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Why Poor Whites Chant Trump, Trump, Trump

"Instead of wondering which billionaire will finally reach out a hand
to raise us up, we should stop waiting and start acting."

Chart attached, and youtube video (see below) might be worth watching:


I Know Why Poor Whites Chant Trump, Trump, Trump
Apr 1, 2016By Jonna Ivin
>From the era of slavery to the rise of Donald Trump, wealthy elites
have relied on the loyalty of poor whites. All Americans deserve

  Iâ??m just a poor white trash motherfucker. No one cares about me.

I met the man who said those words while working as a bartender in the
Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas. It was a one-street town in
Benton County. It had a beauty parlor, a gas station, and a bar where
locals came on Friday nights to shoot the shit over cheap drinks and
country music. I arrived in Arkansas by way of another little town in
Louisiana, where all but a few local businesses had boarded up when
Walmart moved in. In Arkansas, I was struggling to survive. I served
drinks in the middle of the afternoon to people described as Americaâ??s
â??white underclass (
http://www.counterpunch.org/2009/07/17/america-s-white-underclass/ )â??
â??â??in other words, people just like me.

Across the highway from the bar was the trailer park where I lived. I
bought my trailer for $1000, and it looked just like you would imagine
a trailer that cost $1000 would look. There was a big hole in the
ceiling, and parts of the floor were starting to crumble under my
feet. It leaned to one side, and the faint odor of death hung around
the bathroom. No doubt a squirrel or a rat had died in the walls. I
told myself that once the flesh was gone, dissolved into the
nothingness, the smell would go away, but it never did. Maybe thatâ??s
what vermin ghosts smell like.

I loved that trailer. Sitting in a ratty brown La-Z-Boy, I would look
around my tin can and image all the ways I could paint the walls in
shades of possibility. I loved it for the simple reason that it was
the first and only home I have ever owned.

My trailer was parked in the middle of Walmart country, which is also
home to J.B. Hunt Transportation, Glad Manufacturing, and Tyson
Chicken. There is a whole lot of money in that pocket of Arkansas, but
the grand wealth casts an oppressive shadow over a region entrenched
in poverty. Executive mansions line the lakefronts and golf courses.
On the other side of Country Club Road, trailer parks are tucked back
in the woods. The haves and have-nots rarely share the same view, with
one exception: politics. Benton County has been among the most
historically conservative counties in Arkansas. The last Democratic
president Benton County voted for was Harry S. Truman, in 1948.

There is an unavoidable question about places like Benton County, a
question many liberals have tried to answer for years now: Why do poor
whites vote along the same party lines as their wealthy neighbors
across the road? Isnâ??t that against their best interests?

Ask a Republican, and theyâ??ll probably say conservatives are united by
shared positions on moral issues: family values, religious freedom,
the right to life, the sanctity of marriage, and, of course, guns.

Ask a Democrat the same question, and they might mention white
privilege, but theyâ??re more likely to describe conservatives as
racist, sexist, homophobic gun nuts who believe Christianity should be
the national religion.

But what if those easy answers are two sides of the same political
coin, a coin that keeps getting hurled back and forth between the two
parties without ever shedding light on the real, more complicated

  Iâ??m just a poor white trash motherfucker. No one
  cares about me.

What if heâ??s right?

â?¢ â?¢ â?¢

People want to be heard. They want to believe their voices matter. A
January 2016 survey by the Rand Corporation reported that Republican
primary voters are 86.5 percent more likely to favor Donald Trump if
they â??somewhat agreeâ?? or â??strongly agreeâ?? with the statement, â??People
like me donâ??t have any say about what the government does.â??

What is it about a flamboyant millionaire that appeals to poor white
conservatives? Why do they believe a Trump presidency would amplify
their voices? The answer may lie in Americaâ??s historical relationship
between the wealthiest class and the army of poor whites who have
loyally supported them.

>From the time of slavery (yes, slavery) to the rise of Donald Trump,
wealthy elites have relied on the allegiance of the white underclass
to retain their affluence and political power. To understand this
dynamic, to see through the eyes of poor and working class whites as
they chant, â??Trump, Trump, Trump,â?? letâ??s look back at a few unsavory
slices of Americaâ??s capitalist pie.

Until the first African slaves were brought to Jamestown, Virginia, in
1619, wealthy plantation owners relied on indentured servants for
cheap labor. These white servants were mostly poor Europeans who
traded their freedom for passage to the American colonies. They were
given room and board, and, after four to seven years of grueling
servitude, freedom.

About 40 percent lived long enough to see the end of their contract.
Colonial law provided â??freedom dues,â?? which usually included 100 acres
of land, a small sum of money, and a new suit of clothes. Yet some
freed servants didnâ??t know what was due them, and they were swindled
out of their land grants. With no resources and nowhere to go, many
walked to regions where land could still be homesteaded, and settled
in remote areas such as the Appalachian Mountains.

As the British labor market improved in the 1680s, the idea of
indentured servitude lost its appeal to many would-be immigrants.
Increasing demand for indentured servants, many of whom were skilled
laborers, soon bumped up against a dwindling supply, and the cost of
white indentured servants rose sharply. Plantation owners kept skilled
white servants, of course, often making them plantation managers and
supervisors of slaves. This introduced the first racial divide between
skilled and unskilled workers.

Still, African slaves were cheaper, and the supply was plentiful.
Seeing an opportunity to realize a higher return on investment, elite
colonial landowners began to favor African slaves over white
indentured servants, and shifted their business models accordingly.
They trained slaves to take over the skilled jobs of white servants.

An investment in African slaves also ensured a cost-effective,
long-term workforce. Female slaves were often raped by their white
owners or forced to breed with male slaves, and children born into
slavery remained slaves for life. In contrast, white female servants
who became pregnant were often punished with extended contracts,
because a pregnancy meant months of lost work time. From a business
perspective, a white baby was a liability, but African children were
permanent assets.

As the number of African slaves grew, landowners realized they had a
problem on their hands. Slave owners saw white servants living,
working, socializing, and even having babies with African slaves.
Sometimes they tried to escape together. Whatâ??s more, freed white
servants who received land as part of their freedom dues had begun to
complain about its poor quality. This created a potentially explosive
situation for landowners, as oppressed workers quickly outnumbered the
upper classes. What was to prevent freed whites, indentured servants,
and African slaves from joining forces against the tyranny of their

As Edmund S. Morgan says in his book American Slavery, American
Freedom, â??The answer to the problem, obvious if unspoken and only
gradually recognized, was racism, to separate dangerous free whites
from dangerous slave blacks by a screen of racial contempt.â??

Many slave owners in both the North and South were also political
leaders. Soon, they began to pass laws that stipulated different
treatment of white indentured servants, newly freed white men, and
African slaves. No white indentured servant could be beaten while
naked, but an African slave could. Any free white man could whip a
Black slave, and most important, poor whites could â??policeâ?? Black
slaves. These new laws gave poor whites another elevation in status
over their Black peers. It was a slow but effective process, and with
the passing of a few generations, any bond that indentured servants
shared with African slaves was permanently severed.

As slavery expanded in the South and indentured servitude declined,
the wealthy elite offered poor whites the earliest version of the
American Dream: if they worked hard enough, they could achieve
prosperity, success, and upward social mobilityâ??â??â??if not for
themselves, then perhaps for future generations.

But few realized that dream. In â??The Whiting of Euro-Americans: A
Divide and Conquer Strategy,â?? the Rev. Dr. Thandeka notes:

  "Not surprisingly, however, poor whites never became the economic
equals of the elite. Though both groupsâ?? economic status rose, the gap
between the wealthy and poor widened as a result of slave
productivity. Thus, poor whitesâ?? belief that they now shared status
and dignity with their social betters was largely illusory."

With whites and Blacks divided, the wealthy elite prospered enormously
for the next two hundred years while poor whites remained locked in
poverty. With the potential election of Abraham Lincoln, however, the
upper class began to worry they would lose their most valuable
commodity: slave labor. The numbers were not on their sideâ??â??â??not the
financial numbers, but the number of bodies it would take to wage war
should Lincoln try to abolish slavery. And it was white male bodies
they needed. (Poor women were of little value to the rich, since they
couldnâ??t vote or fight in a war.) So how did wealthy plantation owners
convince poor white males to fight for a â??peculiar institutionâ?? that
did not benefit them?

Religious and political leaders began using a combination of fear,
sex, and God to paint a chilling picture of freed angry Black men
ravaging the South. Rev. Richard Furman stated,

  "â?¦ every Negro in South Carolina and every other Southern state will
be his own master; nay, more than that, will be the equal of every one
of you. If you are tame enough to submit, abolition preachers will be
at hand to consummate the marriage of your daughters to black

Another warning from Georgia Commissioner Henry Benning to the
Virginia legislature predicted,

  "War will break out everywhere like hidden fire from the earth. We
will be overpowered and our men will be compelled to wander like
vagabonds all over the earth, and as for our women, the horrors of
their state we cannot contemplate in imagination. We will be
completely exterminated and the land will be left in the possession of
the blacks, and then it will go back to a wilderness and become
another Africa or Saint Domingo."

Wealthy plantation owners had succeeded in separating the two races,
and they now planted a fear of Blacks in the minds of poor and working
white men. Enslaved Blacks were an asset to the wealthy, but freed
Blacks were portrayed as a danger to all. By creating this common
enemy among rich and poor alike, the wealthy elite sent a clear
message: fight with us against abolitionists and you will remain safe.

It worked. Poor and working class whites signed up by the hundreds of
thousands to fight for what they believed was their way of life.
Meanwhile, many of the wealthy planters who benefitted economically
from slavery were granted exemptions from military service and avoided
the horrors of battle. On both sides of the Mason-Dixon line, wealthy
elites were allowed to pay other men to take their place on the bloody
battlefields. As the war lingered on, poor whites in the North and
South began to realize the rich had waged the war, but it was the poor
who were dying in it.

Iâ??m just a poor white trash motherfucker. No one cares about me.

With more than 650,000 deaths, the end of the Civil War eventually
brought freedom for African-Americans. But after the war, ex-slaves
were left to linger and die in a world created by those in the North
who no longer cared and those in the South who now resented their
existence. Poor whites didnâ??t fare much better. Without land,
property, or hope for economic gains, many freed Blacks and returning
white soldiers turned to sharecropping and found themselves once again
working side by side, dependent on wealthy landowners.

â?¢ â?¢ â?¢

During the Reconstruction Era, the press continued to spread â??black
men raping white womenâ?? propaganda. Again, this was intended to
prevent poor whites and poor Blacks from joining forces. As Ida B.
Wells wrote in her 1892 pamphlet, Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All
Its Phases:

  "The editorial in question was prompted by the many inhuman and
fiendish lynchings of Afro-Americans which have recently taken place
and was meant as a warning. Eight lynched in one week and five of them
charged with rape! The thinking public will not easily believe freedom
and education more brutalizing than slavery, and the world knows that
the crime of rape was unknown during four years of civil war when the
white women of the South were at the mercy of the race which is all at
once charged with being a bestial one."

This fear and mistrust continued for decades, not just in the South,
but throughout all of America. From the factories of industrialized
cities in the North to rural farmlands in the Midwest, from the Statue
of Liberty in the East to the filmmakers in the West, racism had
replaced classism as the most blatant form of oppression. But classism
lingered, despite what wealthy elites would have Americans believe.

Martin Luther King Jr. saw the enduring oppression of both poor whites
and Blacks. In December 1967, King and the Southern Christian
Leadership Conference (SCLC) began organizing the Poor Peopleâ??s
Campaign of 1968. According to Rev. Dr. Ralph Abernathy, the
campaignâ??s goal was to â??dramatize the plight of Americaâ??s poor of all
races and make very clear that they are sick and tired of waiting for
a better life.â??

King alluded to that goal when he spoke about wealth inequality in
â??The Drum Major Instinctâ?? on February 4, 1968. In his sermon, he
talked about a conversation with his white jailers, saying:

  "And then we got down one day to the pointâ??â??â??that was the second or
third dayâ??â??â??to talk about where they lived, and how much they were
earning. And when those brothers told me what they were earning, I
said, â??Now, you know what? You ought to be marching with us. Youâ??re
just as poor as Negroes.â?? And I said, â??You are put in the position of
supporting your oppressor, because, through prejudice and blindness,
you fail to see that the same forces that oppress Negroes in American
society oppress poor white people. And all you are living on is the
satisfaction of your skin being white, and the drum major instinct of
thinking that you are somebody big because you are white. And youâ??re
so poor you canâ??t send your children to school. You ought to be out
here marching with every one of us every time we have a march.â??

  "Now thatâ??s a fact. That the poor white has been put into this
position, where through blindness and prejudice, he is forced to
support his oppressors. And the only thing he has going for him is the
false feeling that heâ??s superior because his skin is whiteâ??â??â??and canâ??t
hardly eat and make his ends meet week in and week out."

The first Poor Peopleâ??s Campaign gathering took place in Atlanta in
March 1968, and included more than fifty multiracial organizations
committed to the radical redistribution of political and economic

When King was assassinated just a month later on April 4, the SCLC and
Kingâ??s widow, Coretta Scott, decided to go ahead with the campaign. On
Motherâ??s Day, May 12, thousands of women formed the ï¬?rst wave of
demonstrators, led by Coretta Scott King and joined by Ethel Kennedy,
wife of presidential candidate Sen. Robert Kennedy. Protestors built a
temporary encampment on the Mall in Washington, D.C., and 3,000
participants occupied â??Resurrection Cityâ?? for over a month. In June,
50,000 demonstrators joined them for the Solidarity Day Rally for
Jobs, Peace, and Freedom. SCLC leaders and the National Welfare Rights
Organization lobbied Congress to introduce an â??economic bill of
rightsâ?? for all Americans.

 image - Poor People's Campaign
 Demonstrators on the National Mall. Oliver F. Atkins Photograph
Collection. Photo © SEPS

Robert Kennedy, a key advocate for the campaign, was assassinated on
June 6, 1968, a month into the campaign. His funeral procession passed
through Resurrection City. Discouraged by the murders of King and
Kennedy, scarce media coverage, and horrible living conditions in the
camp, demonstratorsâ?? optimism waned. Their land use permit expired on
June 24, and Resurrection City closed. When the Poor Peopleâ??s Campaign
ended, so ended Kingâ??s vision of turning the nationâ??s attention to
eradicating poverty among all people, and guaranteeing all people the
opportunity for meaningful jobs with livable wages.

The minimum wage for a tipped position in Arkansasâ??â??â??like the one I
held as a bartenderâ??â??â??is $2.63 an hour. The assumption is that tipped
workers will earn their own minimum wages by making up the difference
in tips. When this happens, a â??tip creditâ?? is given to employers, and
they save money by paying less than the standard minimum wage.

It was the way I spoke that landed me the job. I had no experience,
but the owner of the bar told a friend she hired me because, â??she
speaks well and has all her own teeth.â?? I guess she assumed I would
learn to make drinks. I didnâ??t. I wasnâ??t very good at my job, but one
thing I was good at was listening. And what I often heard was a
growing dissatisfaction among poor whites who were struggling to make
ends meet in the failing economy.

I understood their fear and frustration. Iâ??ve spent a great deal of my
life living in poverty. Itâ??s scary being poor, worrying that one
parking ticket would mean I couldnâ??t buy groceries, or deciding
whether I should see a dentist about a toothache or pay my trailer
park fee. Itâ??s humiliating and terrifying, but sitting around and
crying about it isnâ??t an option because we know that the only thing
more pathetic than someone living in poverty is someone living in
poverty and crying about it. How many times have we been told to get a
job, or that if we just worked harder we could improve our situation?
Work harder. Work harder. Work harder. American society has made it
perfectly clear: if you are poor, itâ??s your own damn fault.

I understood what it was to go hungry. Many times I didnâ??t eat on my
days off, but waited until I could get back to work and sneak
something from the kitchen. Remember that tip credit? I did, too,
every time I stole a biscuit with gravy or a basket of tater tots.

I understood their anger. Since crying isnâ??t an option, we swallow the
sadness, and it sits and churns and gets spit back out as anger. Iâ??ve
felt this anger more times than I care to remember. I was angry that I
couldnâ??t afford to paint my walls in shades of possibility. I was
angry at my life choices that never felt like real choices. I was
angry that wealth and prosperity were all around me while my hands
remained clenched in empty pockets.

What I couldnâ??t understand was why my customers directed their anger
at other poor people.

â??I applied for a job at Tyson Chicken. They only hire Mexicans because
they work cheap. We need to get those people out if we want jobs.â??

I heard this over and over from unemployed men at the bar. So why
werenâ??t they angry with Tyson Foods, a company that could easily
afford to pay higher wages? Why werenâ??t they angry with CEO-turned
Chairman John Tyson, whose personal net worth is over a billion

The answer I always got was that Johnâ??s father, Donald â??Donâ?? J. Tyson,
the college drop-out who built his own fatherâ??s chicken farm into a
multi-billion-dollar company, was a good olâ?? boy. He wasnâ??t
highfalutin like the city slickers of California and New York. Tyson,
they felt, was one of them, a working class man whoâ??d bootstrapped his
way into the top one percent. He wore a khaki uniform with his name
embroidered over the pocket, spoke with an â??aw shucksâ?? southern twang
and was often quoted as saying, â??Iâ??m just a chicken farmer.â??

 image - Don Tyson
 Donald J. Tyson

Don Tyson wasnâ??t just a chicken farmer, much like the plantation
owners werenâ??t just cotton growers. He was a multi-billionaire running
a global corporation. Didnâ??t they know that in 1997, Tyson Foods pled
guilty and paid $6 million in fines and costs for making gifts to Mike
Espy, then President Bill Clintonâ??s secretary of agriculture? Didnâ??t
they know that, from 1988 to 1990, Bill Clinton gave Tyson Foods $7.8
million in tax breaks while turning a blind eye to 300 miles of rivers
polluted from chicken waste? Maybe they didnâ??t know those things, but
what they did know was that poor Mexicans were taking their jobs.

Over the years, Tyson Foods has settled numerous lawsuits, paying
millions of dollars for infractions ranging from water pollution, race
discrimination, and sex discrimination, as well as a $32 million wage
settlement case.

â??The Mexican guys just hire other Mexicans. You canâ??t even work there
if you donâ??t speak Spanish.â??

Were they right? I would say yes.

In December 2001, a federal grand jury indicted Tyson Foods and six
managers on 36 counts related to conspiring to import undocumented
workers into the U.S., and employing them at fifteen chicken
processing plants throughout the country. One defendant shot himself a
few months after the indictment. Two made plea agreements and
testified for the government. They said they were doing what the
company demanded when they went along with the hiring of illegal
workers. The remaining three executives claimed the others were
â??rogueâ?? employees, and denied any knowledge of wrongdoing; they were

The grand jury alleged that the conspiracy began in 1994, when Tyson
executive Gerald Lankford mentioned production at a Tennessee facility
and said, â??That plant needs more Mexicans.â??

There was no question that Tyson illegally smuggled undocumented
workers into the U.S. The trial was about who initiated the operation.
Regardless of who knew what, at least three managers at Tyson saw that
brown workers were cheaper than white workers, and adjusted their
business model accordingly.

â?¢ â?¢ â?¢

It makes perfect sense that Don Tyson would say, â??My theory about
politics is that if they will just leave me alone, weâ??ll do just
fine.â?? What didnâ??t make sense to me was that poor and working class
locals would agree with him.

Don Tyson, having lived his entire life in northwest Arkansas, was one
of them. I wasnâ??t. I was born and raised in California. Sure, my
people were blue-collar rednecks and my mother often reminded me that
we were one generation removed from poor white trash, but I wasnâ??t
Southern and I didnâ??t speak their language. My speech pattern wasnâ??t
formed by higher education or a silver spoon in my mouth; it was
simply a matter of accent. But it is an accent associated with liberal
snobs. I was an outsider.

Don Tyson didnâ??t make poor people in town feel inferior, but outsiders
did. Iâ??m not surprised, considering how socially acceptable it has
become to mock poor whites, especially those born and raised in the
South. Instead of fighting for better education for the white
underclass, we call them ignorant rednecks. Instead of fighting for
them to have better health care, we laugh at their missing teeth.
Instead of fighting for them to have better housing, we joke about
tornados hitting trailer parks.

Luckily, life often has a way of turning stereotypes on their heads,
if we pay attention.

 â??It has become socially acceptable to mock poor whites born and
raised in the South.â??

I was working my day shift at the bar, the same regulars sitting on
the same barstools. Three men Iâ??d never seen came in and sat at a
table on the patio. They looked like most everyone else in the area,
blue-collar scruffy types. I figured they were on a lunch break or
they were in town to fish on the lake. I took their order, brought
their food, and when they finished eating, dropped off the check. When
they came up to the register to pay, one of the men made a comment
about my hat. I didnâ??t catch what he said but his friends smirked.

I said, â??Excuse me?â??

My hat was a black and white newsboy cap. It covered my head on days I
didnâ??t feel like doing my hair. But to the man, it meant something
else, something I didnâ??t understand.

He said, â??I guess you like â??em black.â??

I said, â??My hat?â??

I was confused and I felt tension in the air. The bar had gone quiet.
One of my regulars was sitting near the register, and he asked the man
if he was from a particular town, one I hadnâ??t heard of. When the man
nodded, my regular said, â??Well, we donâ??t roll like that around here.â??

I handed the man his change. He glanced around at the regulars staring
at him. It felt like a stand-off in an old western movie. Was a brawl
about to break out over my hat? The man shook his head, looked at me
in disgust, and walked out with his friends. The tension left with

I asked, â??What the hell was that all about?â??

â??Theyâ??re Klan,â?? my customer said. I must have looked shocked. He said,
â??Donâ??t worry. We got your back.â??

A few months later, I left Arkansas and moved to Vancouver,
Washington. Across the river in Portland, they call it â??Vantucky.â?? I
always dreaded driving into Portland with my big F150 truck sporting
Arkansas plates. I imagined the liberal urbanites seeing me as one of
â??those people,â?? as if they expected me to barrel down the street
chucking Walmart bags full of trash out the open window while blasting
â??Sweet Home Alabamaâ?? on my way to shoot up an abortion clinic. This
was all in my head, but in a city known for its liberalism, I once
again felt I didnâ??t belong.

I signed up for training to be a court appointed special advocate
(CASA) for kids in foster care, and attended a series of classes in
Vancouver. One night, the instructors gathered the forty or so
trainees for an exercise. We stood in a room and the leader of the
group read a list of statements. Without speaking, we were to cross to
the other side if the statement applied to us or stay in our place if
it didnâ??t. As the exercise went on, I started to notice a pattern.

â??Iâ??ve been affected by a family memberâ??s drug or alcohol problem.â?? I
crossed the room with a third of the volunteers.

â??Iâ??ve been affected by poverty.â?? I crossed the room with a tiny
fraction of volunteers.

â??Iâ??ve graduated with a degree in higher education.â?? I stayed in my
place as all but one woman crossed to the other side. The woman stood
next to me and held my arm, and I immediately sized her up: older,
well-dressed, probably married right out of high school. Privileged.

It was an exercise in non-judgmentâ??â??â??and it was humiliating. Not a
single person looked at us. Their eyes focused on the floor, their
hands, or something incredibly interesting on the ceiling. I suppose
it was the polite, non-judgmental thing to do. If something or someone
makes us uncomfortable, we simply avert our eyes and create an
invisible barrier. You stay over there. Iâ??ll stay over here.

Those two experiences helped me see more clearly than ever how
fool-headed it is to stereotype people based on how they look and
where they live. The â??redneck hillbilliesâ?? in that Arkansas bar could
have laughed with the three Klan members, or said nothing at all.
Instead, they stood up for meâ??â??â??an outsiderâ??â??â??and made it known that
the Klan wasnâ??t welcome there. On the other hand, I assumed a group of
liberal, college-educated volunteers would ooze warmth and solidarity.
But in class that night, I didnâ??t feel especially welcome. And I felt
ashamed for judging that womanâ??s life based entirely on her

Iâ??m just a poor white trash motherfucker. No one cares about me.

What would America look like today if King had succeeded in uniting
poor people of all races? Would my bar customers in Arkansas more
easily identify with Blacks, Hispanics, and other people of color than
with billionaires like Don Tyson? Would they feel as if their voices
mattered, as if they had some say in what their government does?

Martin Luther King Jr. was concerned about poverty, and he also saw
the growing inequality between the richest Americans and the poor and
working classes. By the 1960s, this inequality was on the rise, but
would soon become much more pronounced.

In 1976â??â??â??just eight years after Kingâ??s call for unity among all poor
peopleâ??â??â??Ronald Reagan launched his second unsuccessful bid for the
Republican presidential nomination. In his campaign, he repeatedly
trotted out the now infamous â??Welfare Queenâ?? story.

Reagan got the GOP nod in 1980, and during his presidential campaign,
he portrayed himself as a grandfatherly, all-American cowboy, a true
Washington outsider. He promised to fix the economy with a combination
of tax breaks, reduced government regulation, and cuts to federal

Reaganâ??s economic plan, dubbed â??Reaganomics,â?? provided tax cuts that
primarily benefitted the rich. The intent was to encourage the upper
classes to spend and invest more, which would boost the economy and
create new jobs. His disdain for welfare hadnâ??t changed. To offset tax
cuts and massive increases in military spending, Reagan slashed
federal social programsâ??â??â??for low-income Americans.

Neither Reagan nor Congress was willing to touch Social Security,
Medicare, or Medicaid; they were too popular among the middle class.
This left a tiny portion of the federal budget for social programs on
the chopping block, including food stamps, vocational education, and
subsidized housing, among others. From fiscal year 1980 to fiscal year
1987, federal funding for these programs plummeted by 35.6 percent.

After a two-year recession, the economy rebounded and continued to
grow. Yet while the Reagan administration congratulated themselves on
the economic expansion, poor people were still struggling. But Reagan
had given poor whites someone to blame for their suffering: the
Welfare Queen. He never said she was Black. He didnâ??t have to.

Lee Atwater was an adviser to both Reagan and President George H. W.
Bush, and chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1989
until his death two years later. In 1981, while working in Reaganâ??s
White House, Atwater gave an interview to Alexander Lamis, a political
scientist at Case Western Reserve University. In an unguarded moment
that Atwater believed was off the record, he said:

  "You start out in 1954 by saying, â??Nigger, nigger, nigger.â?? By 1968
you canâ??t say â??niggerâ??â??â??â??that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff
like, uh, forced busing, statesâ?? rights, and all that stuff, and
youâ??re getting so abstract. Now, youâ??re talking about cutting taxes,
and all these things youâ??re talking about are totally economic things
and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.â?¦ â??We
want to cut this,â?? is much more abstract than even the busing thing,
uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than â??Nigger, nigger.â?? "

In five short sentences, Atwater explained how Republican politicians
could appeal to poor whitesâ?? racism (conscious or unconscious) without
using blatantly racist language. This shift was important because
Reagan had cut social programs that began with the presidencies of
John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.
 â??Republican politicians appealed to poor whitesâ?? racism without using
blatantly racist language.â??

In 1963, President John Kennedy had begun planning a â??war on povertyâ??
intended to help poor, southern whitesâ??â??â??particularly in Appalachia
and the rural South. Kennedy had visited Appalachia during the 1960
presidential campaign, and was shocked by what he sawâ??â??â??â??the hungry
children, â?¦ the old people who cannot pay their doctors bills, the
families forced to give up their farms.â?? Many of these families were
descendants of white indentured servants who had fled to the
Appalachian Mountains. The poverty Kennedy saw was, in part, a legacy
of the era of slavery.

President Johnson, a greater ally to Black civil rights leaders than
Kennedy had been, took over the program after Kennedyâ??s assassination
and expanded its scope. These programs ultimately helped poor Blacks
and poor whites, in both urban and rural areas.

In 1987, Reagan quipped, â??In the 60s we waged a war on poverty, and
poverty won.â?? That was pretty glib for a President who had just
slashed social services by almost 36 percent. What was to keep poor
whites from seeing they had lost just as much as poor Blacks?

The groundwork had already been laid. It wasnâ??t Reaganâ??s fault that
social programs had to be cut. The â??welfare queensâ?? made him do it.
Poor whites were still poorer, but at least they werenâ??t criminals,
and that distinction was critical in their minds.

â??Itâ??s one of those persistent symbols that come up every election
cycle,â?? says Kaaryn Gustafson, author of Cheating Welfare: Public
Assistance and the Criminalization of Poverty. â??This image of the lazy
African-American woman who refuses to get a job and keeps having kids
is pretty enduring. Itâ??s always been a good way to distract the public
from any meaningful conversations about poverty and inequality.â??

Gustafsonâ??s inclusion of inequality is important, because inequalities
in both income and wealth distribution would soon begin a steep climb.
The reality of Reaganomics was that Americans who gained the most were
the nationâ??s richest ten percent. During periods of economic
expansion, the bottom 90 percent saw a decline in income gains. By
2012, those gains had been replaced by losses.

 image - wealth_chart - see attachment

In hindsight, it makes perfect sense that President Reagan would share
Don Tysonâ??s desire for smaller government. In 1986, Reagan said, â??The
most terrifying words in the English language are: Iâ??m from the
government and Iâ??m here to help.â?? What doesnâ??t make sense is that
Americaâ??s white underclass would agree with him.

Public assistance programs are easy targets for politicians, thanks in
part to the racial divide introduced by slave owners in colonial
America. Politicians, the corporate media, and giant employers (like
Tyson) have continued to drive socioeconomic wedges between poor
whites and poor minorities. Working class whites may view economic
struggles as temporary setbacks, and see their use of social services
as a last resort. But politicians keep implying that for minorities,
public assistance is a way of life.

Many social programsâ??â??â??the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
(SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Women, Infants
and Children (WIC)â??â??â??provide benefits that cannot be abused. Yet the
message to the white underclass was clear: your tax dollars are being
squandered on undeserving people looking for a free ride.

I canâ??t speak to how much assistance people with children or
disabilities receive, but I can tell you what I received as a single,
childless adult with no assets and a zero balance in my checking
account. I qualified for less than $200 a month through the SNAP food
stamp program. Thatâ??s it. I wasnâ??t living large off the man. I wasnâ??t
kicking back playing video games on a big screen TV. I was struggling
to survive until I could find work.

I didnâ??t have the luxury of feeling shame or embarrassment about using
food stamps, but I didnâ??t prance into the grocery store waving my card
around, either. At the checkout line, I shielded my card, and myself,
from the people around me. I thought, â??Fuck you and your judgment.â??

When I eventually found a job, I no longer qualified for assistance,
and I remained poor. My story is common and unremarkable, unlike the
fictional tale of welfare recipients driving luxury cars and eating
lobster every night.

â?¢ â?¢ â?¢

When terrorists attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001, Americans
pulled together. They displayed a unity reminiscent of the weeks
following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. President George. W. Bush
declared, â??America is united.â??

Ultimately, there would be two versions of unity: one for the rich and
one for the poor.

The Carlyle Group was named after the luxury hotel where founding
members first met in 1987 to discuss the creation of a multinational
private equity corporation. In 2001, employees and advisors of the
firm included former U.S. President George H. W. Bush; Bushâ??s former
Secretary of State James Baker; former Secretary of Defense Frank C.
Carlucci; and former British Prime Minister John Major.

Under the guidance of this powerful lineup of Washington insiders and
international leaders, the Carlyle Group soon became known for buying
businesses related to the defense industryâ??â??â??and tripling their value
during wartime. In 2002, they received $677 million in government
contracts. By 2003, as the war effort shifted focus from Afghanistan
to Iraq in search of weapon of mass destruction, the defense contracts
leapt to $2.1 billion.

The Carlyle Group wasnâ??t the only corporation that would profit from
the wars. From 2003 to 2013, KBRâ??â??â??a subsidiary of Halliburton, once
run by Dick Cheneyâ??â??â??was awarded $39.5 billion in government
contracts. Other war profiteers include Agility ($7.4 billion),
DynCorp ($4.1 billion), and Blackwater ($1.3 billion). By early 2013,
private defense contractors had collectively earned more than $138

A 2006 report by the Institute for Policy Studies found that, in 2005,
CEOs of the largest U.S. private defense contractors continued to
profit from the ongoing wars.

Defense CEO pay was 44 times that of a military general with 20 years
of experience and 308 times that of an Army private in 2005. Generals
made $174,452 and Army privates made $25,085, while average defense
CEO pay was $7.7 million.

In contrast to wealthy individuals who became even wealthier, those
who were sent to do the actual fighting comprised disproportionately
high numbers of working class Americans. In the combined efforts of
Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom,
almost 7,000 U.S. soldiers have died. More than 970,000 veteran
disability claims have been registered with the Veterans

Returning soldiers face higher unemployment rates than their civilian
counterparts, particularly among male veterans age 21 to 24. Between
2009 and 2012, the youngest veterans had an unemployment rate of 21.6
percent, compared to 13.5 percent for civilians.

Veterans struggle to find proper healthcare in a system ill-prepared
for the number of wounded, particularly those with catastrophic
injuries and mental health issues that require long-term care. Private
nonprofit organizations have been picking up the slack left by
inadequate funding in the federal budget.
 â??Army privates made $25,085, while average defense CEO pay was $7.7 million.â??

Like their ancestors who fought in and survived the Civil War, todayâ??s
soldiers return to find their situations either the same, or much
worse, than when they left. Who would blame them for being angry? As
soldiers go off to war we say, â??God bless our troops.â?? Maybe we should
add, â??God help them when they come home.â??

â??My entire life, Iâ??ve watched politicians bragging about how poor they
are, how they came from nothing, how poor their parents and
grandparents were. And I said to myself, if they can stay so poor for
so many generations, maybe this isnâ??t the kind of person we want to be
electing to higher office. How smart can they be? Theyâ??re morons.â??
â??â??Donald Trump, New York Times, 1999, â??Liberties; Trump Shruggedâ??

Donald Trump sells himself as a scrappy, self-made man whose vision,
tenacity, and business savvy alone have made him one of the worldâ??s
most famous billionaires, but Trump is not self-made by any measure. A
poster boy for generations of socioeconomic privilege, Trump joined
the New York Military Academy at age thirteen, then studied at Fordham
University before transferring to the Wharton School of the University
of Pennsylvania. During the Vietnam War, Trump was granted five draft
defermentsâ??â??â??the first four for education, and the last for medical

In 1968, he joined his fatherâ??s real estate business, then
conservatively valued at $40 million. Donald took over The Trump
Organization in 1974 and restyled the company in his imageâ??â??â??a special
blend of ego, flamboyance, and rabid ambition. He steered clear of the
steerage class and catered exclusively to the rich by buying or
building luxury residential properties, office buildings, hotels,
casinos, golf courses, and resorts.

Capital from his fatherâ??s company wasnâ??t Trumpâ??s only empire-building
head start. He depended on both government and private assistance,
too, including tax abatements, financial support from the Securities
and Exchange Commission (SEC), investors, and, during the companyâ??s
1990 massive financial troubles, a bailout pact involving seventy

In his 2000 book, The America We Deserve, Trump criticized
governmental interference in American business. He wrote, â??The
greatest threat to the American Dream is the idea that dreamers need
close government scrutiny and control. Job one for us is to make sure
the public sector does a limited job, and no more.â??

Trump didnâ??t seem threatened by the public sectorâ??s involvement in his
four corporate bankruptcies. Trump told Forbes in April 2011,
â??Basically Iâ??ve used the laws of the country to my advantage and to
other peopleâ??s advantage â?¦ just as many, many others on top of the
business world have.â??

In his eyes, Trump is a self-made entrepreneur who refuses to
acknowledge the millions of dollars of family, public, and private
assistance that helped him realize his gilt, mirrored glass, and pink
marble American dream. Government regulations that stifle ambition are
a threat to American dreamers everywhere, but laws that can be used to
the advantage of top-of-the-business-world warriors are just fine.

It makes perfect sense that Trump would share Ronald Reaganâ??s and Don
Tysonâ??s desire for smaller government. What doesnâ??t make sense is that
Americaâ??s white underclass would agree with him.

Big or small, our government has failed everyone but the wealthiest
class. Most politicians barely maintain a pretense of representing the
people â?? except during election years when they talk about â??issuesâ??
and make promises they have no intention of keeping. Once in office,
they become puppets of the richest ten percent of Americans. If you
think Iâ??m exaggerating, watch this video:


Donald Trump is a business man. Until recently, money and fame were
everything to him. He measured his success by his ranking in the
Forbes 400 list of billionaires. Now, Trump wants power and control,
too. Like wealthy plantation owners who just happened to be
politicians, Trump does not need to be bought; he is already rich
enough. From a business perspective, heâ??s trying to cut out the middle
manâ??â??â??the politicians who have become puppets of the wealthy elite.

Iâ??m just a poor white trash motherfucker. No one cares about me.

What if some people did care, but the wealthy pushed them away?

â?¢ â?¢ â?¢

Marginalized people have been fighting for equality for decades.
Admittedly, in the quest to fight for the oppressedâ??â??â??people of color,
women, religious minorities, the LGBTQ communityâ??â??â??we often overlook
the fact that classism never completely disappeared. For the white
underclass, itâ??s tempting to feel left out of this fight. But how can
people fighting for social equality include poor whites who see them
as the enemy?

If poor and working class whites who chant, â??Trump, Trump, Trump,â??
believe they have little in common with these â??enemies,â?? they are
mistaken. We are all sides of the same coin, a coin that has been held
in the pocket of the elite class since the first settlers arrived in
the American colonies.

Iâ??m no one special. I am a poor, uneducated, white woman. I am the
white underclass, and I am no oneâ??s enemy. I fight for racial equality
because people of color are not my enemy. Gays, lesbians, bisexuals,
and transgender people are not my enemy. Immigrants and refugees are
not my enemy. Muslims are not my enemy. Native Americans are not my
enemy. Single mothers and fathers are not my enemy. People on
Medicare, disability, food stamps, and unemployment are not my enemy.
The homeless are not my enemy. And it turns out that the people of a
small Arkansas town in the middle of the Ozarks are not my enemy.

Other poor people are not the enemy, no matter how they look, how they
pray, or who they love. They are fighting to be heard. They are people
who, like Trump supporters, agree with the statement, â??People like me
donâ??t have any say about what the government does.â??
 â??Other poor people aren't the enemy, no matter how they look, how
they pray, or who they love.â??

Trump supporters believe heâ??s different. They believe that he cares
about us, that he tells it like it is, that he gives us a voice, that
he canâ??t be bought because heâ??s already rich, that heâ??s railing
against politics as usual.

But does Trump care about the white underclass, or does he still think
poor people are â??moronsâ???

Did slave owners care about white indentured servants when they pitted
them against African slaves, or did they want to ensure a steady
supply of cheap labor? Did Ronald Reagan care about poor white people
when he trotted out the fictional welfare queen, or did he need a
budget item to cut? Do wealthy elites and politicians care about poor
and middle class people when they send them off to war, or are they
anticipating massive profits?

Trump is railing against establishment politics not because he cares
about the white underclass, but because he needs usâ??â??â??for now. He
isnâ??t reaching out a hand to lift us up. He wants to stand on our
shoulders so we can lift him up.

For more than four hundred years, wealthy elites have depended on the
white underclass to â??help keep America great.â?? But who are we keeping
it great for? When will we realize we have more in common with all
poor people than with rich capitalists and corrupt politicians who
manipulate the system to increase their own wealth, power, and
control? Instead of wondering which billionaire will finally reach out
a hand to raise us up, we should stop waiting and start acting.

â?¢ â?¢ â?¢

â??The Revolution is coming and it is a very beautiful revolution.â??

â??There must be better distribution of wealth and maybe America must
move toward a democratic socialism.â??

One of these quotes is from Martin Luther King Jr. in 1966; the other
is from Bernie Sanders in 1969.

Bernie Sanders was born into a working-class home. His father dropped
out of high school and supported the family as a paint salesman after
coming to the U.S. from Poland and struggling through the Great
Depression. Later, after the war, they would find out most of his
family died in the Holocaust. From this, Bernie Sanders learned a life
lesson, â??An election in 1932 ended up killing 50 million people around
the world.â??

By the time Bernie graduated from college, he was alone. His brother
had moved to England for work, and both of his parents had died. He
moved to Vermont and held a variety of low-wage jobs, spending many of
the following years broke. He is quoted in a New Yorker article as
saying, â??I do know what itâ??s like when the electric company shuts off
the electricity and the phone company shuts off the phoneâ??â??â??all that
stuff. So, for me, to talk to working-class people is not very hard.â??

He bootstrapped his way into politics and has remained loyal to the
poor and working class for more than thirty years. He is not a
millionaire. He has not built a fortune from his position holding
office. He doesnâ??t make money by keeping others poor or sending them
to war. He doesnâ??t gain power by keeping people silent. Donald Trump
would have you believe Sanders is a â??loserâ?? for not taking financial
advantage of his position. I prefer to call him one of our own.

Bernie Sanders doesnâ??t say that if you are poor, itâ??s your own damn
fault. He says if you are poor, take my hand. Together we can lift you
up. His campaign isnâ??t about freebies or handouts. Itâ??s about
opportunity. Itâ??s about believing that, given a chance and an even
playing field, the poor and working class can achieve their dreams. He
knows this because he has lived it.

Sandersâ?? revolution is about lifting the hand of oppression so we can
all move forward in equality. It is about everyone having the same
opportunity to paint their walls in shades of possibility.

When we have been pushed down for so long, it can become impossible to
see whose hands are keeping us there. Is it really welfare queens or
immigrant laborers or Muslims, as Trump claims? I say no, because
those people have so little power. Maybe the answer lies not in
looking up, but in looking sideways and recognizing that our poor
neighbors, who may be different than us, are struggling too. Maybe if
we all look up together, we can see more clearly that the hand of
oppression belongs only to those who have always had money, power, and
control. Those are the real enemies.

The real enemies fear us. They know that if we come together, we will
have the numbers on our side. Theyâ??ve always known this and it
terrifies them. We must stop doing what they want: fighting among
ourselves and allowing ourselves to be held down by their fear. We
must direct a truly united voice against those who, four hundred years
ago, created the American Dream and then held it out of reach. We must
join together and fight back against the wealthy elite and corporate
politicians. We must build a new country that belongs to all of us, a
country where no one ever has to feel like just a poor motherfucker no
one cares about.

Jonna Ivin is STIRâ??s founder. Read her riveting
bio http://www.stirjournal.com/who-we-are/
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