‘The Weight of the Poor’ – Revisiting the Cloward-Piven Strategy

It seems that Richard Cloward and Francis Piven aren’t historical figures who are very well-known to the common citizenry. Sure, from time to time you may find some politically involved fellow speaking about these two people and the ramifications their academic work connotes for the U.S., but you probably won’t encounter such discussions without actively seeking them out. This unawareness poses a problem for our nation because principles of what has been dubbed the Cloward-Piven Strategy are now, according to Judicial Watch, being surreptitiously used to steer our nation towards a most deplorable demise. Read on to learn what the nature and origins of this political stratagem entails.

It was in 1966 that The Nation published an article titled ‘The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty’. Written by two astute political scientists, Richard A. Cloward and Francis F. Piven, the article communicated a proposal to, “advance a strategy which affords the basis for a convergence of civil rights organizations, militant anti-poverty groups and the poor.” However the noble intentions of these authors are debatable as the method of attaining this so called ‘convergence’ of militant associates of the Black Freedom Movement with civil rights activists calls for economically crippling our nation by overloading the welfare system. According to Cloward and Piven, “[i]f this strategy were implemented, a political crisis would result that could lead to legislation for a guaranteed annual income and thus an end to poverty.”

A guaranteed annual income you say? That’s just wonderful! For all or just the poor? Well this superficial language hardly expresses the means by which such an objective would be attained nor the feasibility of its proposed mechanics. The money to support these welfare programs must come from somewhere, and it is highly unlikely that the mega-rich are willing to be recipients of government mediated pocket gouging for forced philanthropy. In other words, those to be heavily taxed would most necessarily consist of middle-class workers, the economic drivers of the nation.

The authors do concede that “some” will contest this proposal with claims that offering job training to the poor to better their standing in terms of economic competition is the better choice than a redistribution of wealth to the masses, but they counter this point with an appeal to sex, stating that a substantial segment of the impoverished are mothers who would be strained to undergo extensive job training. Piven-Cloward also assert that the millions of aged individuals who are poor cannot be helped by such means. I lay these assertions out to make the argument that Cloward-Piven had good points, but sophists intend to persuade by any means.

For some, the Cloward-Piven Strategy can very well be deemed what Richard Poe of www.discoverthenetworks.org termed a ‘Trojan Horse Movement’, “whose outward purpose seems to be providing material help to the downtrodden, but whose real objective is to draft poor people into service as revolutionary foot soldiers; to mobilize poor people en masse to overwhelm government agencies with a flood of demands beyond the capacity of those agencies to meet.” And indeed, in cogitation of the fact that the Piven-Cloward Strategy was influenced by the work Saul Alinsky, a man forever affiliated with revolutionary socialist movements, one can maintain the claim that that is exactly what the strategy is about – not helping the poor. Poe enhances the idea of such an end-game further, writing that, “[t]he flood of demands was calculated to break the budget, jam the bureaucratic gears into gridlock, and bring the system crashing down. Fear, turmoil, violence and economic collapse would accompany such a breakdown — providing perfect conditions for fostering radical change. That was the theory.”

Though The Nation’s article of Cloward-Piven was written back in 1966, we find its implements in effect today. According to Judicial Watch, President Obama signed an order that ultimately coordinated the hiring of some 20 experts of the behavioral and social sciences to comprise a panel of researchers whose objective was to “expand the use of government programs at dozens of agencies”.



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