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Against the Poor



  Winter 2007


Indiana Gets OK to Phase In Privatized Food Stamp Program

The federal government has given Indiana permission to privatize food stamp administration. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) raised concerns about service to clients, program integrity, and control by a for-profit contractor. Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) also raised concerns, particularly in light of problems encountered with a privatization project in Texas.

            The obvious conflict of interest that privatization creates is apparently too delicate to mention. Why should a for-profit corporation provide the poor people benefits when they can increase profits by discouraging and denying them?  And who will stop the wealthy company? Poor people have neither lawyers nor lobbyists nor access to mass media.

Here in the US we are seeing a process similar to World Bank Structural Adjustment Programs. The World Bank promises loans to poor countries and forces the country to privatize public services and reduce public benefits. In the same way our corporate owners of Congress promise bigger and bigger campaign dollars in exchange for Congress reducing public benefits and privatizing public services.

Privatization combines greed and prejudice against the poor to enrich the private corporations and impoverish /endanger the defenseless poor. And privatization costs the taxpayers much more that government controlled public benefits.

Two of Milwaukee’s private welfare agencies (Maximus and Goodwill's Employment Solutions) admitted frauding half a million each of public monies. Yet neither wealthy corporation was prosecuted, nor were their contracts terminated. Another private agency, OIC, also frauded over half a million. And they bribed the state senator so they would receive the largest TANF contract.  The OIC director and Senator were convicted and imprisoned. But the agency did not lose their contract until they voluntarily gave it up, claiming bankruptcy. The YWCA TANF agency sanctioned 47% of their cases by 48% of their grants, even moms with infants under 3 months who were not required to do mandatory work activities. The Y did lose their contract for one year, but won it back when OIC quit.

These figures show how the taxpayers have been bilked and betrayed. But neither the government nor the private agencies are concerned about the statistical reality of the human suffering:

Milwaukee’s infant mortality has increased by 37% in the African American community. This is due to the rampant denials and sanctions of TANF to eligible moms in crisis. Poverty has increased to over 540,000 in Wisconsin yet only 8,000 families have been able to receive any TANF assistance. While our roles have been reduced from 80,000 to 8,000, the cost to taxpayers is millions more each year!

Private companies combine prejudice against the poor with GREED, a lethal combination.  They want to make profit and are able to easily make profit by simply discouraging and denying eligible people. They can freely prey on the poor with little or no interference.  The government will not sanction their friends in big business and the lawyers can not or will not sue. Even the most violent deaths of children (see D'Andre Reeves) under Wisconsin's W2 TANF have not resulted in either lawsuits, contract terminations, or sanctions of any type.

Under government control of public benefits the poor face the same discrimination and inefficiency, but not the overwhelming GREED. Privatization of public benefits is a conflict of interest and not in the best interests of any Americans. The low-income clients become homeless and even die. And the mid-income Americans are bilked and betrayed into paying expensive poverty pimps to fraudulently administer anti-poor programs.

Pat Gowens, Editor

Mother Warriors Voice

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