Fiscal Cliff: Cloward-Piven Redux

Obama, hypocrite in chief at the National Prayer Breakfast
Print Friendly

Many opinion writers, like Dan Henninger at The Wall Street Journal, wonder what putative President Barack Obama has to gain if the “fiscal cliff,” or the “great sequester,” plays out. After all, they say, the economy goes into recession. This will only embarrass him and maybe lose him the Congress in 2014, and his power to choose a successor in 2016. But they’ve missed something. All of this is a sham. Barack Obama wants to go over the fiscal cliff. He wants a recession, or even a depression. Because only then can he and his advisers do a rerun of the Cloward-Piven Strategy.

The Cloward-Piven Strategy

Richard Andrew Cloward and his wife Frances Fox Piven laid out their namesake strategy on May 2, 1966 in The Nation. Then, 8 million people subsisted on welfare. Cloward and Piven guessed that just as many people might qualify for welfare but did not sign up. So he proposed to get them to sign up. If everyone who qualified were to sign up, the system would collapse. Then a frightened people would turn to the government. Cloward and Piven hoped the government would redistribute income and guarantee a national income to everyone.

Cloward and Piven did more than write about their strategy. They put it in motion. They co-founded the National Welfare Rights Organization. Organizers would invade welfare offices, sit-in in legislative offices, and in general harangue and bully caseworkers into signing people up. Sign up they did. So that in 1975, New York City couldn’t afford its welfare and other bills, and declared bankruptcy. New York went over its own fiscal cliff. And: in November of 1976, a duped and dew-eyed electorate elected James Earl “Jimmy” Carter President of the United States.

But Cloward and Piven soon found they’d gone too far. Four years of Jimmy Carter’s “misery index,” gasoline lines, and especially the Iran Hostage Crisis soured the people on this kind of socialism. They elected Ronald Reagan in 1980, in a landslide. Said a bitter Rosalynn Carter:

Ronald Reagan makes us comfortable to live with our prejudices.

Sixteen years later, Another liberal (Bill Clinton) would win re-election. But he would do so only after signing a law to “end welfare as we know it.” By that law, the welfare office wouldn’t just hand out a check. You now had to work for it. This result was a far cry from what Cloward and Piven wanted to make happen.

Barack Obama’s first term

Proportion of people on food stamps or getting direct government payments. This is why we're nearing a fiscal cliff.

Obama encourages people to depend on government for their daily sustenance.

But in 2009, Barack H. Obama sought to turn that around. R. A. Cloward was dead, but Frances Fox Piven advises Obama today. And it shows. During and before the re-election campaign, the Agriculture Department began a TV campaign to exhort people to sign up for food stamps. Cloward probably never dreamed that a government agency would encourage its own overload, without his having to organize a “National Food Stamp Rights Organization” to make that happen. Nor that someone calling himself President would sign executive orders to weaken or remove the work requirements for welfare. “Welfare as we know it” is back.

All to show that Barack Obama spent four years encouraging people to depend on the government for their daily living. Cloward couldn’t have done any better had he been President himself.

Road to the Fiscal Cliff

Barack Obama, driving off the fiscal cliff deliberately

Barack H. Obama. Photo: Pete Souza, January 13, 2009

This brings us to the Fiscal Cliff. During the campaign, Obama flippantly said, “It won’t happen.” But two days ago he took a step to make that happen.

Specifically, he put out a non-offer. He dictated terms of unconditional surrender. “General Robert E. Lee [got] better terms at Appomattox!” cried an outraged Charles Krauthammer. And indeed Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant did treat General Robert E. Lee with greater respect than Barack Obama has treated his political opponents.

He cannot possibly expect them to negotiate with him when he makes demands of this kind. But what Dan Henninger and others miss is: he does not want anyone to negotiate. In fact, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) gave the game away. Go over the fiscal cliff, she urged, and liberals could get a regime more to their liking afterward.

And here is the Obama fiscal cliff plan, or at least the only plan that makes sense. Bring the economy into recession, if it isn’t already receding. Even more people will qualify for food stamps, welfare, name it. Then advertise to those people to sign up for those benefits. Result: bankruptcy, and serious talk about a guaranteed national income.

From each, according to his ability, to each, according to his need.

That’s how it serves Obama well if America goes off the fiscal cliff.

Or so he thinks.

As my colleague RoseAnn Salanitri said, in quoting Albert Einstein:

Insanity [means] doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

The last time Cloward and Piven tried overloading the welfare system, they outraged the people. The people then insisted that government stop handing out “goodies” without limit.

Obama seems to think this time the people will meekly accept his Marxist program to redistribute income. One of two things will happen instead:

  1. The people will see the mistake they made and set it right. Obama might lose even the Senate in 2014. Or:
  2. Those who pay all the taxes will stop doing taxable things, as much as they can. And eventually the society, not just the economy, will collapse.

Neither thing would serve Obama well. The last election made him believe neither thing will happen. What does happen, is not even up to him.

It is up to you.

Frances Fox Piven: We Got Obama – that’s not bad at all. from Michael Brown on Vimeo.