still available, it is not enough to cover the gap.
  4. College students are no longer eligible for food aid, a much needed subsidy.
  5. There is now a lifelong cap of 48 months for those who receive assistance.
  6. Most of the assistance cuts will be to renters, disproportionately effecting women.
  7. These cuts have a secondary effect of increasing domestic violence.
  8. If utility service is cut from the home, children must be removed by law from the family and home. And, yes, the foster care system is hiring.
  9. NO ONE IS EXEMPT: Persons with mental disabilities are not exempt from the cuts, recent mothers are exempt for only 2 months after birth, victims of domestic violence exempt for 3 months and caretakers of persons with disabilities for 12 months.

MEANWHILE, corporations will receive $1.8 billion in tax breaks to ensure major profits keep flowing in — while putting an end to Michigan’s practice of not taxing retirement income and seeking to increase taxes on Michigan’s working poor! (download pdf)

Yes, that’s right. To pay for corporate tax breaks, children, disabled people, and women will be forced to give up a lifeline that for many, is all they have. And those who *do* have at least a little money coming in through pensions, will have a little less of that money as well. All to pay for corporate tax breaks.

Times have been tough in Michigan for a long time. But since Snyder got elected, things have gotten terrifying. Honestly, I could even deal with the far right ideological agenda that Snyder and the Republican Congress have brought with them–if they were sure to bring jobs with that ideological agenda. It’s always easier to fight anti-choice extremism, for example, when you know your family is not going hungry.

But the fact is, Snyder and the Republican Congress are NOT bringing jobs. They aren’t even pretending to look for them. Under the guise of “balancing the budget,” they are building wealth on the bodies of poor people.

Let them eat babies, I guess.

19 comments for “Dealing with Poverty while being a Michigander

  1. Not Sure
    September 22, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    I’m not sure that “not giving poor people the same benefits they got before” is equivalent to exploiting poor laborers to create wealth for capitalists. Just sayin’.

    • bfp
      September 22, 2011 at 2:38 pm

      In michigan the poor ARE poor laborers. there are only a very few cases where you are “allowed” to be getting benefits while not working.
      just sayin’.

  2. Sheelzebub
    September 22, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    Not sure, when you’re taking away the help that poor people need to survive in order to make tax breaks for corporations feasible, I’d say they are exploiting poor laborers to create wealth for capitalists.

    BFP, I continue to be disgusted (but not surprised) at the level of callousness and hatred that people show towards others. And yet, when proponents of measures like this find themselves at the receiving end of aid, it’s somehow different.

    And it’s not as if jobs are exactly dropping from the sky, these days. Not to mention the fact that companies aren’t paying living wages, so people aren’t able to get by.

    The latest thing is for these conservatives to bleat about how everyone has to pay their share–but they aspirate on their own spittle when you have the gall to include the wealthy and the ultra-wealthy in this. By “everyone,” they mean poor people. Because poor people have such an easy time of it! It’s a veritable gravy train. /sarcasm

  3. llama
    September 22, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    Having grown up in the UK welfare state (and moving to Australia before Thatcher started to dismantled it) I really find all of this very alien and scary.

    I don’t understand how a culture that looks so similar can be so fundamentally different.

  4. Kristen J.
    September 22, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    I feel sick and angry everytime I think about this. It doesn’t make sense to me anymore. I feel like we need a social, populist movement to stand up. But to me it feels that too many people have bought this myth about wealth creation and the concurrent moral justification. And it doesn’t matter how many times or how many ways we prove that supply side economics is *does not work*. We still elect the pushers of this false hope.

  5. September 22, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    I am just wondering how much longer the poor will let this happen before we all get together and put an end to patriarchal capitalist social relations once and for all. I know that the ideology/discourse surrounding the poor makes this difficult, as there is a lot of individual blame, but with laws like these passing, it seems to me that it is only a matter of time before Karl Marx is proven right (or maybe it is just wishful thinking on my part….)

  6. karak
    September 22, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    How then, exactly, are adults with mental disabilities supposed to live? I have worked–and probably will again work–with adults with developmental disabilities, anything from mild to profound disabilities. They can’t work at traditional jobs, and so they should… starve? For the crime of being born different?

    Whenever I read about something like this, a little part of me is honestly waiting for Sarah Palin to speak up, and I’m always surprised when she doesn’t. Sarah, Sarah, are you *ever* going to advocate for Trig? Because he’s going to need a lot of help from the social system as he ages (and especially as you do).

  7. September 22, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    8.If utility service is cut from the home, children must be removed by law from the family and home. And, yes, the foster care system is hiring.

    This makes me sick. Funny how there is always money to remove children from their home, but not to give a family support so they can keep their utilities on.

  8. September 22, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    La Lubu:
    8.If utility service is cut from the home, children must be removed by law from the family and home. And, yes, the foster care system is hiring.

    This makes me sick. Funny how there is always money to remove children from their home, but not to give a family support so they can keep their utilities on.

    Well sure! Heaven forbid we help the poor when we can tear apart their families.

    Seriously, how is that even an option?

  9. September 22, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    This makes me throw up. And I’m not even an American. I feel so bad for the victims of this policy change, I wish there could be an airlift to get them out of the state so they can go live somewhere better.

  10. amy
    September 22, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    #8 If utility service is cut from the home, children must be removed by law from the family and home. And, yes, the foster care system is hiring.

    Wow, I’d never heard of something like that. (The ignorance of privilege, I guess.) That’s just awful.

    Is there a charity that works in Michigan specifically to provide utility support to help keep families together? (Obviously it would be better to reform this law, but… political reform feels so hopeless, at least charity is something people can actually do.)

  11. Chuckie K
    September 22, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    Not Sure:
    I’m not sure that “not giving poor people the same benefits they got before” is equivalent to exploiting poor laborers to create wealth for capitalists.Just sayin’.

    In a comment earlier, I sketched the Marxist definition of exploitation. That definition is directly relevant to this question. But I’ll need to elaborate a little. Exploitation means that some people do the work and produce the goods we need to live. they get paid for their ability to work. But the people who own the places where they work and the tools they use keep the goods and sell them. Because the ultimate goal is to produce money and not useful things, we have to think about the products of their work abstractly, as “value.” When things are going good for capitalists, workers produce more value than they are paid. The capitalists pocket the difference, and that extra value that didn’t get used to pay wages is profit.
    To get why cutting social benefits is the *equivalent* (not *is*) exploitation we need to think about all that extra value on the level of society as a whole, that is in terms of classes, the working class and the capitalist class, not just in terms of individual workers and employers. Benefits provide for people who can’t work and who can’t earn enough to get by. In capitalism, they need money. Who has that much money? The capitalists as a group. It’s their profits. How do we get it to provide benefits? Tax them! What happens to their profits? They fall. Just like their profits fall when, all other things being equal, wages go up. So making the capitalists pay the lion’s share of social benefits cuts their profits. Denying benefits raises their profits.
    And that’s why cutting benefits is equivalent to exploitation.

  12. amy
    September 22, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    Ok, I can do research. The Heat and Warmth Fund does this (Charity Navigator page here) and seems to be Michigan-specific – aha, which is THAW in your #3 above, right, sorry.

  13. September 23, 2011 at 11:48 am

    For anyone in Michigan who is still looking for a signing site, please visit or the FB page Recall Governor Rick Snyder…on the FB can go to “discussions” on the left hand side to find your county and their events..Thank you.

  14. Kirsten
    September 24, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    You all realize that the people of Michigan voted in these people right? It is unfortunate, but nobody should be shocked by the policies that are being put in place. Why people vote against their self interest is crazy to me, but they do, continuously. While I feel very sorry for the children, it is difficult to empathize with those who voted for these fools, or witht he democrats that sat out the last election to teach the democrats a lesson.

    • bfp
      September 25, 2011 at 8:08 am

      @kristen–I didn’t vote these people in. neither did the vast majority of the people I know. Michigan is a swing state, where almost no election across the board is easily won one way or the other–Snyder did win easily this time because he made himself out to be a “nerd” who was more interested in business than ideological view points–there are huge recall efforts on him right now, should we feel sorry for the people who are trying to recall him?

      I mean, I just don’t understand your point. Especially given that so many people of color and poor people and students in michigan are disenfranchised purposefully so. just let them rot, I guess?

  15. Melissa
    September 25, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    I also did not vote these people in, and as a union member and a student I’m one of many people I know getting screwed by their policies.

    But at least I have a steady source of income, live in a pretty well-off area, and have access to all the services I need. At least this isn’t affecting my day to day other than pissing me off at this point, and increasing the possibility that I might have to go on strike to preserve my benefits.

    What really upsets me about your comment is what you’re implying about all the people I know who’s day to day has been or will be negatively affected by these changes, people who, like BFP said, absolutely did not vote this guy in and may well have been disenfranchised one way or another (but that’s a whole ‘nother post).

    This is not a “this is what happens larry” situation. These policies will starve and freeze people with the upcoming winter. People in mine and BFP’s respective neighborhoods. Your difficulty empathizing with them is appalling.

  16. Natalie
    October 2, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read. Seriously 4 years of assistance and the government is killing kids. The whole country is suffering why don’t the people who r getting a free lifetime ride have to have some cuts too. I should have to pay for them to keep having kids they can’t afford? Sure, blame the people who are trying to save us all. I’m embarrassed we share the same citizenship.

  17. October 2, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    I keep coming back to this post BFP! Thank you so much for making the point of saying that the poor are the laborers. We are! I wanted to share this video of Michigan Welfare Rights Organization protesting TANF cuts…

    @ Kirsten – I did not vote our piece of shit governor into office. Don’t point fingers at the people of Michigan who are treated like shit in the first place. We are a blue collar state, working class people, salt of the Earth people. Michiganders feel burdened by no jobs, no food, no safe neighborhoods, bad schools, no way of climbing up and out of poverty, ect! I love Michigan so I am defending the people and my state. Also have you heard of fraudulent and/or stolen elections? This could of taken place in Michigan as the government is corrupt after all.

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