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.@fordschool – Immigration, Public Policy, and the Skills Debate Panel
George J. Borjas
|George J. Borjas|
|Born||Jorge Jesus Borjas
October 15, 1950
|Institutions||Harvard Kennedy School|
|Alma mater||St. Peter’s College
|Known for||research on immigration|
George Jesus Borjas (born Jorge Jesus Borjas; October 15, 1950) is an American economist and the Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. He is most well known for his advocacy of reducing the rates of immigration to the United States.
Personal life and education
Borjas was born in Havana, Cuba on October 15, 1950. He migrated to the United States in October, 1962 with his mother. He graduated with a B.S. in economics and mathematics from St. Peter’s College in 1971. He then completed his M.A. in economics from Columbia University in 1974. He completed his M.Phil and Ph.D. in economics from Columbia in 1975 for thesis titled Job Investment, Labor Mobility and Earnings.
He is married and has three children.
Borjas became an assistant professor of economics at Queens College, City University of New York from 1975 to 1977. He was a post-doctoral fellow at the Department of Economics, University of Chicago from 1977 to 1978. He was also a Senior Research Analyst, National Bureau of Economic Research from 1972 to 1978.
He joined the faculty at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1980 and remained there for ten years. He then became a professor at the University of California, San Diego from 1990 to 1995. He joined the faculty at Harvard University in 1995.
Borjas was called ‘America’s leading immigration economist’ by BusinessWeek and The Wall Street Journal. He is an influential figure in the debate on immigration and his research on the economic impact of immigration plays a central role in the debate over immigration policy in the United States.
He has written many books and has published more than 100 articles in books and scholarly journals, including the American Economic Review, the Journal of Political Economy, and the Quarterly Journal of Economics. His most recent book is Immigration Economics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014).
Borjas was listed in Who’s Who in the World, Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in Finance and Industry and Who’s Who in Economics. He was elected a fellow of the Econometric Society in 1998 and a fellow of the Society of Labor Economists in 2004. He was also a member of the Council of Economic Advisors for the Governor of California from 1993 to 1998, of the National Academy of Sciences Panel on the Demographic and Economic Impact of Immigration from 1995 to 1997, and chaired the National Science Foundation’s Committee of Visitors for the Economics Program in 1996.
The following are the books published by Borjas.
- Wage Policy in the Federal Bureaucracy (American Enterprise Institute, 1980)
- Friends or Strangers: The Impact of Immigrants on the U.S. Economy (Basic Books, 1990)
- Labor Economics (McGraw-Hill, 1996; 2nd Edition, 2000, 3rd edition, 2005, 4th edition, 2008, 5th edition, 2010,)
- Heaven’s Door: Immigration Policy and the American Economy (Princeton University Press, 1999)
- Davis, Bob (April 26, 1996). “Despite His Heritage, Prominent Economist Backs Immigration Cut”. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2008-06-30.[dead link]
- “Biography of George J. Borjas”. Harvard University. Retrieved 2008-06-30.[dead link]
- “Curriculum Vitae of George J. Borjas” (pdf). Harvard University. Retrieved 2008-06-30.
- George Borjas Named Co-Winner of 2011 IZA Prize in Labor Economics Harvard Kennedy School, July 21, 2011. Retrieved December 1, 2012
- Website of George J. Borjas
- The Borjas Blog
- Interview with George J. Borjas, Barcelona Metropolis, Winter 2009.
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The Kurdish people are an Indo-European ethnic group, whose origins are in the Middle East. They are the largest ethnic group in the world that do not have a state of their own. The region of Kurdistan, the original geographic region of the Kurdish people and the home to the majority of Kurds today, covers contemporary Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria. This geo-cultural region means “Land of the Kurds”. Kurdish populations occupy the territory in and around the Zagros mountains. These arid unwelcoming mountains have been a geographic buffer to cultural and political dominance from neighboring empires. Persians,Arabs and Ottomans were kept away, and a space was carved out to develop Kurdish culture, language and identity.
According to a report by Turkish agency KONDA, in 2006, out of the total population of 73 million people in Turkey there were 11.4 million Kurds and Zazas living in Turkey (close to 15.68% of the total population).The Turkish newspaper Milliyet has reported in 2008 that the Kurdish population in Turkey is 12.6 million; although this also includes 3 million Zazas. According to the World Factbook, Kurdish people make up 18% of Turkey’s population (about 14 million, out of 77.8 million people). Kurdish sources put the figure at 20 to 25 million Kurds in Turkey.
Kurds mostly live in southeastern and eastern parts of Anatolia. But large Kurdish populations can be found in western Turkey due to internal migration. According to Rüstem Erkan, Istanbul is the province with the largest Kurdish population in Turkey.
From the 7 million Iranian Kurds, a significant portion are Shia. Shia Kurds inhabit Kermanshah Province, except for those parts where people are Jaff, and Ilam Province; as well as some parts of Kurdistan,Hamadan and Zanjan provinces. The Kurds of Khorasan Province in northeastern Iran are also adherents of Shia Islam. During the Shia revolution in Iran the major Kurdish political parties were unsuccessful in absorbing Shia Kurds, who at that period had no interest in autonomy. However, since the 1990s Kurdish nationalism has seeped into the Shia Kurdish area partly due to outrage against government’s violent suppression of Kurds farther north.
Kurds constitute approximately 17% of Iraq’s population. They are the majority in at least three provinces in northern Iraq which are together known as Iraqi Kurdistan. Kurds also have a presence in Kirkuk, Mosul,Khanaqin, and Baghdad. Around 300,000 Kurds live in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, 50,000 in the city of Mosul and around 100,000 elsewhere in southern Iraq.
Kurds led by Mustafa Barzani were engaged in heavy fighting against successive Iraqi regimes from 1960 to 1975. In March 1970, Iraq announced a peace plan providing for Kurdish autonomy. The plan was to be implemented in four years. However, at the same time, the Iraqi regime started an Arabization program in the oil-rich regions of Kirkuk and Khanaqin. The peace agreement did not last long, and in 1974, the Iraqi government began a new offensive against the Kurds. Moreover in March 1975, Iraq and Iran signed the Algiers Accord, according to which Iran cut supplies to Iraqi Kurds. Iraq started another wave of Arabization by moving Arabs to the oil fields in Kurdistan, particularly those around Kirkuk. Between 1975 and 1978, 200,000 Kurds were deported to other parts of Iraq.
Syrian Kurdistan is an unofficial name used by some to describe the Kurdish inhabited regions of northern and northeastern Syria. The northeastern Kurdish inhabited region covers the greater part of Hasakah Governorate. The main cities in this region are Qamishli and Hasakah. Another region with significant Kurdish population is Kobanê (Ayn al-Arab) in the northern part of Syria near the town of Jarabulus and also the city of Afrin and its surroundings along the Turkish border.
Many Kurds seek political autonomy for the Kurdish inhabited areas of Syria, similar to Iraqi Kurdistan in Iraq, or outright independence as part of Kurdistan. The name “Western Kurdistan” (Kurdish: Rojavayê Kurdistanê) is also used by Kurds to name the Syrian Kurdish inhabited areas in relation to Kurdistan. Since the Syrian civil war, Syrian government forces have abandoned many Kurdish-populated areas, leaving the Kurds to fill the power vacuum and govern these areas autonomously.
According to the 2011 Armenian Census, 37,470 Kurds live in Armenia, mainly Yazidi. They mainly live in the western parts of Armenia. The Kurds of the former Soviet Union first began writing Kurdish in the Armenian alphabet in the 1920s, followed by Latin in 1927, then Cyrillic in 1945, and now in both Cyrillic and Latin. The Kurds in Armenia established a Kurdish radio broadcast from Yerevan and the first Kurdish newspaper Riya Teze. There is a Kurdish Department in the Yerevan State Institute of Oriental studies. The Kurds of Armenia were the first exiled country to have access to media such as radio, education and press in their native tongue but many Kurds, from 1939 to 1959 were listed as the Azeri population or even as Armenians.
According to the 2000 Georgian Census, 20,843 Kurds live in Georgia. The Kurds in Georgia mainly live in the capital of Tbilisi and Rustavi. According to a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugeesrerport from 1998, about 80% of the Kurdish population in Georgia are Yazidi Kurds.
According to the 2010 Russian Census, 63,818 Kurds live in Russia. Russia has maintained warm relations with the Kurds for a long time, During the early 19th century, the main goal of the Russian Empire was to ensure the neutrality of the Kurds, in the wars against Persia and the Ottoman Empire. In the beginning of the 19th century, Kurds settled in Transcaucasia, at a time when Transcaucasia was incorporated into the Russian Empire. In the 20th century, Kurds were persecuted and exterminated by the Turks and Persians, a situation that led Kurds to move to Russia.
The existence of a community of at least 100,000 Kurds is the product of several waves of immigrants, the first major wave was in the period of 1925-1950 when thousands of Kurds fled violence and poverty in Turkey. Kurds in Lebanon go back far as the twelfth century A.D. when the Ayyubids arrived there. Over the next few centuries, several other Kurdish families were sent to Lebanon by a number of powers to maintain rule in those regions, others moved as a result of poverty and violence in Kurdistan. These Kurdish groups settled in and ruled many areas of Lebanon for a long period of time.:27 Kurds of Lebanon settled in Lebanon because of Lebanon’s pluralistic society.
The Kurdish diaspora in Western Europe is most significant in Germany, France, Sweden and the UK. Kurds from Turkey went to Germany and France during the 1960s as immigrant workers. Thousands of Kurdish refugees and political refugees fled from Turkey to Sweden during the 1970s and onward, and from Iraq during the 1980s and 1990s.
In France, the Iranian Kurds make up the majority of the community. However, thousands of Iraqi Kurds also arrived in the mid 1990s. More recently, Syrian Kurds have been entering France illegally
In the United Kingdom, Kurds first began to immigrate between 1974-75 when the rebellion of Iraqi Kurds against the Iraqi government was repressed. The Iraqi government began to destroy Kurdish villages and forced many Kurds to move to barren land in the south. These events resulted in many Kurds fleeing to the United Kingdom. Thus, the Iraqi Kurds make up a large part of the community. In 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in Iran and installed Islamic law. There was widespread political oppression and persecution of the Kurdish community. Since the late 1970s the number of people from Iran seeking asylum in Britain has remained high. In 1988, Saddam Hussein launched the Anfal campaign in the northern Iraq. This included mass executions and disappearances of the Kurdish community. The use of chemical weapons against thousands of towns and villages in the region, as well as the town of Halabja increased the number of Iraq Kurds entering the United Kingdom. A large number of Kurds also came to the United Kingdom following the 1980 military coup in Turkey. More recently, immigration has been due to the continued political oppression and the repression of ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq and Iran. Estimates of the Kurdish population in the United Kingdom are as high as 200-250,000.
In Finland, most Kurds arrived in the 1990s as Iraqi refugees. Kurds in Finland have no great attachment to the Iraqi state because of their position as a persecuted minority. Thus, they feel more accepted and comfortable in Finland, many wanting to get rid of their Iraqi citizenship.
In the United States, it is believed that the Kurdish population is approximately 58,000, the large majority of which come from Iran. It is estimated that some 23,000 Iranian Kurds are living in the United States.During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, about 10,000 Iraqi refugees were admitted to the United States, most of which were Kurds and Shiites who had assisted or were sympathisers of the U.S –led war. Nashville, Tennessee has the nation’s largest population of Kurdish people, with an estimated 8,000-11,000. There are also Kurds in Southern California, Los Angeles, and San Diego.
In Canada, Kurdish immigration was largely the result of the Iran-Iraq War and the Gulf War. Thus, many Iraqi Kurds immigrated to Canada due to the constant wars and suppression of Kurds and Shiites by the Iraqi government.
In Australia, Kurdish migrants first arrived in the second half of the 1960s, mainly from Turkey. However, in the late 1970s families from Syria and Lebanon were also present in Australia. Since the second half of the 1980s, the majority of Kurds arriving in Australia have been from Iraq and Iran; many of them were accepted under the Humanitarian Programme. However, Kurds from Lebanon, Armenia and Georgia have also migrated to Australia. The majority live in Melbourne and Sydney.
Statistics by country
Traditional areas of Kurdish settlement
|Country||Official figures||Official figures in %||Current est. Kurdish population||Further information|
|Turkey||2,819,727 (1965 census, Kurdish speakers)a||8.98%||13,261,000 (18.3%)e||Kurds in Turkey|
|Iran||N/A||N/A||approx. 6,500,000||Kurds in Iran|
|Iraq||N/A||N/A||approx. 5,000,000||Kurds in Iraq|
|Syria||N/A||N/A||approx. 2,200,000||Kurds in Syria|
|Armenia||37,470 (2011 census)d||1.24%||—||Kurds in Armenia|
|Country||Official figures||Official figures in %||Current est. Kurdish population||Further information|
|Israel||N/A||N/A||approx. 150,000||Kurds in Israel|
|Sweden||N/A||N/A||approx. 90,000||Kurds in Sweden|
|Lebanon||N/A||N/A||approx. 80,000||Kurds in Lebanon|
|United Kingdom||49,921 (2011 census)||0.08%||—||Kurds in the United Kingdom
|Kazakhstan||41,431 (2013 annual statistics)||0.25%||—||Kurds in Kazakhstan|
|Jordan||N/A||N/A||30,000–100,000||Kurds in Jordan|
|United States||15,361 (2006-2010 ACS)||0.01%||—||Kurds in the United States
|Switzerland||14,699 (2012 statistics, Kurdish speakers)||0.22%||N/A||—|
|Kyrgyzstan||13,171 (2009 census)||0.25%||—|
|Canada||11,685 (2011 census)||0.04%||—||
|Finland||10,075 (2013 annual statistics, Kurdish speakers)||0.18%||—||
|Australia||6,991 (2011 census)
4,586 (2011 census, Kurdish speakers)
|Turkmenistan||6,097 (1995 census)||0.14%||—||Kurds in Turkmenistan|
|Austria||2,133 (2001 census, Kurdish speakers)||0.03%||N/A||—|
|Ukraine||2,088 (2001 census)||0%||—||
|Uzbekistan||1,839 (1989 census)||0.01%||—||—|
|Ireland||128 (2011 census)||0%||1,500||—|
|New Zealand||720 (2013 census)
828 (2013 census, Kurdish speakers)
|Japan||N/A||N/A||300–400||Kurds in Japan|
|Poland||224 (2011 census)||0%||—||—|
|Hungary||149 (2011 census)||0%||—||—|
|Bulgaria||147 (2011 census)||0%||—||—|
|Moldova||9 (1989 census)
132 (Immigrants 1993-2013)
|Czech Republic||100 (2011 census)||0%||—||—|
|Belarus||81 (2009 census)||0%||—||—|
|Abkhazia||29 (1989 census)||0.01%||—||—|
|Latvia||29 (2014 annual statistics)||0%||—||—|
|Estonia||23 (2011 census)||0%||—||—|
|Serbia||<12 (2011 census)||0%||—||—|
|Lithuania||<10 (2011 census)||0%||—||—|
|Croatia||8 (2011 census)||0%||—||—|
|Tajikistan||7 (2010 census)||0%||—||—|
|South Ossetia||1 (1989 census)||0%||—||—|
- ^a According to the Turkish 1965 census, 2,219,502 people indicated Kurdish as their mother language and 429,168 as their second best language spoken. 150,644 people indicated Zaza as their mother language and 20,413 as their second best language spoken.
- ^b Official Azerbaijani records claim only 6,073 Kurds in 2009, while Kurdish leaders estimate as much as 200,000. The problem is that the historical record of the Kurds in Azerbaijan is filled with lacunae.For instance, in 1979 there was according to the census no Kurds recorded. Not only did Turkey and Azerbaijan pursue an identical policy against the Kurds, they even employed identical techniques like forced assimilation, manipulation of population figures, settlement of non-Kurds in areas predominantly Kurdish, suppression of publications and abolition of Kurdish as a medium of instruction in schools.
- ^c In the 2010 Russian Census, 23,232 people indicated Kurdish (Курды) as their ethnicity, while 40,586 chose Yazidi (Езиды) as their ethnicity.
- ^d In the 2011 Armenian Census, 2,131 people indicated Kurdish (Քրդեր) as their ethnicity, while 35,272 indicated Yazidi (Եզդիներ) as their ethnicity.
- ^e 2006 Konda survey.
- The Kurdish people, or Kurds (Kurdish: کورد, Kurd), are an ethnic group in Western Asia, mostly inhabiting a region known as Kurdistan, which includes adjacent parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.They are an Iranian people and speak the Kurdish languages, which are members of the Iranian branch of Indo-European languages. The Kurds number about 30 million, the majority living in West Asia, with significant Kurdish diaspora communities in the cities of western Turkey, in Armenia, Georgia, Israel, Azerbaijan, Russia, Lebanon and, in recent decades, some European countries and the United States.
The Kurds have had partial autonomy in Iraqi Kurdistan since 1991. Nationalist movements in the other Kurdish-populated countries (Turkey, Syria, Iran) push for Kurdish regional autonomy or the creation of a sovereign state.
The exact origins of the name “Kurd” are unclear. Though it is believed that the term precedes the formation of the ethnic group by centuries or even millennia.
G.S. Reynolds believes that the term Kurd is most likely related to the ancient term Qardu. The common root of Kurd and Qardu is first mentioned in a Sumeriantablet from the third millennium BC as the “land of Kar-da.” Similarly, Hennerbichler believes the term Kurd and similar ethnic labels to have been derived from the Sumerian word stem “kur”, meaning mountain.
The term Qardu however, appears in Assyrian sources, where it refers to the contemporary Mount Judi, and which derived its name from the people inhabiting the region, the Carduchi, mentioned by Xenophon as the tribe who opposed the retreat of the Ten Thousand through the mountains north of Mesopotamia in the 4th century BC. However, according to G. Asatrian, the most reasonable explanation of the ethnonym is its possible connections with the Cyrtii (Cyrtaei).
The word Kurd was first written in sources in the form of Kurt(kwrt-) in the Middle Persian treatise (Karnamak Ardashir Papakan and the Matadakan i Hazar Dastan), used to describe a social group or tribes that existed before the development of the modern ethnic nation. The term was adopted by Arabic writers of the early Islamic era and gradually became associated with an amalgamation of Iranian and Iranicized nomadic tribes and groups in the region Sherefxan Bidlisi states that there are four division of Kurds: Kurmanj, Lur, Kalhor and Guran, each of which speak a different dialect or language variation. Of these, according to Ludwig Paul, only Kurmanji and possibly the Kalhuri correspond to the Kurdish language, while Luri and Gurani are linguistically distinct. Nonetheless, Ludwig writes that linguistics does not provide a definition for when a language becomes a dialect, and thus, non-linguistic factors contribute to the ethnic unity of some of the said groups, namely the Kurmanj, Kalhur, and Guran.
LanguageMain article: Kurdish languages
The Kurdish language (Kurdish: Kurdî or کوردی) refers collectively to the related dialects spoken by the Kurds. It is mainly spoken in those parts of Iran, Iraq,Syria and Turkey which comprise Kurdistan. Kurdish holds official status in Iraq as a national language alongside Arabic, is recognized in Iran as a regional language, and in Armenia as a minority language.
Most Kurds are either bilingual or multilingual, speaking the language of their respective nation of origin, such as Arabic, Persian, and Turkish as a second language alongside their native Kurdish, while those in diaspora communities often speak 3 or more languages. Kurdish Jews and some Kurdish Christians (not be confused with ethnic Assyrians) usually speak Aramaic (for example: Lishana Deni) as their first language. Aramaic is a Semitic language related to Hebrew andArabic rather than Kurdish.
The Kurdish dialects according to Mackenzie are classified as:
- Northern group (The Kurmanji dialect group.)
- Central group (Part of the Sorani dialect group)
- Southern group (Part of the Sorani dialect group) including Kermanshahi, Ardalani and Laki
Commenting on the differences between the dialects of Kurdish, Kreyenbroek clarifies that in some ways, Kurmanji and Sorani are as different from each other as English and German, giving the example that Kurmanji has grammatical gender and case endings, but Sorani does not, and observing that referring to Sorani and Kurmanji as “dialects” of one language is supported only by “their common origin…and the fact that this usage reflects the sense of ethnic identity and unity of the Kurds.”
PopulationMain article: Kurdish population
The number of Kurds living in Southwest Asia is estimated at 26-34 million, with another one or two million living in diaspora. Kurds are the fourth largest ethnicity in Western Asia after the Arabs, Persians, and Turks.
Kurds comprise anywhere from 18% to 25% of the population in Turkey, 15-20% in Iraq, 9% in Syria, 7% in Iran and 1.3% in Armenia. In all of these countries except Iran, Kurds form the second largest ethnic group. Roughly 55% of the world’s Kurds live in Turkey, about 18% each in Iran and Iraq, and a bit over 5% in Syria.
McDowall has estimated that in 1991 the Kurds comprised 19% of the population in Turkey, 23% in Iraq, 10% in Iran, and 8% in Syria. The total number of Kurds in 1991 was in this estimate placed at 22.5 million, with 48% of this number living in Turkey, 18% in Iraq, 24% in Iran, and 4% in Syria.
HistoryMain article: History of the Kurdish people
The Kurds as an ethnic group appear in the medieval period. The Kurdish people are believed to be of heterogenous origins combining a number of earlier tribal or ethnic groups including Median, Lullubi, Guti, Cyrtians, Carduchi. They have also absorbed some elements from Semitic,Turkic and Armenian people. According to J.P. Mallory, the original Gutians precede the arrival of Indo-Iranian peoples (of which the Kurds are one) by some 1500 years. This argument is seconded by F. Hennerbichlers theory which reassigns the ethnic Iranian origin of Kurds (traditionally considered Indo-European) to a people of predominantly unknown ancient Middle Eastern stock, in particular to indigenous Neolithic Northern Fertile Crescent aborigines. This hypothesis is supported by the tentative linguistic identification of Kurds as a people “Iranianized in several waves by militarily organized elites of immigrants from Central Asia”, tentatively ascribing it to carriers of the Y-Dna haplogroup R1a1.
Additionally Minorsky states that there is an “ethno-geographical identification” of present day Kurds as descendent of ancient Medes, an idea based on his “historical, linguistic, and philological” arguments. This was further advanced by I. Gershevitch who provided first “a piece of linguistic confirmation” of Minorsky’s identification and then another “sociolinguistic” argument. Those works of Minorsky were the base of yet another and different approach by Mackenzie. He argued that in contrast to Minorsky (and precisely Gershevitch’s advancement) the evolution of the present day Kurdish language as a Northwestern Iranian language was to “lean more toward Persian” and in turn “marked off from Median”. These disagreements of scholars caused bitter reactions. Dandamaev considers Carduchi (who were from the upper Tigris near the Assyrian and Median borders) less likely than Cyrtians as ancestors of modern Kurds. However according to McDowall, the term Cyrtii was first applied to Seleucid or Parthian mercenary slingers from Zagros, and it is not clear if it denoted a coherent linguistic or ethnic group. Gershevitch and Fisher consider the independent Kardouchoi or Carduchi as the ancestors of the Kurds, or at least the original nucleus of the Iranian-speaking people in what is now Kurdistan.
There are multiple legends that detail the origins of the Kurds. One details the Kurds as being the descendants of King Solomon’s angelic servants (Djinn). These were sent to Europe to bring him five-hundred beautiful maidens, for the king’s harem. However, when these had done so and returned to Israel the king had already passed away. As such, the Djinn settled in the mountains, married the women themselves, and their offspring came to be known as the Kurds.
Additionally, in the legend of Newroz, an evil Assyrian king named Zahak, who had two snakes growing out of his shoulders, had conquered Iran, and terrorized its subjects; demanding daily sacrifices in the form of young men’s brains. Unknowingly to Zahak, the cooks of the palace saved one of the men, and mixed the brains of the other with those of a sheep. The men that were saved were told to flee to the mountains. Hereafter, Kaveh the Blacksmith, who had already lost several of his children to Zahak, trained the men in the mountains, and stormed Zahak’s palace, severing the heads of the snakes and killing the tyrannical king. Kaveh was instilled as the new king, and his followers formed the beginning of the Kurdish people.
In the writings of the Ottoman Turkish traveller Evliya Çelebi, there’s also a legend concerning the Kurds to be found. He states to have learned of this legend from a certainMighdisî, an Armenian historian:
“ According to the chronicler Mighdisî, the first town to be built after Noah’s Flood was the town of Judi, followed by the fortresses of Sinjar and Mifariqin. The town of Judi was ruled by Melik Kürdim of the Prophet Noah’s community, a man who lived no less than 600 years and who travelled the length and width of Kurdistan. Coming to Mifariqin he liked its climate and settled there, begetting many children and descendants. He invented a language of his own, independent of Hebrew. It is neither Hebrew nor Arabic, Farsi, Dari or Pahlavi; they still call it the language of Kürdim. So the Kurdish language, which was invented in Mifariqin and is now used throughout Kurdistan, owes its name to Melik Kürdim of the community of the Prophet Noah. Because Kurdistan is an endless stony stretch of mountains, there are no less than twelve varieties of Kurdish, differing from one another in pronunciation and vocabulary, so that they often have to use interpreters to understand one another’s words. ”
The first attestation of the Kurds was during the time of rule of the Sassanids. In the Kar-Namag i Ardashir i Pabagan, a short prose work written in Middle Persian, Ardashir I is depicted as having battled the Kurds and their leader, Madig. After initially sustaining a heavy defeat, Ardashir I was successful in subjugating the Kurds. In a letter Ardashir I received from his foe, Ardavan V, which is also featured in the same work, he’s referred to as being a Kurd himself.
- You’ve bitten off more than you can chew
- and you have brought death to yourself.
- O son of a Kurd, raised in the tents of the Kurds,
- who gave you permission to put a crown on your head?
The usage of the term Kurd during this time period most likely was a social term, designating Iranian nomads, rather than a concrete ethnic group. At least one author believes Ardashir I to have actually descended from a Kurdish tribe.
Similarly, in 360 CE, the Sassanid king Shapur II marched into the Roman province Zabdicene, to conquer its chief city, Bezabde, present-day Cizre. He found it heavily fortified, and guarded by three legions and a large body of Kurdish archers. After a long and hard-fought siege, Shapur II breached the walls, conquered the city and massacred all its defenders. Hereafter he had the strategically located city repaired, provisioned and garrisoned with his best troops.
There is also a 7th-century text by an unidentified author, written about the legendary Christian martyr Mar Qardagh. He lived in the 4th century, during the reign of Shapur II, and during his travels is said to have encountered Mar Abdisho, a deacon and martyr, who, after having been questioned of his origins by Mar Qardagh and his Marzobans, stated that his parents were originally from an Assyrian village called Hazza, but were driven out and subsequently settled in Tamanon, a village in the land of the Kurds, identified as being in the region of Mount Judi.
In the early Middle Ages, the Kurds sporadically appear in Arabic sources, though the term was still not being used for a specific people; instead it referred to an amalgam of nomadic western Iranic tribes, who were distinct from Persians. However, in the High Middle Ages, the Kurdish ethnic identity gradually materialized, as one can find clear evidence of the Kurdish ethnic identity and solidarity in texts of the 12th and 13th century, though, the term was also still being used in the social sense.
Al-Tabari wrote that in 639, Hormuzan, a Sasanian general originating from a noble family, battled against the Islamic invaders in Khuzestan, and called upon the Kurds to aid him in battle. They were defeated however, and brought under Islamic rule.
In 838, a Kurdish leader based in Mosul, named Mir Jafar, revolted against the Caliph Al-Mu’tasim who sent the commander Itakh to combat him. Itakh won this war and executed many of the Kurds. Eventually Arabs conquered the Kurdish regions and gradually converted the majority of Kurds to Islam, often incorporating them into the military, such as the Hamdanids whose dynastic family members also frequently intermarried with Kurds.
In 934 the Daylamite Buyid dynasty was founded, and subsequently conquered most of present-day Iran and Iraq. During the time of rule of this dynasty, Kurdish chief and ruler, Badr ibn Hasanwaih, established himself as one of the most important emirs of the time.
In the 10th-12th centuries, a number of Kurdish principalities and dynasties were founded, ruling Kurdistan and neighbouring areas:
- The Shaddadid (951–1174) ruled parts of present-day Armenia and Arran.
- The Rawadid (955–1221) ruled Azerbaijan.
- The Hasanwayhids (959–1015) ruled western Iran and upper Mesopotamia.
- The Marwanids (990–1096) ruled eastern Anatolia.
- The Annazids (990–1117) ruled western Iran and upper Mesopotamia (succeeded the Hasanwayhids).
- The Kakuyids (1008–1051) ruled Isfahan, Yazd and Abarkuh.
- The Hazaraspids (1148–1424) ruled southwestern Iran.
- The Ayyubids (1171–1341) ruled parts of southeastern Anatolia, the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa.
Due to the Turkic invasion of Anatolia, the 11th century Kurdish dynasties crumbled and became incorporated into the Seljuk Dynasty. Kurds would hereafter be used in great numbers in the armies of theZengids. Succeeding the Zengids, the Kurdish Ayyubids established themselves in 1171, first under the leadership of Saladin. Saladin led the Muslims to recapture the city of Jerusalem from the Crusaders at theBattle of Hattin; also frequently clashing with the Hashashins. The Ayyubid dynasty lasted until 1341 when the Ayyubid sultanate fell to Mongolian invasions.
The Safavid Dynasty, established in 1501, also established its rule over Kurdish territories. The paternal line of this family actually had Kurdish roots, tracing back to Firuz-Shah Zarrin-Kolah, a dignitary who moved from Kurdistan to Ardabil in the 11th century.
Nevertheless, the Kurds would revolt several times against the Safavids. Shah Ismail I put down a Yezidi rebellion which went on from 1506-1510. A century later, the year-long Battle of Dimdim took place, wherein Shah Abbas I succeeded in putting down the rebellion led by Amir Khan Lepzerin. Hereafter, a large number of Kurds was deported to Khorasan, not only to weaken the Kurds, but also to protect the eastern border from invading Afghan and Turkmen tribes. Others migrated to Afghanistan where they took refuge. Kurds were found in great numbers at the slave markets of Khiva and Bukhara, being sold by the Turkmens. The Kurds of Khorasan, numbering around 700,000, still use the Kurmanji Kurdish dialect.
After the fall of the Safavids, Iran fell into civil war, with multiple leaders trying to gain control over the country. Ultimately, it was Karim Khan, a Laki general of the Zand tribe (perhaps of Kurdish origin) One of the contenders for power was Karim Khan Zand, a member of the Lak tribe near Shiraz. who proved to be superiour, and became ruler of Iran with the exception of the Khorasan region.
The country would flourish during Karim Khan’s reign; a strong resurgence of the arts would take place, the economy was restored and international ties were strengthened. Karim Khan was portrayed as being a ruler who truly cared about his subjects, thereby gaining the title Vakil e-Ra’aayaa (Representative of the People).
After Karim Khan’s death, the dynasty would decline in favor of the rivaling Qajars due to infighting between the Khan’s incompetent offspring. It wasn’t until Lotf Ali Khan, 10 years later, that the dynasty would once again be led by an adept ruler. By this time however, the Qajars had already progressed greatly, having taken a number of Zand territories. Lotf Ali Khan made multiple successes before ultimately succumbing to the rivaling faction. Iran and all its Kurdish territories would hereby be incorporated in the Qajar Dynasty.
Ottoman periodFurther information: Sheik Ubeydullah
When Sultan Selim I, after defeating Shah Ismail I in 1514, annexed Armenia and Kurdistan, he entrusted the organisation of the conquered territories to Idris, the historian, who was a Kurd of Bitlis. He divided the territory into sanjaks or districts, and, making no attempt to interfere with the principle of heredity, installed the local chiefs as governors. He also resettled the rich pastoral country between Erzerum and Erivan, which had lain in waste since the passage of Timur, with Kurds from the Hakkari and Bohtan districts.
The Ottoman centralist policies in the beginning of the 19th century aimed to remove power from the principalities and localities, which directly affected the Kurdish emirs. Bedirhan Bey was the last emir of the Cizre Bohtan Emirate after initiating an uprising in 1847 against the Ottomans to protect the current structures of the Kurdish principalities. Although his uprising is not classified as a nationalist one, his children played significant roles in the emergence and the development of Kurdish nationalism through the next century.
The first modern Kurdish nationalist movement emerged in 1880 with an uprising led by a Kurdish landowner and head of the powerful Shemdinan family, Sheik Ubeydullah, who demanded political autonomy or outright independence for Kurds as well as the recognition of a Kurdistan state without interference from Turkish or Persian authorities. The uprising against Qajar Persia and the Ottoman Empire was ultimately suppressed by the Ottomans and Ubeydullah, along with other notables, were exiled to Istanbul.
20th centuryFurther information: Kurdish nationalism, Rise of nationalism under the Ottoman Empire and Iraqi Kurdistan
Kurdish nationalism emerged after World War I with the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire which had historically successfully integrated (but not assimilated) the Kurds, through use of forced repression of Kurdish movements to gain independence. Revolts did occur sporadically but only in 1880 with the uprising led by Sheik Ubeydullah were demands as an ethnic group or nation made. Ottoman sultan Abdul Hamid responded by a campaign of integration by co-opting prominent Kurdish opponents to strong Ottoman power with prestigious positions in his government. This strategy appears successful given the loyalty displayed by the Kurdish Hamidiye regiments during World War I.
The Kurdish ethnonationalist movement that emerged following World War I and end of the Ottoman empire was largely reactionary to the changes taking place in mainstream Turkey, primarily radical secularization which the strongly Muslim Kurds abhorred, centralization of authority which threatened the power of local chieftains and Kurdish autonomy, and rampant Turkish nationalism in the new Turkish Republic which obviously threatened to marginalize them.
Jakob Künzler, head of a missionary hospital in Urfa, has documented the large scale ethnic cleansing of both Armenians and Kurds by the Young Turks during World War I. He has given a detailed account of deportation of Kurds from Erzurum and Bitlis in winter of 1916. The Kurds were perceived to be subversive elements that would take the Russian side in the war. In order to eliminate this threat, Young Turks embarked on a large scale deportation of Kurds from the regions of Djabachdjur, Palu, Musch, Erzurum and Bitlis. Around 300,000 Kurds were forced to move southwards to Urfa and then westwards to Aintab and Marasch. In the summer of 1917, Kurds were moved to the Konya region in central Anatolia. Through this measures, the Young Turk leaders aimed at eliminating the Kurds by deporting them from their ancestral lands and by dispersing them in small pockets of exiled communities. By the end of World War I, up to 700,000 Kurds were forcibly deported and almost half of the displaced perished.
Some of the Kurdish groups sought self-determination and the championing in the Treaty of Sèvres of Kurdish autonomy in the aftermath of World War I, Kemal Atatürk prevented such a result. Kurds backed by the United Kingdom declared independence in 1927 and established so-called Republic of Ararat. Turkey suppressed Kurdist revolts in 1925, 1930, and 1937–1938, while Iran did the same in the 1920s to Simko Shikak at Lake Urmia and Jaafar Sultan of Hewraman region who controlled the region betweenMarivan and north of Halabja. A short-lived Soviet-sponsored Kurdish Republic of Mahabad in Iran did not long outlast World War II.
From 1922–1924 in Iraq a Kingdom of Kurdistan existed. When Ba’athist administrators thwarted Kurdish nationalist ambitions in Iraq, war broke out in the 1960s. In 1970 the Kurds rejected limited territorial self-rule within Iraq, demanding larger areas including the oil-richKirkuk region.
During the 1920s and 1930s, several large scale Kurdish revolts took place in Kurdistan Following these rebellions, the area of Turkish Kurdistan was put under martial law and a large number of the Kurds were displaced. Government also encouraged resettlement of Albanians from Kosovo and Assyrians in the region to change the population makeup. These events and measures led to a long-lasting mutual distrust between Ankara and the Kurds . During the relatively open government of the 1950s, Kurds gained political office and started working within the framework of the Turkish Republic to further their interests but this move towards integration was halted with the 1960 Turkish coup d’état. The 1970s saw an evolution in Kurdish nationalism as Marxist political thought influenced a new generation of Kurdish nationalists opposed to the localfeudal authorities who had been a traditional source of opposition to authority, eventually they would form the militant separatist PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by the United Nations, European Union, NATO and many states that includes United States), or Kurdistan Workers Party in English.
Kurds are often regarded as “the largest ethnic group without a state”, although larger stateless nations exist. Such periphrasis is rejected by leading Kurdologists like Martin van Bruinessen and other scholars who agree that claim obscures Kurdish cultural, social, political and ideological heterogeneity.Michael Radu argues such meaningless claims mostly come from Western human rights militants, leftists and Kurdish nationalists in Europe.
TurkeyMain articles: Kurds in Turkey, Turkish Kurdistan, Human rights in Turkey, Kurdistan Workers Party and Human rights of Kurdish people in Turkey
According to CIA Factbook, Kurds formed approximately 18% of the population in Turkey (approximately 14 million) in 2008. One Western source estimates that up to 25% of the Turkish population is Kurdish (approximately 18-19 million people). Kurdish sources claim there are as many as 20 or 25 million Kurds in Turkey. In 1980, Ethnologue estimated the number of Kurdish-speakers in Turkey at around five million, when the country’s population stood at 44 million. Kurds form the largest minority group in Turkey, and they have posed the most serious and persistent challenge to the official image of a homogeneous society. This classification was changed to the new euphemism of Eastern Turk in 1980.
Several large scale Kurdish revolts in 1925, 1930 and 1938 were suppressed by the Turkish government and more than one million Kurds were forcibly relocated between 1925 and 1938. The use of Kurdish language, dress, folklore, and names were banned and the Kurdish-inhabited areas remained under martial law until 1946. The Ararat revolt, which reached its apex in 1930, was only suppressed after a massive military campaign including destruction of many villages and their populations. In quelling the revolt, Turkey was assisted by the close cooperation of its neighboring states such as Soviet Union, Iran and Iraq. The revolt was organized by a Kurdish party called Khoybun which signed a treaty with the Dashnaksutyun (Armenian Revolutionary Federation) in 1927. By the 1970s, Kurdish leftist organizations such as Kurdistan Socialist Party-Turkey (KSP-T) emerged in Turkey which were against violence and supported civil activities and participation in elections. In 1977, Mehdi Zana a supporter of KSP-T won the mayoralty of Diyarbakir in the local elections. At about the same time, generational fissures gave birth to two new organizations: the National Liberation of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Workers Party.
The Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan (PKK), also known as KADEK and Kongra-Gel, is considered by the US, the EU, and NATO to be a terrorist organization. It is an ethnicsecessionist organization using violence for the purpose of achieving its goal of creating an independent Kurdish state in parts of southeastern Turkey, northeastern Iraq, northeastern Syria and northwestern Iran.
Between 1984 and 1999, the PKK and the Turkish military engaged in open war, and much of the countryside in the southeast was depopulated, as Kurdish civilians moved to local defensible centers such as Diyarbakır, Van, and Şırnak, as well as to the cities of western Turkey and even to western Europe. The causes of the depopulation included PKK atrocities against Kurdish clans they could not control, the poverty of the southeast, and the Turkish state’s military operations. State actions also included forced inscription, forced evacuation, destruction of villages, severe harassment and extrajudicial executions.
Leyla Zana, the first Kurdish female MP from Diyarbakir, caused an uproar in Turkish Parliament after adding the following sentence inKurdish to her parliamentary oath during the swearing-in ceremony in 1994:
I take this oath for the brotherhood of the Turkish and Kurdish peoples. —
In March 1994, the Turkish Parliament voted to lift the immunity of Zana and five other Kurdish DEP members: Hatip Dicle, Ahmet Turk, Sirri Sakik, Orhan Dogan and Selim Sadak. Zana, Dicle, Sadak and Dogan were sentenced to 15 years in jail by the Supreme Court in October 1995. Zana was awarded the Sakharov Prize for human rights by theEuropean Parliament in 1995. She was released in 2004 amid warnings from European institutions that the continued imprisonment of the four Kurdish MPs would affect Turkey’s bid to join the EU. The 2009 local elections resulted in 5.7% for Kurdish political party DTP.
Officially protected death squads are accused of disappearance of 3,200 Kurds and Assyrians in 1993 and 1994 in the so-called mystery killings. Kurdish politicians, human-rights activists, journalists, teachers and other members of intelligentsia were among the victims. Virtually none of the perpetrators were investigated nor punished. Turkish government also encouraged Islamic extremist group Hezbollah to assassinate suspected PKK members and often ordinary Kurds. Azimet Köylüoğlu, the state minister of human rights, revealed the extent of security forces’ excesses in autumn 1994: While acts of terrorism in other regions are done by the PKK; in Tunceli it is state terrorism. In Tunceli, it is the state that is evacuating and burning villages. In the southeast there are two million people left homeless.
The Kurdish region of Iran has been a part of the country since ancient times. Nearly all Kurdistan was part of Iranian Empire until its Western part was lost during wars against the Ottoman Empire. Following dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, at Paris Conferences of 1919 Tehran has demanded all lost territories including Turkish Kurdistan,Mosul, and even Diyarbakır, but demands were quickly rejected by Western powers. This area has been divided by modern Turkey, Syria and Iraq. Today, the Kurds inhabit mostly north western territories known as Iranian Kurdistan but also north eastern region of Khorasan, and constitute approximately 7-10% of Iran’s overall population (6.5–7.9 million), comparing to 10.6% (2 million) in 1956 or 8% (800 thousand) in 1850.
Major Ethnic Groups of Iran
Unlike in other Kurdish-populated countries, there are strong ethnolinguistical and cultural ties between Kurds, Persians and others as Iranian peoples. Some of modern Iranian dynasties like Safavids and Zands are considered to be partly of Kurdish origin. Kurdish literature in all of its forms (Kurmanji, Sorani and Gorani) has been developed within historical Iranianboundaries under strong influence of Persian language. Fact that Kurds share much of their history with the rest of Iran is seen as reason why Kurdish leaders in Iran do not want a separate Kurdish state
The government of Iran has never employed the same level of brutality against its own Kurds like Turkey or Iraq, but it has always been implacably opposed to any suggestion of Kurdish separatism. During and shortly after First World War the government of Iran was ineffective and had very little control over events in the country and several Kurdish tribal chiefs gained local political power, even established large confederations. In the same time, wave of nationalism from disintegrating Ottoman Empire has partly influenced some Kurdish chiefs in border region, and they posed as Kurdish nationalist leaders. Prior to this, identity in both countries largely relied upon religion i.e. Shia Islam in the particular case of Iran. In 19th century Iran, Shia–Sunni animosity and describing Sunni Kurds as Ottoman fifth column was quite frenquent.
During late 1910’s and early 1920’s, tribal revolt led by Kurdish chieftain Simko Shikak stroke north western Iran. Although elements of Kurdish nationalism were present in this movement, historians agree these were hardly articulate enough to justify a claim that recognition of Kurdish identity was a major issue in Simko’s movement, and he had to rely heavily on conventional tribal motives. Government forces and non-Kurds were not the only ones to suffer in the attacks, theKurdish population was also robbed and assaulted. Rebels do not appear to have felt any sense of unity or solidarity with fellow Kurds. Kurdish insurgency and seasonal migrations in late 1920’s, along with long-running tensions between Tehran and Ankara, resulted in border clashes and even military penetrations in both Iranian and Turkish territory. Two regional powers have used Kurdish tribes as tool for own political benefits: Turkey has provided military help and refuge for anti-Iranian Turcophone Shikak rebels in 1918-1922, while Iran did the same during Ararat rebellion against Turkey in 1930. Reza Shah‘s military victory over Kurdish and Turkic tribal leaders initiaded with repressive era toward non-Iranian minorities. Government’s forced detribalization andsedentarization in 1920’s and 1930’s resulted with many other tribal revolts in Iranian regions of Azerbaijan, Luristan and Kurdistan. In particular case of the Kurds, this repressive policies partly contributed to developing nationalism among some tribes.
As a response to growing Pan-Turkism and Pan-Arabism in region which were seen as potential threats to the territorial integrity of Iran, Pan-Iranist ideology has been developed in the early 1920s. Some of such groups and journals openly advocated Iranian support to the Kurdish rebellion against Turkey. Secular Pahlavi dynasty has endorsed Iranian ethnic nationalism which seen the Kurds as integral part of the Iranian nation. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi has personally praised the Kurds as “pure Iranians” or “one of the most noble Iranian peoples“. Another significant ideology during this period was Marxism which arose among Kurds under influence of USSR. It culminated in the Iran crisis of 1946 which included a separatist attempt of KDP-I and communist groups to establish the Soviet puppet governmentcalled Republic of Mahabad. It arose along with Azerbaijan People’s Government, another Soviet puppet state. The state itself encompassed a very small territory, including Mahabad and the adjacent cities, unable to incorporate the southern Iranian Kurdistan which fell inside the Anglo-American zone, and unable to attract the tribes outside Mahabad itself to the nationalist cause. As a result, when the Soviets withdrew from Iran in December 1946, government forces were able to enter Mahabad unopposed.
Several Marxist insurgencies continuted for decades (1967, 1979, 1989–96) led by KDP-I and Komalah, but those two organization have never advocated a separate Kurdish state or greater Kurdistan as did the PKK in Turkey. Still, many of dissident leaders, among others Qazi Muhammad and Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou, were executed or assassinated. During Iran–Iraq War, Tehran has provided support for Iraqi-based Kurdish groups like KDP or PUK, along with asylum for 1,400,000 Iraqi refugees, mostly Kurds. Although Kurdish Marxist groups have been marginalized in Iran since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, in 2004 new insurrection has been started by PJAK, separatist organization affiliated with the Turkey-based PKK and designated as terrorist by Iran, Turkey and the USA. Some analysts claim PJAK do not pose any serious threat to the government of Iran. Cease-fire has been established on September 2011 following the Iranian offensive on PJAK bases, but several clashes between PJAK and IRGC took place after it.Since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, accusations of “discrimination” by Western organizations and of “foreign involvement” by Iranian side have become very frequent.
Kurds have been well integrated in Iranian political life during reign of various governments. Kurdish liberal political Karim Sanjabi has served as minister of education underMohammad Mossadegh in 1952. During the reign of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi some members of parliament and high army officers were Kurds, and there was even a Kurdish Cabinet Minister. During the reign of the Pahlavis Kurds received many favours from the authorities, for instance to keep their land after the land reforms of 1962. In early 2000’s, presence of thirty Kurdish deputies in the 290-strong parliament has also helped to undermine claims of discrimination. Some of influential Kurdish politicians during recent years include former first vice president Mohammad Reza Rahimi and Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, Mayor of Tehran and second-placed presidential candidate in 2013. Kurdish language is today used more than at any other time since the Revolution, including in several newspapers and among schoolchildren. Large number of Kurds in Iran show no interest in Kurdish nationalism, especially Shia Kurds who even vigorously reject idea of autonomy, preferring direct rule from Tehran. Iranian national identity is questioned only in the peripheral Kurdish Sunni regions.
Kurds constitute approximately 17% of Iraq’s population. They are the majority in at least three provinces in northern Iraq which are together known as Iraqi Kurdistan. Kurds also have a presence in Kirkuk, Mosul, Khanaqin, and Baghdad. Around 300,000 Kurds live in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, 50,000 in the city of Mosul and around 100,000 elsewhere in southern Iraq.
Kurds led by Mustafa Barzani were engaged in heavy fighting against successive Iraqi regimes from 1960 to 1975. In March 1970, Iraq announced a peace plan providing for Kurdish autonomy. The plan was to be implemented in four years. However, at the same time, the Iraqi regime started an Arabization program in the oil-rich regions ofKirkuk and Khanaqin. The peace agreement did not last long, and in 1974, the Iraqi government began a new offensive against the Kurds. Moreover in March 1975, Iraq and Iran signed the Algiers Accord, according to which Iran cut supplies to Iraqi Kurds. Iraq started another wave of Arabization by moving Arabs to the oil fields in Kurdistan, particularly those around Kirkuk. Between 1975 and 1978, 200,000 Kurds were deported to other parts of Iraq.
During the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, the regime implemented anti-Kurdish policies and a de facto civil war broke out. Iraq was widely condemned by the international community, but was never seriously punished for oppressive measures such as the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of civilians, the wholesale destruction of thousands of villages and the deportation of thousands of Kurds to southern and central Iraq.
The genocidal campaign, conducted between 1986 and 1989 and culminating in 1988, carried out by the Iraqi government against the Kurdish population was called Anfal (“Spoils of War”). The Anfal campaign led to destruction of over two thousand villages and killing of 182,000 Kurdish civilians. The campaign included the use of ground offensives, aerial bombing, systematic destruction of settlements, mass deportation, firing squads, and chemical attacks, including the most infamous attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja in 1988 that killed 5000 civilians instantly.
After the collapse of the Kurdish uprising in March 1991, Iraqi troops recaptured most of the Kurdish areas and 1.5 million Kurds abandoned their homes and fled to the Turkish and Iranian borders. It is estimated that close to 20,000 Kurds succumbed to death due to exhaustion, lack of food, exposure to cold and disease. On 5 April 1991, UN Security Council passed resolution 688 which condemned the repression of Iraqi Kurdish civilians and demanded that Iraq end its repressive measures and allow immediate access to international humanitarian organizations. This was the first international document (since the League of Nationsarbitration of Mosul in 1926) to mention Kurds by name. In mid-April, the Coalition established safe havens inside Iraqi borders and prohibited Iraqi planes from flying north of 36th parallel. In October 1991, Kurdish guerrillas captured Erbil and Sulaimaniyah after a series of clashes with Iraqi troops. In late October, Iraqi government retaliated by imposing a food and fuel embargo on the Kurds and stopping to pay civil servants in the Kurdish region. The embargo, however, backfired and Kurds held parliamentary elections in May 1992 and established Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
The Kurdish population welcomed the American troops in 2003 by holding celebrations and dancing in the streets. The area controlled by peshmerga was expanded, and Kurds now have effective control in Kirkuk and parts of Mosul. The authority of the KRG and legality of its laws and regulations were recognized in the articles 113 and 137 of the new Iraqi Constitution ratified in 2005. By the beginning of 2006, the two Kurdish administrations of Erbil and Sulaimaniya were unified. On August 14, 2007 Yazidis were targeted in a series of bombings that became the deadliest suicide attack since the Iraq War began, killing 796 civilians, wounding 1,562.
SyriaMain article: Kurds in Syria
Kurds account for 9% of Syria‘s population, a total of around 1.6 million people. This makes them the largest ethnic minority in the country. They are mostly concentrated in the northeast and the north, but there are also significant Kurdish populations in Aleppo and Damascus. Kurds often speak Kurdish in public, unless all those present do not. According to Amnesty International, Kurdish human rights activists are mistreated and persecuted. No political parties are allowed for any group, Kurdish or otherwise.
Techniques used to suppress the ethnic identity of Kurds in Syria include various bans on the use of the Kurdish language, refusal to register children with Kurdish names, the replacement of Kurdish place names with new names in Arabic, the prohibition of businesses that do not have Arabic names, the prohibition of Kurdish private schools, and the prohibition of books and other materials written in Kurdish. Having been denied the right to Syrian nationality, around 300,000 Kurds have been deprived of any social rights, in violation of international law. As a consequence, these Kurds are in effect trapped within Syria. In March 2011, in part to avoid further demonstrations and unrest from spreading across Syria, the Syrian government promised to tackle the issue and grant Syrian citizenship to approximately 300,000 Kurds who had been previously denied the right.
On March 12, 2004, beginning at a stadium in Qamishli (a largely Kurdish city in northeastern Syria), clashes between Kurds and Syrians broke out and continued over a number of days. At least thirty people were killed and more than 160 injured. The unrest spread to other Kurdish towns along the northern border with Turkey, and then to Damascus and Aleppo.
As a result of Syrian civil war, since July 2012, Kurds were able to take control of large parts of Syrian Kurdistan from Andiwar in extreme northeast to Jindires in extreme northwest Syria.
ArmeniaSee also: Kurdish-Armenian relations
Between the 1930s and 1980s, Armenia was a part of the Soviet Union, within which Kurds, like other ethnic groups, had the status of a protected minority. Armenian Kurds were permitted their own state-sponsored newspaper, radio broadcasts and cultural events. During the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, many non-Yazidi Kurds were forced to leave their homes since both the Azeri and non-Yazidi Kurds were Muslim.
AzerbaijanMain article: Kurds in Azerbaijan
In 1920, two Kurdish-inhabited areas of Jewanshir (capital Kalbajar) and eastern Zangazur (capital Lachin) were combined to form the Kurdistan Okrug (or “Red Kurdistan”). The period of existence of the Kurdish administrative unit was brief and did not last beyond 1929. Kurds subsequently faced many repressive measures, including deportations, imposed by the Soviet government. As a result of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, many Kurdish areas have been destroyed and more than 150,000 Kurds have been deported since 1988 by separatist Armenian forces.
According to a report by the Council of Europe, approximately 1.3 million Kurds live in Western Europe. The earliest immigrants were Kurds from Turkey, who settled inGermany, Austria, the Benelux countries, Great Britain, Switzerland and France during the 1960s. Successive periods of political and social turmoil in the region during the 1980s and 1990s brought new waves of Kurdish refugees, mostly from Iran and Iraq under Saddam Hussein, came to Europe. In recent years, many Kurdish asylum seekers from both Iran and Iraq have settled in the United Kingdom (especially in the town of Dewsbury and in some northern areas of London), which has sometimes caused media controversy over their right to remain. There have been tensions between Kurds and the established Muslim community in Dewsbury, which is home to very traditional mosques such as the Markazi. There was substantial immigration of Kurds into North America, who are mainly political refugees and immigrants seeking economic opportunity. Kurdish immigrants started to settle in large numbers in Nashville in 1976, which is now home to the largest Kurdish community in the United States and is nicknamed Little Kurdistan. Kurdish population in Nashville is estimated to be around 11,000. Total number of ethnic Kurds residing in the United States is estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau to be around 15,000. According to the 2006 Canadian Census, there were over 9,000 people of Kurdish ethnic background living in Canadaand according to the 2011 Census, more than 10,000 Canadians spoke Kurdish language.
As a whole, the Kurdish people are adherents to a large amount of different religions and creeds, perhaps constituting the most religiously diverse people of West Asia. Traditionally, Kurds have been known to take great liberties with their practices. This sentiment is reflected in the saying “Compared to the unbeliever, the Kurd is a Muslim”.
The Alevis (usually considered adherents of a branch of Shia Islam) are another religious minority among the Kurds, living in Eastern Anatolia. Alevism developed out of the teachings of Haji Bektash Veli, a 13th-century mystic from Khorasan. Among the Qizilbash, the militant groups which predate the Alevis and helped establish the Safavid Dynasty, there were numerous Kurdish tribes. The American missionary Trowbridge, working at Aintab (present Gaziantep) reported that his Alevi acquaintances considered as their highest spiritual leaders an Ahl-i Haqq sayyid family in the Guran district.
Ahl-i Haqq (Yarsan)Main article: Yârsânism
Ahl-i Haqq is a syncretic religion founded by Sultan Sahak in the late 14th century in western Iran. Most of its adherents, totaling around 1,000,000, are Kurds. Its central religious text is the Kalâm-e Saranjâm, written in Gurani.
In this text, the religion’s basic pillars are summarized as such:
The Yarsan should strive for these four qualities: purity, rectitude, self-effacement and self-abnegation.
The Yârsân faith’s unique features include millenarism, nativism, egalitarianism, metempsychosis, angelology, divine manifestation and dualism. Many of these features are found in Yazidism, another Kurdish faith, in the faith of Zoroastrians and in Shī‘ah extremist groups; certainly, the names and religious terminology of the Yârsân are often explicitly of Muslim origin. Unlike other indigenous Persianate faiths, the Yârsân explicitly reject class, caste and rank, which sets them apart from the Yezidis and Zoroastrians.
YazidisMain article: Yazidis
Yazidism is another syncretic religion practiced among Kurdish communities, founded by Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir, an 12th-century mystic from Lebanon. Their numbers exceed 500,000. Its central religious texts are the Kitêba Cilwe and Meshaf Resh
According to Yazidi beliefs, God created the world but left it in the care of a heptad of holy beings or angels. The most prominent angel is Melek Taus (Kurdish: Tawûsê Melek), the Peacock Angel, God’s representative on earth. Yazidis believe in the periodic reincarnation of the seven holy beings in human form.
ZoroastrianismMain article: Zoroastrianism
Presently, there are a small number of Zoroastrian Kurds, most of which are recent converts. These communities have established new temples and have been attempting to recruit new members to their faith. The Kurdish philosopher Sohrevardi drew heavily from Zoroastrian teachings.
JudaismMain article: Kurdish Jews
Judaism is still practised in very small numbers across Kurdistan. There are however some 200,000 Kurdish Jews, residing in Israel. The Jews of Kurdistan migrated to Palestine during the previous centuries but the overwhelming majority of the Kurdish Jews had fled to Israel together with Iraqi Jews in Operation Ezra and Nehemiah during 1950–1952.
The Jews of Kurdistan are thought to be the descendants of those Jews that were deported from Israel by the Assyrian Empire in the 8th century BC. These later formed the Kingdom of Adiabene, and, after fading into obscurity in centuries thereafter, reappeared in the Middle Ages, where multiple accounts of them were made. One such accounts details the story of David Alroy, a Jewish leader from Amadiyah in the 12th century, who revolted against the Persian rulers and was bent on recapturing Jerusalem.
For centuries thereafter, the Jews had lived as protected subjects of the Kurdish tribal chieftains (aghas) and survived in the urban centers and villages in which they lived. According to Mordechai Zaken, the Kurdistani Jews had managed to survive by supporting their tribal chieftains and village aghas in times of need and through financial contributions, occasional gifts, variety of services as well as taxes and dues in the form of commissions of their commercial and agricultural transactions. In return, the tribal Kurdish aghas would protect their Jewish subjects and grant them patronage in the tribal arena. Indeed, some wealthy Jewish merchants and community leaders had to deal at times with aghas who coveted their vineyards or other material goods and satisfy their needs and fulfil their desire. However, in his research, Zaken points out that there was a kind of tribal tradition, passed on from father to son, to keep and protect the Jewish subjects in the village (at times one or two Jewish families in one village) or the tribal arena. Even though the ancestral origins, as well as the mother tongue of the Kurdish Jews is different from the main Kurdish populace, the vast majority regard themselves as Kurds.
ChristianityMain article: Kurdish Christians
Although historically there have been various accounts of Kurdish Christians, most often these were in the form of individuals, and not as communities. However, in the 19th and 20th century various travel logs tell of Kurdish Christian tribes, as well as Kurdish Muslim tribes who had substantial Christan populations living amongst them. A significant number of these were allegedly originally Armenian or Assyrian, and it has been recorded that a small number of Christian traditions have been preserved. Several Christian prayers in Kurdish have been found from earlier centuries.
However, most contemporary Kurdish Christians are recent converts. Both among Turkish and Iraqi Kurds there have been an increasing number of Kurds converting to Christianity. Some communities of the Iraqi converts have formed their own evangelical churches. Prominent historical Kurdish Christians include Theophobos and the brothers Zakare and Ivane.
Kurdish culture is a legacy from the various ancient peoples who shaped modern Kurds and their society. As most other Middle Eastern populations, a high degree of mutual influences between the Kurds and their neighbouring peoples are apparent. Therefore, in Kurdish culture elements of various other cultures are to be seen. However, on the whole, Kurdish culture is closest to that of other Iranian peoples, in particular those who historically had the closest geographical proximity to the Kurds, such as the Persiansand Lurs. Kurds, for instance, also celebrate Newroz (March 21) as New Year’s Day.
Kurdish men and women participate in mixed-gender dancing during feasts, weddings and other social celebrations. Major Soane, a British colonial officer during World War I, noted that this is unusual among Islamic people and pointed out that in this respect Kurdish culture is more akin to that of eastern Europe than to their West Asian counterparts.
Folklore and Mythology
The Kurds possess a rich tradition of folklore, which, until recent times, was largely transmitted by speech or song, from one generation to the next. Although some of the Kurdish writers’ stories were well-known throughout Kurdistan; most of the stories told and sung were only written down in the 20th and 21st century. Many of these are, allegedly, centuries old.
Widely varying in purpose and style, among the Kurdish folklore one will find stories about nature, anthropomorphic animals, love, heroes and villains, mythological creatures and everyday life. A number of these mythological figures can be found in other cultures, like the Simurgh and Kaveh the Blacksmith in the broader Iranian Mythology, and stories of Shahmaran throughout Anatolia. Additionally, stories can be purely entertaining, or have an educational or religious aspect.
Perhaps the most widely reoccurring element is the fox, which, through cunningness and shrewdness triumphs over less intelligent species, yet often also meets his demise.Another common theme are the origins of a tribe.
Storytellers would perform in front of an audience, sometimes consisting of an entire village. People from outside the region would travel to attend their narratives, and the storytellers themselves would visit other villages to spread their tales. These would thrive especially during winter, where entertainment was hard to find as evenings had to be spent inside.
Coinciding with the heterogeneous Kurdish groupings, although certain stories and elements were commonly found throughout Kurdistan, others were unique to a specific area; depending on the region, religion or dialect. The Kurdish Jews of Zakho are perhaps the best example of this; whose gifted storytellers are known to have been greatly respected throughout the region, thanks to a unique oral tradition. Other examples are the mythology of the Yezidis, and the stories of the Dersim Kurds, which had a substantial Armenian influence.
During the criminalization of the Kurdish language after the coup d’état of 1980, dengbêj (singers) and çîrokbêj (tellers) were silenced, and many of the stories had become endangered. In 1991, the language was decriminalized, yet the now highly available radios and TV’s had as effect a diminished interest in traditional storytelling. However, a number of writers have made great strides in the preservation of these tales.
Kurdish weaving is renowned throughout the world, with fine specimens of both rugs and bags. The most famous Kurdish rugs are those from the Bijar region, in the Kurdistan Province. Because of the unique way in which the Bijar rugs are woven, they are very stout and durable, hence their appellation as the ‘Iron Rugs of Persia’. Exhibiting a wide variety, the Bijar rugs have patterns ranging from floral designs, medallions and animals to other ornaments. They generally have two wefts, and are very colorful in design.With an increased interest in these rugs in the last century, and a lesser need for them to be as sturdy as they were, new Bijar rugs are more refined and delicate in design.
Another well-known Kurdish rug is the Senneh rug, which is regarded as the most sophisticated of the Kurdish rugs. They are especially known for their great knot density and high quality mountain wool. They lend their name from the region of Sanandaj. Throughout other Kurdish regions like Kermanshah, Siirt, Malatya and Bitlis rugs were also woven to great extent.
Kurdish bags are mainly known from the works of one large tribe: the Jaffs, living in the border area between Iran and Iraq. These Jaff bags share the same characteristics of Kurdish rugs; very colorful, stout in design, often with medallion patterns. They were especially popular in the West during the 1920s and 1930s.
Outside of weaving and clothing, there are many other Kurdish handicrafts, which were traditionally often crafted by nomadic Kurdish tribes. These are especially well known in Iran, most notably the crafts from the Kermanshah and Sanandaj regions. Among these crafts are chess boards, talismans, jewelry, ornaments, weaponry, instruments etc.
Kurdish blades include a distinct jambiya, with its characteristic I-shaped hilt, and oblong blade. Generally, these possess double-edged blades, reinforced with a central ridge, a wooden, leather or silver decorated scabbard, and a horn hilt, furthermore they are often still worn decoratively by older men. Swords were made as well. Most of these blades in curcilation stem from the 19th century.
Another distinct form of art from Sanandaj is ‘Oroosi’, a type of window where stylized wooden pieces are locked into each other, rather than being glued together. These are further decorated with coloured glass, this stems from an old belief that if light passes through a combination of seven colours it helps keep the atmosphere clean.
Among Kurdish Jews a common practice was the making of talismans, which were believed to combat illnesses and protect the wearer from malevolent spirits.
Adorning the body with tattoos (Deq in Kurdish) is widespread among the Kurds; even though permanent tattoos are not permissible in Sunni Islam. Therefore, these traditional tattoos are thought to derive from pre-Islamic times.
Tattoo ink is made by mixing soot with (breast) milk and the poisonous liquid from the gall bladder of an animal. The design is drawn on the skin using a thin twig and is, by needle, penetrated under the skin. These have a wide variety of meanings and purposes, among which are protection against evil or illnesses; beauty enhancement; and the showing of tribal affiliations. Religious symbolism is also common among both traditional and modern Kurdish tattoos. Tattoos are more prevalent among women than among men, and were generally worn on feet, the chin, foreheads and other places of the body.
The popularity of permanent, traditional tattoos has greatly diminished among newer generation of Kurds. However, modern tattoos are becoming more prevalent; and temporary tattoos are still being worn on special occasions (such as henna, the night before a wedding) and as tribute to the cultural heritage.
Music and DanceMain article: Kurdish music
Traditionally, there are three types of Kurdish classical performers: storytellers (çîrokbêj), minstrels (stranbêj), and bards (dengbêj). No specific music was associated with the Kurdish princely courts. Instead, music performed in night gatherings (şevbihêrk) is considered classical. Several musical forms are found in this genre. Many songs are epic in nature, such as the popular Lawiks, heroic ballads recounting the tales of Kurdish heroes such as Saladin. Heyrans are love ballads usually expressing the melancholy of separation and unfulfilled love, one of the first Kurdish female singers to sing heyrans is Chopy Fatah, while Lawje is a form of religious music and Payizoks are songs performed during the autumn. Love songs, dance music, wedding and other celebratory songs (dîlok/narînk), erotic poetry, and work songs are also popular.
Throughout the Middle East, there are many prominent Kurdish artists. Most famous are Ibrahim Tatlises, Nizamettin Arıç, Ahmet Kaya and the Kamkars. In Europe, well-known artists are Darin Zanyar, Sivan Perwer, and Azad.
The main themes of Kurdish films are the poverty and hardship which ordinary Kurds have to endure. The first films featuring Kurdish culture were actually shot in Armenia. Zare, released in 1927, produced by Hamo Beknazarian, details the story of Zare and her love for the shepherd Seydo, and the difficulties the two experience by the hand of the village elder. In 1948 and 1959, two documentaries were made concerning the Yezidi Kurds in Armenia. These were joint Armenian-Kurdish productions; with H. Koçaryan and Heciye Cindi teaming up for The Kurds of Soviet Armenia, and Ereb Samilov and C. Jamharyan for Kurds of Armenia.
The first critically acclaimed and famous Kurdish films were produced by Yılmaz Güney. Initially a popular, award-winning actor in Turkey with the nickname Çirkin Kral (the Ugly King, after his rough looks), he spent the later part of his career producing socio-critical and politically loaded films. Sürü (1979), Yol (1982) and Duvar (1983) are his best-known works, of which the second won Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival of 1982, the most prestigious award in the world of cinema.
Another prominent Kurdish film director is Bahman Qubadi. His first feature film was A Time for Drunken Horses, released in 2000. It was critically acclaimed, and went on to win multiple awards. Other movies of his would follow this example; making him one of the best known film producers of Iran of today. Recently, he released Rhinos Season, starring Behrouz Vossoughi, Monica Bellucci and Yilmaz Erdogan, detailing the tumultuous life of a Kurdish poet.
Other prominent Kurdish film directors are Mahsun Kırmızıgül, Hiner Saleem and before mentioned Yilmaz Erdogan. There’s also been a number of films set and/or filmed in Kurdistan made by non-Kurdish film directors, such as the Wind Will Carry Us, Triage, The Exorcist, The Market: A Tale of Trade, Durchs wilde Kurdistan (de) and Im Reiche des silbernen Löwen (de).
The most popular sport among the Kurds is football. Because the Kurds have no independent state, they have no representative team in FIFA or the AFC; however a team representing Iraqi Kurdistan has been active in the Viva World Cup since 2008. They became runners-up in 2009 and 2010, before ultimately becoming champion in 2012.
On a national level, the Kurdish clubs of Iraq have achieved success in recent years as well, winning the Iraqi Premier League four times in the last five years. Prominent clubs are Erbil SC, Duhok SC, Sulaymaniyah FC and Zakho FC.
In Turkey, a Kurd named Celal Ibrahim was one of the founders of Galatasaray S.K. in 1905, as well as one of the original players. The most prominent Kurdish-Turkish club isDiyarbakirspor. In the diaspora, the most successful Kurdish club is Dalkurd FF and the most famous player is Eren Derdiyok.
Another prominent sport is wrestling. In Iranian Wrestling, there are three styles originating from Kurdish regions:
- Zhir-o-Bal (a style similar to Greco-Roman wrestling), practised in Kordestan, Kermanshah and Ilam;
- Zouran-Patouleh, practised in Kordestan;
- Zouran-Machkeh, practised in Kordestan as well.
Furthermore, the most accredited of the traditional Iranian wrestling styles, the Bachoukheh, derives its name from a local Khorasani Kurdish costume in which it is practiced.
The traditional Kurdish village has simple houses, made of mud. In most cases with flat, wooden roofs, and, if the village is built on the slope of a mountain, the roof on one house makes for the garden of the house one level higher. However, houses with a beehive-like roof, not unlike those in Harran, are also present.
Over the centuries many Kurdish architectural marvels have been erected, with varying styles. Kurdistan boasts many examples from ancient Iranic, Roman, Greek and Semitic origin, most famous of these include Bisotun and Taq-e Bostan in Kermanshah, Takht-e Soleyman near Takab, Mount Nemrud near Adiyaman and the citadels of Erbil and Diyarbakir.
The first genuinely Kurdish examples extant were built in the 11th century. Those earliest examples consist of the Marwanid Dicle Bridge in Diyarbakir, the Shadaddid Minuchir Mosque in Ani, and the Hisn al Akrad near Homs.
In the 12th and 13th centuries the Ayyubid dynasty constructed many buildings throughout the Middle East, being influenced by their predecessors, the Fatimids, and their rivals, the Crusaders, whilst also developing their own techniques. Furthermore, women of the Ayyubid family took a prominent role in the patronage of new constructions. The Ayyubids’ most famous works are the Halil-ur-Rahman Mosque that surrounds the Pool of Sacred Fish in Urfa, the Citadel of Cairo and most parts of the Citadel of Aleppo. Another important piece of Kurdish architectural heritage from the late 12th/early 13th century is the Yezidi pilgrimage site Lalish, with its trademark conical roofs.
In later periods too, Kurdish rulers and their corresponding dynasties and emirates would leave their mark upon the land in the form mosques, castles and bridges, some of which have decayed, or have been (partly) destroyed in an attempt to erase the Kurdish cultural heritage, such as the White Castle of the Bohtan Emirate. Well-known examples are Hosap Castle of the 17th century, Sherwana Castle of the early 18th century, and the Ellwen Bridge of Khanaqin of the 19th century.
Most famous is the Ishak Pasha Palace of Dogubeyazit, a structure with heavy influences from both Anatolian and Iranic architectural traditions. Construction of the Palace began in 1685, led by Colak Abdi Pasha, a Kurdish bey of the Ottoman Empire, but the building wouldn’t be completed until 1784, by his grandson, Ishak Pasha.Containing almost 100 rooms, including a mosque, dining rooms, dungeons and being heavily decorated by hewn-out ornaments, this Palace has the reputation as being one of the finest pieces of architecture of the Ottoman Period, and of Anatolia.
In recent years, the KRG has been responsible for the renovation of several historical structures, such as Erbil Citadel and the Mudhafaria Minaret.
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Producers vs. Moochers: Obama’s Execution of The Cloward-Piven Strategy: Food Stamps, Medicaid, Welfare, Disability Benefits, Earned Income Credits, Obamacare, Student Loans, Veterans Administration, Open Borders, Massive Deficits and Debts, Unsustainable Unfunded Liabilities, High Unemployment Rates — Legal Status — Amnesty — Citizenship for 30-50 Million Illegal Aliens — Overloading The Welfare System — Democratic Progressive Party Tyranny — Obama’s Unconstrained Utopian Vision– Videos
The Pronk Pops Show Podcasts
Story 1:Producers vs. Moochers: Obama’s Execution of The Cloward-Piven Strategy: Food Stamps, Medicaid, Welfare, Disability Benefits, Earned Income Credits, Obamacare, Student Loans, Veterans Administration, Open Borders, Massive Deficits and Debts, Unsustainable Unfunded Liabilities, High Unemployment Rates — Legal Status — Amnesty — Citizenship for 30-50 Million Illegal Aliens — Overloading The Welfare System — Democratic Progressive Party Tyranny — Obama’s Unconstrained Utopian Vision– Videos
Saul Alinsky’s 12 Rules for Radicals
Here is the complete list from Alinsky.
* RULE 1: “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.” Power is derived from 2 main sources – money and people. “Have-Nots” must build power from flesh and blood. (These are two things of which there is a plentiful supply. Government and corporations always have a difficult time appealing to people, and usually do so almost exclusively with economic arguments.)
* RULE 2: “Never go outside the expertise of your people.” It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone. (Organizations under attack wonder why radicals don’t address the “real” issues. This is why. They avoid things with which they have no knowledge.)
* RULE 3: “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty. (This happens all the time. Watch how many organizations under attack are blind-sided by seemingly irrelevant arguments that they are then forced to address.)
* RULE 4: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules. (This is a serious rule. The besieged entity’s very credibility and reputation is at stake, because if activists catch it lying or not living up to its commitments, they can continue to chip away at the damage.)
* RULE 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions. (Pretty crude, rude and mean, huh? They want to create anger and fear.)
* RULE 6: “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones. (Radical activists, in this sense, are no different that any other human being. We all avoid “un-fun” activities, and but we revel at and enjoy the ones that work and bring results.)
* RULE 7: “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.” Don’t become old news. (Even radical activists get bored. So to keep them excited and involved, organizers are constantly coming up with new tactics.)
* RULE 8: “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.” Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new. (Attack, attack, attack from all sides, never giving the reeling organization a chance to rest, regroup, recover and re-strategize.)
* RULE 9: “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.” Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist. (Perception is reality. Large organizations always prepare a worst-case scenario, something that may be furthest from the activists’ minds. The upshot is that the organization will expend enormous time and energy, creating in its own collective mind the direst of conclusions. The possibilities can easily poison the mind and result in demoralization.)
* RULE 10: “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.” Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog. (Unions used this tactic. Peaceful [albeit loud] demonstrations during the heyday of unions in the early to mid-20th Century incurred management’s wrath, often in the form of violence that eventually brought public sympathy to their side.)
* RULE 11: “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.” Never let the enemy score points because you’re caught without a solution to the problem. (Old saw: If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Activist organizations have an agenda, and their strategy is to hold a place at the table, to be given a forum to wield their power. So, they have to have a compromise solution.)
* RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)
John Stossel – A Nation Of Moochers
John Stossel – Serious Crony Capitalism
How Crony Capitalism Corrupts the Free Market | David Stockman
David Stockman on TARP, the Fed, Ron Paul and Reagan [FULL VERSION]
The Forgotten Cause of Sound Money | David Stockman
Carmen Reinhart on Financial Crisis and Fiscal Policy
Kenneth Rogoff – Why Austerity is right & Growth is critical (19.12.12)
Record Number Of Americans Receiving Disability Benefits – Stuart Varney – America’s Newsroom
Number Of People On Food Stamps Up 70% Since 2008 – America’s News HQ
Economics 101-The Dangers Of Government Dependency
Opinion: The Government Dependency Trap
Land of The Freebies, Home of the Enslaved
Is Government Dependence the New American Way – Working Doesn’t Pay
Welfare fraud investigation
Mark Levin: The Cloward Piven & Obama strategy
Matthew Vadum on Glenn Beck Program, May 28, 2009 (replayed June 4, 2009)
Glenn Beck Learns About Cloward-Piven Strategy of Orchestrated Crisis
The Cloward/Piven Strategy 1
The Cloward/Piven Strategy 2
The Cloward/Piven Strategy 3
The Cloward/Piven Strategy 4
The Cloward/Piven Strategy 5
The Cloward/Piven Strategy 6
Frances Fox Piven’s opinion of Glenn Beck
Professor Frances Fox Piven on Glenn Beck targeting her
Saul Alinsky speaking at UCLA 1/17/1969
Alinsky for Dummies (Mr. Joseph A. Morris – Acton Institute)
02-05-13 Macro Analytics – The Cloward Piven Strategy
What In The World Is Cloward-PIven (and is it working?)
The End of America….The Cloward-Piven Strategy
complete cloward piven strategy project
Cloward Piven Strategy
Fall 2010 Marc Sumerlin Lecture Series Featuring Prof. Carmen Reinhart
MILTON FRIEDMAN-what alinsky never told obama..
Milton Friedman Versus A Socialist
Thomas Sowell – Frances Fox Piven vs. Milton Friedman
Obama’s Vision for America by Thomas Sowell!
Thomas Sowell and a Conflict of Visions
Blues Brothers – Minnie the Moocher (Cab Calloway)
The 2013 Index of Dependence on Government
The great and calamitous fiscal trends of our time—dependence on government by an increasing portion of the American population, and soaring debt that threatens the financial integrity of the economy—worsened yet again in 2011 and 2012. This rise in government dependence happened despite the nation undergoing an economic recovery after the economic collapse of 2008 and 2009. The United States has reached the point at which it must reverse the direction of both trends or eventually face economic and social collapse. Yet policymakers have made little progress on either front since the 2012 Index of Dependence on Government was published. The United States held a dubious distinction in 2011—44.7 percent of the population pays no federal income taxes. While this percentage is a cause for concern, the figure is an improvement compared to the 48.5 percent of the population who paid no federal income taxes in 2010. Among the greatest danger is that the swelling over time of the ranks of Americans who enjoy government services and benefits for which they pay few or no taxes will lead to a spreading sense of entitlement that is simply incompatible with self-government.
America is increasingly moving away from a nation of self-reliant individuals, where civil society flourishes, toward a nation of individuals less inclined to practicing self-reliance and personal responsibility. Government programs not only crowd out civil society, but too frequently trap individuals and families in long-term dependence, leaving them incapable of escaping their condition for generations to come. Rebuilding civil society can rescue these individuals from the government dependence trap.
Related to these disturbing trends, publicly held debt continued its amazing ascent without any plan by the government to pay it back. As if those circumstances were not dire enough, the country is about to witness the largest generational retirement in world history by a population that will depend on currently insolvent pension and health programs.
The 2013 Index of Dependence on Government is designed to measure the amount of federal spending on programs that assume the responsibilities of individuals, families, communities, neighborhood groups, religious institutions, and other civil society institutions. It seeks to measure the overall extent to which the society as a whole, as opposed to any particular individual, is dependent on government.
The 2013 Index of Dependence on Government highlights the gathering fiscal storm clouds. Unsustainable increases in spending on dependence-creating programs that supplant the role of civil society predate the recent recession, and have continued to rise since the economy collapsed in 2008 and 2009. There is one silver lining to those clouds: A few policymakers and independent public policy groups have advanced plans for restoring fiscal balance in Washington. Among them is The Heritage Foundation. Heritage calls its fiscal plan Saving the American Dream. The Heritage plan reforms and funds those government programs that matter most to people who need the government’s help, and it frees the private sector to create the millions of jobs that will dramatically reduce the growth of dependence on government.
The Index of Dependence on Government measures the growth in spending on dependence-creating programs that supplant the role of civil society. Dependence on government in the U.S. rose again in 2011, the year of the most recently available data, and which is principally assessed by this report. A solid majority of Americans polled by Rasmussen believe that government dependence is too high. In a September 2013 poll, 67 percent of adults nationwide said that too many Americans are dependent on the government.
Virtually no issue so dominates the current public policy debate as the future financial health of the United States. Americans are haunted by the specter of growing mountains of debt that sap the economic and social vitality of the country. The enormous growth in debt is largely driven by dependence-creating government programs. Only the painfully slow labor market recovery garners more attention, and many are beginning to believe that even that sluggishness is tied to the nation’s growing burden of publicly held debt. Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth S. Rogoff of Harvard University created a unique data set of countries’ financial crises covering eight centuries. Reinhart and Rogoff conclude that a unifying problem among the financial crises they analyzed is government debt. They coined the phrase “this-time-is-different syndrome,” that is, the “belief that financial crises are things that happen to other people in other countries at other times; crises do not happen to us, here and now. We are doing things better, we are smarter, we have learned from past mistakes.” This syndrome is often displayed despite indicators of a forthcoming financial crisis being apparent to all. The U.S. federal government has accumulated a debt of staggering proportions. While the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates strongly suggest that the federal government’s spending pattern is unsustainable, Congress has done little to avert a foreseeable financial crisis.
Of course, the roots of the problems produced by the great and growing debt lie in the spending behaviors of the federal government. Annual deficits far greater than the government’s revenue are fueling explosive levels of debt. One such significant area of rapid growth is in those programs that create economic and social dependence on government.
The 2013 publication of the Index of Dependence on Government marks the 11th year that The Heritage Foundation has flashed warning lights about Americans’ growing dependence on government programs. When discussing dependence, one must make a careful distinction between different kinds of dependence. According to Yuval Levin, the editor of National Affairs:
We are all dependent on others. The question is whether we are dependent on people we know, and they on us—in ways that foster family and community, build habits of restraint and dignity, and instill in us responsibility and a sense of obligation—or we are dependent on distant, neutral, universal systems of benefits that help provide for our material wants without connecting us to any local and immediate nexus of care and obligation. It is not dependence per se, which is a universal fact of human life, but dependence without mutual obligation, that corrupts the soul.
This Index is designed to measure the pace at which federal government services and programs have grown in areas once considered to be the responsibility of civil society. Civil society is the space between the individual and the state where individuals, families, communities, neighborhood groups, religious institutions, and other institutions of civil society preside. America is increasingly moving away from a nation of self-reliant individuals, where civil society flourishes, toward a nation of individuals less inclined to practicing self-reliance and personal responsibility. Government programs not only crowd out civil society, but too frequently trap individuals and families in long-term dependence, leaving them incapable of escaping their condition for generations to come. Rebuilding civil society can rescue these individuals from the government dependence trap.
The Index uses data drawn from a carefully selected set of federally funded programs that were chosen for their propensity to duplicate or replace assistance—shelter, food, monetary aid, health care, education, or employment training—that was traditionally provided to people in need by local organizations and families. Thus, government dependence does not include traditional government services that provide public goods, such as defense, police protection, and transportation infrastructure. In contrast to public goods, dependence on government for basic tasks that individuals were traditionally expected to perform themselves, or were provided on a voluntary basis to those in need through the civil society, runs the risk of generating political pressure from interest groups—such as health care organizations, nonprofit organizations, and the aid recipients themselves—to expand and cement federal support. Readers should be aware that the increasing dependence on government is not limited to the lower class. The Social Security and Medicare entitlements, and other programs, such as government-backed higher education loans, provide services to the middle and upper classes.
For more than a decade, the Index has signaled troubling and rapid increases in the growth of dependence-creating federal programs, as measured by the amount of spending devoted to them, and every year Heritage has raised concerns about the challenges that rapidly growing dependence poses to this country’s republican form of government, its economy, and the broader civil society. Index measurements begin in 1962; since then, the Index score has grown by more than 20 times its original amount. This means that, keeping inflation neutral in the calculations, more than 20 times the resources were committed to paying for people who depend on government in 2011 than in 1962. In 2011 alone, the Index of Dependence on Government grew by 3.3 percent. This rise in government dependence occurred despite the modest economic recovery. The Index variables that grew the most from 2010 to 2011 were:
- Education: 40.4 percent
- Retirement: 3.1 percent
The Index has now grown by 80.1 percent since 2001. One of the most worrying trends in the Index is the coinciding growth in the non-taxpaying public. The percentage of the population who do not pay federal income taxes, and who are not claimed as dependents by someone who does pay them, jumped from 15 percent in 1984 to 48.5 percent in 2010. However, the portion of the population who did not pay federal income taxes dropped to 44.7 percent in 2011. The recent decrease is likely due to expiring tax credits that were temporarily authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and the start of the economic recovery. This means that in 1984, 35.3 million paid no taxes; in 2011, 139.3 million paid nothing.
It is the conjunction of these two trends—higher spending on dependence-creating programs, and a long-term trend in an increased portion of the population who do not pay for these programs—that concerns those interested in the fate of the American form of government. Americans have always expressed concern about becoming dependent on government, even while understanding that life’s challenges cause most people, at one time or another, to depend on some form of aid from someone else. Americans’ concern stems partly from deeply held views that life’s blessings are more readily obtained by independent people, and that growing dependence on government erodes the spirit of personal and mutual responsibility created through family and civil society institutions. These views help explain the broad public support for welfare reform in the 1990s.
This ethic of self-reliance combined with a commitment to the brotherly care of those in need appears threatened in a much greater way today than when the Index first appeared in 2002. This year, 2013, marks another year that the Index contains significant retirements by baby boomers. By 2040, 93.8 million people will be collecting Social Security checks and drawing Medicare benefits. Many retirees will also be relying on long-term care in assisted living facilities or home health care providers under Medicaid. No event will financially challenge these programs over the next two decades more than this shift into retirement of the largest generation in American history.
Some may argue that any measure of government dependence should not cover Social Security, because beneficiaries previously paid payroll taxes into the program before receiving benefits. However, the Index is designed to measure the amount of federal spending on programs that assume the responsibilities of individuals, families, communities, neighborhood groups, religious institutions, and other civil society institutions. Clearly, Social Security has greatly encroached on the responsibility of individuals for providing their own retirement resources.
It is not only financial tests that these programs will face. Certainly, financial challenges will be great over the next several decades, given that none of these “entitlement” programs can easily meet its obligations even now. Doubling the number of people in retirement will constitute a massive growth of the U.S. population that is largely dependent on government programs, and a potentially ruinous drain on federal finances. Even accounting for the increased productivity of current and future workers, the rapid increase in retirees coincides with historically fewer workers supporting those in retirement. Perhaps the most important aspect of the boomer retirement is its dramatic reminder of the rapidly growing dependence on government in the United States.
While the major contributors to the nation’s debt crisis are health and income support entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Social Security, Congress spends hundreds of billions of dollars on discretionary social programs each year. These social programs are intended to address a whole host of social problems, including low academic skills, poverty, sex outside marriage, out-of-wedlock births, unemployability and low wages, bad parenting, and relationship troubles within and outside marriage. Things that once were the subject of personal responsibility are now under the federal government’s jurisdiction. When rigorously evaluated, federal social programs have been found to be overwhelmingly ineffective.
There has been such a rapid growth in dependence in recent years that the twin concerns—how much damage this growth has done to the republican form of government and how harmful it has been to the country’s financial situation—have deepened significantly. Not only has the federal government effectively taken over half of the U.S. economy and expanded public-sector debt by more than all previous governments combined, it also oversaw a third year, in 2011, of enormous expansion in total government debt at the federal level. Much of that growth in new debt can be traced to programs that encourage dependence. Chart 2 illustrates how 69.4 percent of federal spending now goes to dependence-creating programs, up dramatically from 21.2 percent in 1962 and 48.5 percent in 1990.
Many Americans are expressing increasing frustration at this fiscally grim state of affairs. Most Members of recent Congresses have known that the major entitlement programs not only need major repairs, but also that these programs are starting to drive up annual deficits and promise to produce substantial deficits in the near future. Many Americans are especially frustrated by the way Congress ignores or, at best, claims to support, comprehensive budget reform plans. Plans like The Heritage Foundation’sSaving the American Dream and Representative Paul Ryan’s (R–WI) “Roadmap,” offer blueprints for getting federal finances under control, but Congress has not seriously debated these or any other such plans.
This absence of genuine efforts by Congress to manage the federal government’s worsening financial crisis is now worrying a number of international financial organizations, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF). On May 14, 2010, the IMF ranked the U.S. in second place among countries that must reduce their structural deficit (caused in part by spending on dependence-creating programs) or risk financial calamity. The IMF predicted that U.S. public-sector debt would equal 100 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) by 2015 unless immediate actions were taken to cut the deficits by an amount equal to 12 percent of GDP by 2014. The IMF concluded that Greece needed to cut its deficits by 9 percent of its national output to avoid the risk of financial calamity.
Then, on August 5, 2011, the credit rating company Standard & Poor’s downgraded U.S. sovereign debt from its AAA rating to AA+. This dramatic and highly controversial assessment of the federal government’s financial health followed Moody’s Investors Service’s announcement three days earlier that the prospects for the fiscal health of the central government had turned “negative.” Not to be outdone, on November 28, the third big ratings agency, Fitch, also revised its outlook on U.S. credit from “stable” to “negative” (meaning there was a slightly greater than 50 percent chance that Fitch would downgrade U.S. credit from AAA over the next two years). On February 27, 2013, Fitch again warned that a downgrade could be imminent, stating:
During the course of this year Fitch expects to resolve the Negative Outlook placed on the sovereign ratings of the US in late 2011 after the failure of the Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. In Fitch’s opinion, further delay in reaching agreement on a credible medium-term deficit reduction plan would imply public debt reaching levels inconsistent with the US retaining its “AAA” status despite its exceptional credit strengths.
The IMF, the rating agencies, and many watchful citizens are right to be concerned about the growing debt and growing dependence. Programs that encourage dependence quickly morph into political assets that policymakers readily embrace. Many voters support politicians or political parties that mandate higher incomes or subsidies for the essentials of life. No matter how well meaning policymakers are when they create such aid programs, these same programs quickly spiral beyond their mission and become severe liabilities.
Many countries have already passed the fiscal tipping point, at which reckless growth in dependence programs produces domestic debt crises. How far along the path to crisis is the United States? Are Americans closing in on a tipping point that endangers the workings of their democracy? Or have Americans already passed that point? Can this republican form of government withstand the political weight of a massively growing population of Americans who receive government benefits and who contribute little or nothing for them? How seriously have these federal programs eroded civil society by eroding once-social obligations, and by crowding out services that used to be provided by families, congregations, and community groups?
To explore these questions, one must measure how much federal programs have grown. The Index of Dependence on Government is an attempt to measure these patterns and provide data to help ascertain the implications of these trends. Specifically, the Index measures the amount of spending on federal programs that perform functions once primarily provided by civil society. Table 1 contains the 2013 Index scores—from 1962 to 2011, with 1980 as the base year. As the table indicates, dependence on government has grown steadily at an alarming rate.
Despite the prevailing view that people were left on their own to solve their problems before the creation of the welfare state, there is a rich history of Americans providing voluntary mutual aid before and during the Progressive Era. Assistance was often provided by private charity, mutual aid societies, and state and local governments.
For example, a considerable share of the Masonic mutual aid involved employment-seeking assistance, short-term housing, and character references. Other organizations, such as the Ancient Order of United Workmen, offered life insurance to members. While the exact numbers are unknown, University of Alabama professor of history David T. Beito estimates that fraternal life insurance societies in 1910 had at least 13 million members. These fraternal societies were characterized by “an autonomous system of lodges, a democratic form of internal government, a ritual, and the provision of mutual aid for members and their families.”
However, the rise of the welfare state, especially during the New Deal and Great Society, assumed much of the social responsibility that was once the province of voluntary associations. In essence, the welfare state “crowded out” or diminished the role of private charities and voluntary associations in benefiting members of society. The year after the Social Security Act of 1935 saw the beginning of benefit retrenchment by fraternal societies and their eventual decline. The decline in mutual aid societies and the growth of federal domestic programs are likely the direct results of the growth of the welfare state.
Complementary research to the Index indicates that federal dependence-creating programs crowd out assistance from civil society institutions, even replacing aid that used to come from family members. While the social science literature on crowd-out has found mixed results, the preponderance of the literature finds at least small crowd-out effects.
Theoretically, crowd-out can occur in two ways. First, charitable donors will treat the taxes they pay to provide government-run welfare services as a substitute for donations to private charities. In other words, the taxes paid to finance welfare programs make individuals less likely to make private donations, because they are already paying for assistance programs. This result has been coined the classic crowd-out effect. Second, private charities will substitute government grants for private donations.
An analysis of the impact of the New Deal on religious charitable activity confirms the presence of the classic crowd-out effect. Based on data from church activity from 1929 to 1939 for six of the largest Christian denominations (representing more than 20 percent of churches) during this period, the authors found “strong evidence that the rise in New Deal spending led to a fall in church charitable activity.”Specifically, the “New Deal crowded out at least 30% of benevolent church spending.”
A more current example of the welfare state crowding out voluntary assistance is the impact that unemployment insurance (UI) has on familial assistance. Familial assistance takes the form of family members helping relatives in times of need. For example, a recently unemployed son may receive financial assistance from his parents to help him get through a difficult period. A study using data from the Panel Study in Income Dynamics (PSID) found a negative association between the receipt of UI benefits and familial support. Specifically, one dollar in UI benefits displaces familial support by $0.24 to $0.40.
Additional studies have found classic crowd-out effects of government welfare spending. A national study that covered 1975 to 1994 found that a 10 percent increase in government aid to the poor is associated with a 5.87 percent decrease in private charitable donations. A similar study covering 1965 to 2003 also found that government welfare spending has a negative association with charitable giving.
Researcher Ralph M. Kramer finds that individual giving as a proportion of personal income fell by 13 percent between 1960 and 1976, while the proportion of philanthropic giving devoted to social welfare dropped 15 percent to 6 percent. By 1974, government was spending about 10 times as much on social services as did nonprofit agencies, and that year the nonprofit agencies themselves received close to half ($23 billion) of their total revenues from government (receiving $25 billion from all other sources combined). Such data also raise traditional concern about the long-term viability of the political institutions in a republic when a significant portion of the population becomes dependent on government for most or all of its income.
Alternatively, when government welfare services contract, charitable giving may increase. This proposition was tested when the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 cut federally funded welfare services to noncitizens. A nationwide analysis of Presbyterian Church congregations from 1994 to 2000 suggests that the reduction in federal welfare services to noncitizens was associated with an increase in charitable giving. Specifically, a one dollar decrease in county-wide per capita welfare spending was associated with an increase of $0.40 in the church congregation’s per-member donations to local community projects.
There is also evidence to support the second type of crowd-out effect of private charities and nonprofits substituting government grants for private donations. A study of more than 8,000 tax returns from American charities found a crowd-out effect of about 76 percent. For example, a government grant of $1,000 to a charity was associated with a decrease in $760 in private donations raised by the charity. However, the study found that most of this decline in private donations is the result of reduced private fundraising efforts by government-funded charities.
This second type of crowd-out increases the influence of government, for better or worse, over government-funded charities. The acceptance of government funding by private charities may cause these entities to become dependent on future government funding. Further, government funding opens charities to government mandates that may run counter to the mission of charities. To avoid such mandates, for example, Catholic Charities in Illinois has closed most of its affiliates in the state rather than comply with a state law requiring it consider same-sex couples as potential foster-care and adoptive parents, contrary to the tenets of its faith, in order to continue receiving state money.
The Fiscal Calamities Created by Growing Dependence
Entitlements. The issue of dependence is particularly salient today, when more and more Americans are increasing their reliance on government as they pass into retirement. Some may argue that any measure of government dependence should not include Social Security, because beneficiaries paid payroll taxes into the program before they received benefits. However, the Index is designed to measure spending on federal government programs that have assumed the responsibilities of individuals, families, communities, neighborhood groups, religious institutions, and other civil society institutions. Workers rationally view Social Security taxes as a substitute for private savings. Clearly, Social Security has greatly encroached on the responsibility of individuals for providing their own retirement funds, thus leaving millions of retirees dependent on younger, working generations to fund their retirement.
Current retirees become eligible for Social Security income, as well as for health care benefits from Medicare or Medicaid, at age 65.Each day, 10,000 baby boomers begin to collect these benefits.The three programs, along with the Children’s Health Insurance Program, currently make up 44 percent of all non-interest federal program spending. At the current growth rate, they will make up 57 percent in 2022. By 2048, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will absorb the entire tax revenue of the United States. Any additional spending would have to be borrowed. All told, these programs will enable the government dependence of nearly 80 million baby boomers.
This phenomenon is particularly troubling because most of the soon-to-be users of these programs are middle-class to upper-class Americans who are less likely to need government support. Since eligibility for these programs is linked to age, not financial need, millionaires collect the same benefits, such as subsidized prescription drugs through Medicare Part D, as do low-income and struggling retirees.
Paying for these middle-class and upper-class entitlements in the coming years will require unprecedented levels of deficit spending. Focusing on Social Security and Medicare alone, Americans face $45.9 trillion in unfunded obligations (read: new borrowing) over the next 75 years. That was more than $160,000 per American citizen in 2010—an unsustainable level of debt that is sure to slow the economy and could force even higher rates of taxation in the future. The high costs of these programs, which will be shouldered by the children and grandchildren of baby boomers, could easily lead to further increases in dependence of future generations—which would be more likely to depend on welfare during a slow economy. This snowballing of dependence—caused by automatic reliance on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—could easily send the country past the tipping point of endurable dependence, eroding civil society and endangering the functioning of democracy itself as citizens become dependent on government, instead of the other way around.
Additionally, the growing cost illustrates the budgetary problem of allowing dependence to expand unchecked. One reason this growth will be so significant is that these programs increase on autopilot, which further perpetuates dependence, since these programs are not subject to regular debate and evaluation. Unlike nearly all other federal outlays, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are mandatory spending programs that operate outside the annual budget process. This exemption entitles these programs to call on all federal revenues first, regardless of other budgetary priorities. Substantive policy reform is required if this automatic dependence is to be halted. Part of the solution is to turn these programs into 30-year budgeted programs, subjecting the budgets to debate at least every five years.
Other policy reforms—that emphasize independence and self-reliance—must also be part of addressing the problems inherent in these and other programs. The concept of a safety net ought to be restored to gear Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid toward those who truly need these programs. This restoration can be accomplished by relating benefits to retirees’ income and encouraging personal savings during working years.
Even though many Members of Congress and other policymakers show great hesitance in reforming these badly broken programs, good reforms that preserve the basic commitments this country has made to its retired and indigent populations do exist. The Heritage Foundation’s Saving the American Dream plan strengthens the anti-poverty elements of these mandatory programs while protecting them from financial ruin. Doing nothing guarantees that seniors one day will find themselves largely without the benefits that currently play such an important part of their retirement plans.
Growth in the Non-Taxpaying Population. The challenges that Congress faces in reforming these entitlement programs are heightened by the rapid growth of other dependence-creating programs, such as subsidies for food and housing and college financial aid, and by the growing number of Americans who incur no obligations for receiving them. How likely is Congress to reform entitlements in any meaningful way under such circumstances? Can Congress rein in the massive middle-class entitlements in an environment of fast-expanding dependence programs?
In 1962, the first year measured in the Index of Dependence on Government, the percentage of people who did not pay federal income taxes themselves and who were not claimed as dependents by someone who did pay federal income taxes stood at 24.0 percent; it fell to 12.6 percent by 1969 before beginning a ragged and ultimately steady increase. By 2000, the percentage was 34.1 percent; by 2010, it was 48.5 percent.Fortunately, this figure dropped to 44.7 percent in 2011. Despite the recent decline, the country is still at a point where nearly one-half of “taxpayers” do not pay federal income taxes, and where most of that same population receives generous federal benefits. (See Chart 1.) This high percentage of people who do not pay the federal income tax persists despite the nation undergoing an economic recovery since the economic collapse during 2008 and 2009.
This trend should concern everyone who supports America’s republican form of government. If the citizens’ representatives are elected by an increasing percentage of voters who pay no income tax, what will be the long-term consequences when these representatives respond more to demands of non-taxpaying voters who urge more spending on entitlements and subsidies than to the pleas of taxpaying voters who urge greater spending prudence?
Instead of encouraging more virtue, such as self-reliance, personal responsibility, and mutual cooperation, dependence on government encourages citizens who pay little taxes to view government as a source of ever expanding benefits, provided by other citizens who pay taxes, without any mutual obligations. Do Americans want a republic that encourages and validates a growing dependence on the state and a withering of civil society? Rejuvenating civil society can help people escape from dependence on government.
Section 1: The Purpose and Theory of the Index
The 2013 Index of Dependence on Government is divided into four major sections. Section 1 explains the purpose of and theory behind the Index; Section 2 features a methodology that describes how the Index is constructed; Section 3 discusses the Index in terms of the number of Americans who receive money from government programs; and Section 4 reviews major policy changes in five federal program areas.
The Index of Dependence on Government is designed to measure the pace at which federal government services and programs have grown in areas once considered to be the responsibility of individuals, families, communities, neighborhood groups, religious institutions, and other civil society institutions. By compiling and condensing these data into a simple annual score (composed of the scores for the five components in Section 4), the Index provides a useful tool for analyzing dependence on government. Policy analysts and political scientists can also use the Index and the patterns it reveals to develop forecasts of trends and consider how these trends might affect the politics of the federal budget.
The Index uses data drawn from a carefully selected set of federally funded programs. The programs were chosen for their propensity to duplicate or replace assistance, such as shelter, food, monetary aid, health care, education, or employment training, which was traditionally provided to people in need by local organizations and families.
In calculating the Index, the expenditures for these programs are weighted to reflect the relative importance of each service (such as shelter, health care, or food). The degree of a person’s dependence will vary with respect to the need. For example, a homeless person’s first need is generally shelter, followed by nourishment, health care, and income. Analysts in The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis weighted the program expenditures based on this hierarchy of needs, which produces a weighted index of expenditures centered on the year 1980.
Historically, individuals and local entities have privately provided more assistance to members of society in need than they do today. Particularly during the 20th century, government gradually offered more and more services that were previously provided by self-help and mutual aid organizations. Lower-cost housing is a good example. Mutual aid, religious, and educational organizations long have aided low-income Americans with limited housing assistance; after World War II, the federal and state governments began providing the bulk of low-cost housing. Today, government provides nearly all housing assistance for the poor and low-income.
Health care is another example of this pattern. Before World War II, Americans of modest income typically obtained health care and health insurance through a range of community institutions, some operated by religious institutions and social clubs. That entire health care infrastructure has since been replaced by publicly provided health insurance, largely through Medicaid and Medicare. Regardless of whether the medical and financial results are better today, the relationship between the people who receive health care assistance and those who pay for it has changed fundamentally. Few would dispute that this change has affected the total cost of health care, and the relationships among patients, doctors, and hospitals, negatively.
Financial help for those in need has also changed profoundly. Local, community-based charitable organizations once provided the majority of aid, resulting in a personal relationship between those who received assistance and those who provided it. Today, Social Security and other government programs provide much or all of the income to low-income and indigent households. Nearly all the financial support that was once provided to temporarily unemployed workers by unions, mutual aid societies, and local charities is now provided by federal income, food, and health programs.
This shift from local, community-based, mutual aid assistance to anonymous government payments has clearly altered the relationship between the receiver and the provider of the assistance. In the past, a person in need depended on help from people and organizations in his or her local community. The community representatives were generally aware of the person’s needs and tailored the assistance to meet those needs within the community’s budgetary constraints. Today, housing and other needs are addressed by government employees to whom the person in need is a complete stranger, and who have few or no ties to the community in which the needy person lives.
Both cases of aid involve a dependent relationship. The difference is that support provided by families, religious institutions , and other civil society groups aims to restore a person to full flourishing and personal responsibility, and, ultimately, perhaps to be able to aid another person in turn. The reciprocal relationship is essential to the existence of civil society itself. This kind of reciprocal expectation does not characterize the dependent relationship with the government. Government aid is usually based on one-sided aid without accountability for a person’s regained responsibility for self and toward his community. Indeed, the “success” of such government programs is frequently measured by the program’s growth rather than by whether it helps recipients to escape dependence. While the dependent relationship with civil society leads to a balance between the interests of the person in need and the community, the dependent relationship with the government is inherently prone to generating political pressure from interest groups—such as health care organizations, nonprofit organizations, and the aid recipients themselves—to expand and cement federal support. Perhaps more troubling is the expansion of means-tested safety-net programs, which have the unintended consequence of reducing the rewards to activities that increase one’s market income. The unintended consequence of means-tested programs is that these welfare benefits penalize actions to improve one’s financial situation through one’s own labors. For example, increased working hours translate into increased income, meaning that means-tested assistance participants face decreased assistance if they earn more. Such a quandary can turn into a poverty trap for an individual weighing the “cost” of earning more income at the expense of means-tested assistance. In addition, the programs of the welfare state are likely to create an intergenerational cycle of dependence.
Welfare assistance causes intergenerational dependence because the welfare system generates a culture of dependence in both recipient parents and their children. First, parental welfare participation may encourage children to accept unneeded welfare assistance later in life. Second, parental welfare participation may decrease the employment prospects of the children through multiple avenues. For instance, the lower attachment to work of many welfare-receiving parents may lead their children to be less aware of proper on-the-job behavior. Additionally, such parents may be less able to teach their children job-search skills and provide contacts with those able to provide employment opportunities. Any combination of these factors can significantly inhibit the ability of children to become economically self-sufficient. Third, parental participation may encourage some children to “learn how to ‘play the system’ at an early age.”
A study using data from the PSID found that 20 percent of girls raised in families that were highly dependent on Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) when the girls were 13 to 15 years old were themselves highly dependent on AFDC between the ages of 21 and 23. The same was true for only 3 percent of girls from non-AFDC-recipient families. However, the results of this study should be interpreted with caution because the study failed to account for other factors that may contribute to participation in AFDC.
An analysis of intergenerational welfare participation based on the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) from 1979 to 1988 provides stronger evidence for welfare assistance causing intergenerational dependence. After controlling for factors that may influence welfare participation, the study found that “exposure to welfare at home increases later offspring dependency.” Specifically, children raised in families participating in AFDC were almost 4.6 times more likely to participate in AFDC during adulthood, compared to the adulthood participation rates of children raised in families never enrolled in AFDC. A similar study using NLSY data found that women raised in households that received welfare were 1.67 to 2.74 times more likely to be dependent on AFDC in adulthood than their counterparts from non-welfare households.
Other studies that account for factors that may influence welfare participation have confirmed an intergenerational link. According to a study based on a random sample of AFDC female recipients from Tennessee, growing up in a family that participated in AFDC was associated with an increased length of time for these women on AFDC in adulthood. An analysis of welfare assistance in Canada found that a 1 percent increase in parental participation during a child’s pre-adult years (ages seven to 17) was associated with a participation rate increase of 0.29 percent during the child’s early adulthood (ages 18 to 21). Converted to a monthly basis, a one-month increase in prior participation by parents is associated with a three-day increase in participation by their children when age 18 to 21.
The Index of Dependence on Government provides a way to assess the magnitude and implications of the change in government dependence in American society. The Index is based principally on historical data from the President’s fiscal year (FY) 2013 annual budget proposal. The last year measured in the 2013 Index is FY 2011. The Center for Data Analysis (CDA) used a simple weighting scheme and inflation adjustment to restate these publicly available data. CDA analysts encourage replication of their work and will gladly provide the data that support this year’s Index upon request to professionals. The steps to prepare this year’s Index are described in the methodology in Section 2.
Section 2: The Methodology
After identifying the government programs that contribute to dependence, the Center for Data Analysis further examined the data to identify the components that contributed to variability. Relatively small programs that required little funding and short-term programs were excluded. The remaining expenditures were summed up on an annual basis for each of the five major categories listed in Table 2. The program titles are those used by the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for budget function and sub-function in the budget accounting system. For federal spending on higher education, U.S. Department of Education appropriations for higher education loans and grants were used instead of OMB data for fiscal years 1980 to 2011 because the CDA analysts determined them to be more accurate, and less prone to accounting technicalities in recent years.
The CDA analysts collected data for FY 1962 through FY 2011. Deflators centered on 2005 were employed to adjust for inflation.
Indices are intended to provide insight into phenomena that are either so detailed or complicated that simplification through chosen but reasonable rules is required for obtaining useful insights. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for instance, is a series based on a selected “basket of goods” that the bureau surveys periodically for price changes. The components of this basket are weighted to reflect their relative importance to overall price change. Energy prices are weighted as more important than clothing prices. Multiplying the weight by the price produces a weighted price for each element of the CPI, and the total of the weighted prices produces the rough CPI score.
The Index of Dependence on Government generally works the same way. The raw (unweighted) value for each program (that program’s yearly expenditures) is multiplied by the weight reasonably assigned to it by CDA. The total of the weighted values is the Index score for that year.
The Index is calculated using the following weights:
- Housing: 30 percent
- Health Care and Welfare: 25 percent
- Retirement: 20 percent
- Higher Education: 15 percent
- Rural and Agricultural Services: 10 percent
The same weighting procedure is consistently applied to each annual edition of the Index. The weights are “centered” on the year 1980. This means that the total of the weighted values for the Index components will equal 100 for 1980, and 1980 is the reference year in comparison to which all other Index values can be evaluated as percentages of 100.
The CDA chose the year 1980 due to its apparent significance in American political philosophy. Many analysts view 1980 as a watershed year in U.S. history because it seems to mark the beginning of the decline in left-of-center public policy and the emergence of right-of-center challenges to policies that were based on the belief that social systems fail without the guiding hand of government.
The Index certainly reflects such a watershed. Chart 3 plots the Index from 1962 to 2011. The scores have clearly drifted upward throughout the entire period.
There are two plateaus in the Index—the 1980s and the period from 1995 to 2001—that suggest that policy changes may significantly influence the Index growth rate. During the early 1980s, the growth of some domestic programs was slowed to pay for increased defense spending, and Congress enacted significant policy changes in welfare and public housing during the 1990s. Both of these cutbacks reduced the Index growth rate.
Chart 4 connects the Index to major public policy changes. The largest jump in the Index occurred during the Johnson Administration, following the passage of the Great Society programs. The Johnson Administration not only launched Medicare and other publicly funded health programs, but also vastly expanded the federal role in providing and financing low-income housing. The Index also jumped 90 percent (from 39 to 74) under the Nixon and Ford Administrations, when Republicans were funding and implementing substantial portions of the Great Society programs.
The two periods of relatively less liberal public policy (the 1980s and 1995–2001) stand out clearly in Chart 4. The slowdowns in welfare spending increases during the Reagan years and after the 1994 congressional elections produced two periods of slightly negative change in the Index. These periods saw significant retreats from Great Society methods, particularly in the nation’s approach to welfare, but the return of budget surpluses during the last years of the Clinton Administration led to significant spending increases for all of the components, particularly education and health care. The George W. Bush years saw more leaps in retirement, housing, health, and welfare spending, and since 2009, health care and welfare spending has blasted upward like a rocket. Health care and welfare now stand at four and a third times the 1980 level (inflation-adjusted). With the continuing implementation of Obamacare (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010), the parameters of Chart 4 will most likely have to be expanded again to fit the higher Index number in the years to come.
Section 3: The Five Index Components
CDA analysts began by reviewing the federal budget to identify federal programs and state activities supported by federal appropriations that fit the definition of dependence—providing assistance in areas once considered to be the responsibility of individuals, families, neighborhood groups, religious institutions, and other civil society institutions. The immediate beneficiary of the program or activity must be an individual. This method generally excludes state programs; federally funded programs in which the states act as intermediaries for benefits to individuals are included.
Elementary and secondary education are the principal state-administered programs that are excluded under this stipulation. Post-secondary education is the only part of federal government–funded education included in the Index. Expenditures on the military and federal employees are also excluded. National defense is the primary constitutionally mandated function of the federal government and thus does not promote dependence as measured by the Index. Non-military federal employees are also excluded from the Index based on the fact that these individuals are paid for their labor. In addition, military and federal employees are assumed to possess marketable skills that allow them to find work in the private sector should their federal jobs not exist.
CDA analysts then divided the qualifying programs into five broad components:
- (a) Health Care and (b) Welfare
- Higher Education
- Rural and Agricultural Services
The following sections discuss the pace and content of policy changes in these five components.
1) Housing. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was created in 1965 by consolidating several independent federal housing agencies into one executive department. The purpose of the consolidation was to elevate the importance of government housing assistance within the constellation of federal spending programs. At that time it was believed that the destructive riots that broke out in many cities in the early 1960s were a consequence of poor housing conditions and that these conditions were contributing to urban decay.
In any given year, about 80 percent of HUD’s budget is aimed at housing assistance, and the other 20 percent is focused on urban issues by way of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. Given the nature of these programmatic allocations, HUD budgetary and staff resources are concentrated on low-income households to an extent unmatched by any other federal department.
Within the 80 percent of the HUD budget spent on housing assistance are a series of means-tested housing programs, some of which date back to the Great Depression. Typically, these programs provide low-income people, including the elderly and disabled, with apartments at monthly rents scaled to their incomes. The lower the income, the lower the rent. Traditionally, HUD and the local housing agencies have provided eligible low-income households with “project-based” assistance, an apartment unit that is owned and maintained by the government.
Public housing projects have historically been the most common form of such assistance, but they began to fall out of favor in the 1960s due to the rampant decay and deterioration that followed from concentrating low-income families in a single complex or neighborhood. Periodically, new forms of project-based programs are adopted as “reform,” which also tend to fall out of favor after years of disappointing results. HOPE VI is the most recent form of project-based assistance, and high costs and low benefits led the George W. Bush Administration to attempt, unsuccessfully, to terminate the program in 2006. Efforts are now underway by some in the Obama Administration to increase the program’s funding.
HUD also provides “tenant-based” housing assistance to low-income households in the form of rent vouchers and certificates. These certificates help low-income people rent apartments in the private sector by covering a portion of the rent. The lower the person’s or family’s income, the greater the share of rent covered by the voucher or certificate. Vouchers were implemented in the early 1970s as a cost-effective replacement for public housing and other forms of expensive project-based assistance; vouchers still account for only a portion of housing assistance, in part because of housing-industry resistance to terminating the lucrative project-based programs. However, the unintended consequence of the sliding contribution of vouchers based on income means that the assistance operates with the disincentives of marginal tax rates: Voucher participants face decreased housing assistance if they experience income gains. Such a dilemma can turn into a poverty trap for an individual weighing the “cost” of earning more income at the expense of losing housing assistance.
Finally, HUD provides block grants to cities and communities through the CDBG program according to a needs-based formula. Grant money can be spent at a community’s discretion among a series of permissible options. Among the allowable spending options is additional housing assistance, which many communities use to provide assistance to a greater number of low-income households. Although HUD programs are means-tested to determine eligibility, they are not entitlements. As a result, many eligible households do not receive any housing assistance due to funding limitations. In many communities, housing assistance requires waiting periods of several years—and in some cases local housing authorities no longer add new families to the waiting list because there is simply no foreseeable prospect of new applicants receiving an apartment.
Recognizing that HUD housing assistance can create dependence among those who receive its benefits, some Members of Congress have attempted to extend the work requirements of the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWOR) to HUD programs. Self-described advocates for the poor have thwarted these efforts. To date, the most that can be required of a HUD program beneficiary is eight hours per month of volunteer service to the community or housing project in which the beneficiary lives.
After a mid-decade jump reflecting spending to rebuild infrastructure destroyed by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the housing component of the Index moderated, but in 2008 it jumped significantly as the federal government added several mortgage-bailout programs to its traditional low-income, housing-assistance focus.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) took over the supervision of operations of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on July 24, 2008, as part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA). The federal government provides direct financing to the mortgage market through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac due to HERA. The net loss to the federal government from November 2008 to the end of March 2011 totaled $130 billion ($154 billion minus $24 billion in dividends on the agencies’ respective preferred stock). Moreover, any agency debt issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is not considered official government debt, and, therefore, is not included in the accounting of federal publicly held debt.
The change in agency status is important since Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac directly hold purchased mortgages and issue mortgage-backed securities (MBS). Their role in the single-family residential mortgage market is substantial. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guarantee approximately half of outstanding U.S. mortgages, and they finance more than 70 percent of all single-family residential mortgages.
In the past two years, under the Obama Administration, there have been incremental steps to extend help to homeowners. The Administration established two broad programs to help U.S. homeowners through the Making Home Affordable (MHA) initiative—the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) and the Home Affordable Refinancing Program (HARP).
These programs go beyond extending federal government support to low-income Americans. The HAMP program uses Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds to reduce the burden of mortgage-related debt service from homeowners at risk of foreclosure. These are targeted homeowners that took a sub-prime or alternative high-risk mortgage, and are paying more than 31 percent of their household income on their primary mortgage. HARP, however, extends federal support in housing to many moderate-income and upper-middle-income households by allowing eligible homeowners to refinance their mortgage at historically low interest rates and to change their term structure on loans. All mortgages refinanced under HARP are either owned or underwritten by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
2(a) Health Care.Increasing spending and enrollment in public health care programs, and particularly Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), is leading to greater dependence on government. In 2011, total combined enrollment in these three programs was nearly 109 million individuals—approximately 32 percent of the entire U.S. population. The three programs accounted for $999 billion, or 6.6 percent of GDP. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), by 2021, government spending on health care will represent nearly 50 percent of total national health expenditures.
In its 2011 annual report on health insurance coverage, the U.S. Census Bureau published figures that underscore the current trend toward greater dependence on government health programs.The percentage of Americans enrolled in government health programs is rising faster than ever, in part due to a struggling economy, Medicaid and CHIP expansions, and a rapidly growing elderly population transitioning into Medicare. The consequence is greater dependence on taxpayer-subsidized coverage.
Medicare. Congress established Medicare in 1965 through Title XVIII of the Social Security Act. Medicare pays for health care for individuals ages 65 and above, and for those with certain disabilities. Medicare enrollment has steadily increased since its enactment due to increases in both population and individual life expectancy. In 1970, 20.4 million individuals were enrolled in Medicare. By 2011, the number of enrollees had more than doubled to 48.7 million.In 2011, the first of 81.5 million baby boomers became eligible for Medicare, leading to an expected dramatic increase in enrollment over the next 10 years.
The heavily taxpayer-subsidized Medicare coverage increases overall demand for health care and places upward pressure on health care pricing. Medicare fee-for-service is the primary source of coverage for beneficiaries. However, traditional Medicare’s fee-for-service structure adds to rising costs by rewarding providers for higher volumes of services. Moreover, gaps in coverage lead 90 percent of enrollees to carry supplemental plans, such as employer-provided retiree coverage, Medigap plans, or Medicaid. By design, supplemental policies shield seniors from the financial effects of their health care decisions.
Growing enrollment and rising spending are quickly leading Medicare to become an unsustainable program. Under current law, the program faces $26.9 trillion in long-term unfunded obligations; under an alternative, more plausible, scenario, the estimate reaches $36.9 trillion over the long term. Medicare Part A is already running yearly deficits, and according to the Trustees, the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund will become insolvent in 2024. Between 1985 and 2011, gross federal spending for Medicare rose from 1.7 percent of GDP to 3.7 percent, and under the CBO’s extended alternative fiscal scenario, gross federal spending on Medicare will reach 6.7 percent of GDP by 2037.
The last decade has seen a significant expansion of benefits provided by Medicare, including the addition of a prescription drug benefit (Medicare Part D). From 2004 to 2011, Part D was responsible for $337.9 billion in spending. Though the role of competition in its defined-contribution financing model has caused its costs during this period to be 48 percent lower than initial CMS projections, the program has added substantially to health care entitlement spending. Additionally, the publicly funded Part D program has crowded out private coverage alternatives. Research suggests that before Medicare Part D was enacted, 75 percent of seniors currently receiving public coverage held private drug coverage. Part D also increased average spending on prescription drugs by seniors, an expense that is funded by an increase in public spending of 184 percent, accompanied by a reduction in seniors’ out-of-pocket spending of 39 percent and private insurance plan spending of 37 percent.
Medicaid and CHIP. Medicaid, the joint federal–state health care program for specific categories of the poor, was also established in 1965, through Title XIX of the Social Security Act. In 2011, 56.1 million Americans were enrolled in Medicaid, an increase of 2.2 million individuals in just one year, and 21.6 million since 2000. Medicaid serves a diverse population of the poor, including children, mothers, the elderly, and the disabled. Combined, the total national cost of Medicaid and CHIP in 2011 is estimated at $441 billion, and is projected to rise to $963 billion by 2021.
The generous, open-ended federal reimbursement that states receive for Medicaid spending encourages many states to grow the program beyond what could be expected if state taxpayers funded the full cost. The structure of the Medicaid program varies from state to state because states determine their own eligibility and benefit levels after meeting a minimum federal standard. States have used this flexibility to expand eligibility and benefit packages. Indeed, past research has shown that a majority of Medicaid expenditures are for optional services or groups.
Incremental Medicaid expansions and the addition of CHIPhave increased the number of individuals eligible for government health programs. CHIP has led many working families who would otherwise enroll their children in private coverage to opt for public coverage. The CBO concluded that private coverage crowd-out from CHIP expansions ranges from 25 percent to 50 percent. In 2011, 5.7 million children were enrolled in CHIP—an increase of 300,000 children from the year before, and 3.7 million from 2000.
Impact of Obamacare. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), enacted in 2010, relies on a massive expansion in Medicaid and the creation of a new income-related subsidy to purchase insurance through government-controlled insurance exchanges.
The most recent CBO estimate projects that, by 2022, 25 million individuals will receive subsidized coverage in the new exchanges.CMS originally estimated that over 20 million additional Americans would be enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP by 2019 due to the PPACA. However, the CBO has an updated estimate that reflects the recent June 2012 Supreme Court decision, which made the Medicaid expansion optional for states, causing a smaller amount of additional Medicaid enrollees—11 million in 2022.
These new provisions are projected to cost the federal government nearly $1.7 trillion between 2012 and 2022. To reduce the impact on the federal deficit, the PPACA depends on a variety of offsetting provisions, including an estimated $716 billion from Medicare. Thus, instead of extending Medicare’s solvency, these reductions were used to fund the new spending provisions. Moreover, both the CMS Actuary and the CBO warn that much of these Medicare spending reductions are unlikely to materialize due to the effects they will have on health care providers’ profitability, and subsequently, seniors’ access to care.
Conclusion. The growing dependence on government health programs, the result of recently enacted legislation, and other factors will have a direct negative impact on federal and state taxpayers. Spending on Medicare and Medicaid, two of the largest entitlement programs, is on track to well surpass current levels. By 2021, Medicare spending is expected to surpass $1 trillion, and total spending (federal and state) for Medicaid and CHIP will reach $963 billion, with exchange spending totaling $136 billion, at which point government spending will represent nearly half of all health care expenditures.
2(b) Welfare.The 1996 Welfare Reform Act (PRWORA) replaced the decades-long Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC)—which entitled recipients to unconditional benefits—with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Enacted during the Great Depression, AFDC, an old cash-welfare program, was intended to provide financial assistance to children in need. Over the decades, the program swelled and added adults, such as unemployed parents of enrolled children. Welfare rolls peaked in 1994, reaching more than 5 million cases—14.2 million individual recipients. Before welfare reform, one child in seven received AFDC.
An open-ended assistance program, AFDC granted states more money as their welfare rolls continued to increase. At the individual level, AFDC handed out benefits without any expectations from the recipients, who were entitled to cash aid as long as they fell below the need standards set by the states. The entitlement created perverse incentives—discouraging work among able-bodied adults and discouraging marriage.
Welfare reform effectively altered the fundamental premise of receiving public aid and ended it as an entitlement. Receiving assistance became temporary and tied to demonstrable efforts by able-bodied adult recipients to find work or take part in work-related activities. Self-sufficiency became the goal. The successes of welfare reform are undeniable. Between August 1996 and December 2011, welfare caseloads declined by 59.1 percent—from 4.4 million families to 1.8 million families. The legislation also reduced child poverty by 1.6 million children.
The initial years after welfare reform brought significant progress. By the late 1990s, most states had met the PRWORA’s work goals, and motivation to reduce dependence and encourage work among recipients even more began to wane. The national TANF caseload has flatlined in the past few years, and the percentage of TANF families with work-eligible adults who worked at least 30 hours per week (20 hours for those with young children) never rose above the 38.3 percent attained in 1999, and has hovered near 30 percent in recent years.
In February 2006, after four years of debate, Congress reauthorized TANF under the Deficit Reduction Act. The new legislation reiterated the need to engage recipients in acceptable work activities and promote self-sufficiency. Once again, states were required to increase work participation and to reduce their welfare caseloads, using the lower 2005 caseload levels as the new baseline—which essentially restarted the 1996 reform. As required by Congress, the Department of Health and Human Services also issued new regulations to strengthen work-participation standards.
The 2006 TANF reauthorization also contained a notable measure that began to rectify the inattention to the other two 1996 welfare reform goals: reducing unwed childbearing and restoring stable family formation. The erosion of marriage and family is a primary contributing factor to child poverty and welfare dependence, and it figures significantly in a host of social problems. A child born outside marriage is nearly six times more likely to be poor than a child raised by married parents, and more than 80 percent of long-term child poverty occurs in single-parent homes. Moreover, unwed parents and the absence of fathers in the home negatively affects a child’s development, educational achievement, and psychological well-being, as well as increases children’s propensity toward delinquency and substance abuse.
For the past four decades, the unwed birth rate in America has been rising steadily, from 5.3 percent in 1960 to 40.7 percent in 2011. Among blacks, 72.3 percent of children born in 2011 were to unmarried parents; among Hispanics, the percentage was 53.3 percent. The percentage among whites was 29.0 percent. Although the pace of growth in the proportions of births to unmarried women slowed in the immediate years after welfare reform, more recently, it has risen rapidly. From 2002 to 2009, the share of non-marital births increased by one-fifth—34.0 percent to 41.0 percent. Since then, the share of non-marital births appears to have leveled off at 40.8 percent and 40.7 percent in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
In 2011, 1.6 million children were born to unmarried parents. Contrary to popular belief, the typical single mother is not a teenager, but in her twenties. Whereas in 1970 one-half of all out-of-wedlock births were to teens, in 2011 births to girls younger than 18 years of age comprised only 5.9 percent of such births. Almost 61 percent of out-of-wedlock births are to women in their twenties.About 49 percent are high-school dropouts, and 34 percent are high-school graduates. Fourteen percent have had some college education; only 2 percent have a college degree. Tragically, the Obama Administration seems bent on derailing the successful 1996 welfare reforms. In July 2012, the Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services announced that it would allow states to waive the work requirement, the heart of the reform law. The Administration’s policy threatens the success of the law in helping those in need attain self-sufficiency.
Welfare reform should be restored. Additionally, comprehensive welfare reform of the federal government’s many other welfare programs is needed. Today’s welfare system is a convoluted machinery of 80 programs, 13 federal departments, and a voluminous collection of state agencies and programs. Overall, the welfare system amounts to over $900 billion in spending per year.
Since President Lyndon Johnson declared the War on Poverty in 1964, the federal government has spent approximately $20 trillion on means-tested welfare aid. Today, means-tested assistance is the fastest-growing part of government, with the nation spending more on welfare than on national defense. Under the Obama Administration, welfare spending has increased dramatically. For example, since FY 2008, spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the Food Stamp program, more than doubled from $37.6 billion to $78.4 billion for FY 2012. The tremendous growth in the SNAP budget means that more and more Americans are dependent on the program. In 1969, 1.4 percent of the population or about 2.9 million people participated in the program. By 2008, the participation rate increased to 9.3 percent of the population with 28.2 million individuals receiving benefits. In 2011, 44.7 million people (14.3 percent of the population) participated in the program. (See Chart 12.) The figure for FY 2012 is 14.8 percent—meaning that one of every 6.7 people in the nation is participating in the program. Over the next 10 years, total welfare spending is expected to cost taxpayers $12.7 trillion. The Obama Administration has worked rapidly to expand the welfare state further.Such growth is clearly unsustainable.
The 1996 Welfare Reform Act was the first phase of meaningful welfare reform. The work requirements in this law must be restored and strengthened. The next phase of welfare reform should focus on the following: First, since means-tested welfare spending goes to more than 80 federal programs, Congress should require the President’s annual budget to detail current and future aggregate federal means-tested spending. The budget should also provide estimates of state contributions to federal welfare programs. Second, continuing reform should rein in the explosive growth in spending. When the unemployment rate returns to the historically normal level of approximately 5 percent, aggregate welfare funding should be capped at pre-recession (FY 2007) levels plus inflation. Third, building on the successful 1996 model, further reform should continue to promote personal responsibility by encouraging work. For example, SNAP, one of the largest means-tested programs, should be restructured to require able-bodied adult recipients to work or prepare to work, in order to be eligible for food stamps.
3) Retirement.Since the time of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the American retirement system has been described as a three-legged stool consisting of Social Security, employment-based pensions, and personal retirement savings. The reality is quite different. Almost half of American workers (about 78 million) are employed by companies that do not offer any type of pension or retirement savings plan. This proportion of employer-based retirement savings coverage has remained roughly stable for many years, and experience has shown that few workers can save enough for retirement without such a payroll-deduction savings plan. For workers without a pension plan, the reality of their retirement consists almost entirely of Social Security.
Since 1935, Social Security has provided a significant proportion of most Americans’ retirement incomes. The program pays a monthly check to retired workers, and monthly benefits to surviving spouses and children under the age of 18. Monthly benefits are based on the indexed average of a worker’s monthly income over a 35-year period, with lower-income workers receiving proportionately higher payments and higher-income workers receiving proportionately less. The lowest-income workers receive about 70 percent of their pre-retirement income; average-income workers receive 40 percent to 45 percent; and upper-income workers average about 23 percent.
However, the demographic forces that once made Social Security affordable have reversed, and the program is on an inexorable course toward fiscal crisis. To break even, Social Security needs at least 2.9 workers to pay taxes for each retiree who receives benefits. The current ratio is 3.3 workers per retiree and dropping because the baby boomers produced fewer children than their parents did and have begun to reach retirement. The ratio will reach 2.9 workers per retiree around 2015 and drop to two workers per retiree in the 2030s.
Current retiree benefits are paid from the payroll taxes collected from today’s workers. Social Security has not collected enough taxes to pay for all its promised benefits since 2010. Both the Social Security Administration and the CBO say that these deficits are permanent.
Between 1983 and 2009, workers paid more in payroll taxes than the Social Security program needed in order to pay benefits. These additional taxes were supposed to be retained to help finance retirement benefits for baby boomers. But the government did not save or invest the excess taxes for the future. Instead, the government used the money to finance other government programs. In return for the diverted revenue, Social Security’s trust fund received special-issue U.S. Treasury bonds. Now that Social Security has begun to spend the interest that is accumulating on those Treasury bonds and will soon begin to redeem them, the federal government will be required to raise the money through higher taxes or massive borrowing.
Social Security’s uncertain future is a problem for all workers, and especially for roughly half the American workforce that has no other retirement program. Few of these Americans have any significant savings, and unless the situation improves, they will depend heavily on the government for their retirement incomes.
This dependence is largely the result of government policies. By soaking up money that should have been invested for the future, Social Security’s high tax rate makes it much harder for lower-income and moderate-income workers to accumulate any substantial savings. Workers logically view Social Security taxes as a substitute for private savings—the problem is that the government is spending, rather than saving that money, and the complexity of the program, along with its long-term fiscal insolvency, prevents workers from knowing precisely what they will receive in return for their Social Security taxes.
Additionally, Social Security reduces private savings by relieving people of the responsibility for factors such as securing assets to last into very old age or to pay for medical treatments not covered by insurance. If Social Security did not provide a guaranteed lifetime benefit, people would have to increase their private savings to provide for a longer retirement. And, the Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) component of Social Security, which provides additional income and medical benefits to individuals who run out of private savings, discourages lower-income workers from saving money that could prevent them from receiving additional government assistance.
Complex government regulations also discourage the expansion of occupational pensions to cover a higher proportion of the workforce. Over the past few decades, the costs of traditional pension plans have skyrocketed, and thousands of them have shut down. Efforts to develop innovative hybrid pension plans stalled when confusing laws and regulations resulted in lawsuits.
4) Higher Education.Federal post-secondary education spending continues to grow at a rapid pace. During the 2011–2012 school year, total federal spending on student aid programs (including tax credits and deductions, grants, and loans) was approximately $236.7 billion—making total federal aid 218 percent higher than for the 2001–2002 school year (total inflation-adjusted federal aid totaled $108.6 billion that year). In the 2010–2011 school year, federal grant aid increased to $50.3 billion, a 2.7 percent increase over the previous year (Pell Grants: $34.5 billion; other federal grants: $14.8 billion; Work Study: $1 billion). Between 2000 and 2011, inflation-adjusted Pell Grant funding grew 191 percent. Notably, federal intervention into the student lending market has also continued to grow. The U.S. Department of Education notes that “as of July 1, 2010, all Subsidized and Unsubsidized Stafford Loans, PLUS, and Consolidation Loans are originated in the Direct Loan (DL) program.”
The data in Chart 11 is limited to spending expressed in 2005 dollars, so tax credits, deductions, and loan liabilities are not included. As the chart shows, higher education spending steadily increased since 1962. Higher education increased from $1.8 billion in 1962 to $40.9 billion in 2011—an increase of a staggering 2,172 percent.
Over the past decade, growing federal higher-education subsidies have increased the number and percentage of post-secondary students who depend on government aid. In the 2011–2012 school year, 9.4 million students received Pell Grant scholarships—more than double the number of students who received Pell Grants in the 2001–2002 school year.The maximum Pell Grant award rose to $5,550 during the 2011–2012 school year. Moreover, during the 2007–2008 school year (the most recent data available), 47 percent of students received federal student aid (including both grants and loans).Federal borrowing through the Stafford loan program grew to 10.4 million loans from just 5.4 million loans during the 2001–2002 school year, a 95 percent increase.
Both federal spending and students’ dependence on government are likely to continue to rise in 2013. In seeking to make the United States the country with “the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020,” President Obama has pushed for significant increases in federal subsidies. The President’s 2013 budget request increases funding for federal grants, loans, and work-study programs to $165 billion—a 69 percent increase since 2008.Moreover, “the administration’s budget would provide a record $36.1 billion in Pell Grants to nearly 10 million students during the 2013–2014 award year.”
Increases in federal student aid subsidies over the years have done nothing to mitigate ever-rising college costs. Tuition and fees at private and public four-year institutions rose by 13 percent and 27 percent, respectively, after adjusting for inflation, from the 2007–2008 academic year to the 2012–2013 academic year. In the decade from 2002 to 2012, tuition and fees rose by an average annual rate of 5.2 percent at public universities.Since 1982, the cost of college tuition and fees has increased by 439 percent—more than four times the rate of inflation.
Decades-long increases in federal subsidies for college have led to increases in college tuition and fees because universities know that more aid makes students less sensitive to rising college costs. Economist Richard Vedder argues that “some of these [federal] financial aid programs have contributed mightily to the explosion in tuition and fees in modern times.” Vedder also notes that it “is not clear that higher education has major positive spillover effects that justify government subsidies in the first place, and the private loan market that can handle anything from automobile loans to billion-dollar government bond sales can handle financial assistance to students if necessary.”
Instead of continuing to expand the government’s role in student lending, federal subsidies should be limited to those students with the greatest financial need. Limiting the number of years that students are able to receive federal subsidies would also likely begin to tackle the college cost problem.
5) Rural and Agricultural Services. Government dependence in the rural and agriculture sector is largely driven by farm subsidies. Direct payments are designed to supplement farm income; production quotas inflate crop prices; and premium subsidies offset the cost of crop insurance. The government also pays farmers to adopt conservation methods, and provides export subsidies that enable them to undercut commodity prices overseas.
Supporters of farm subsidies often characterize farmers as particularly vulnerable to both natural and economic forces. But risk exists in all types of commercial endeavors, and there are a host of nongovernmental methods with which farmers themselves can manage risk, including crop diversification, credit reserves, and private insurance.
In fact, American farmers are doing quite well. Net farm income hit a record $117.9 billion in 2011, and is forecast by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to reach $128.2 billion in 2013—the highest level on record in four decades. Chart 12 shows that average farm-household income began to eclipse the average of all U.S. households in 1996, and remains so (despite the fact that most farm-household income is derived from off-farm sources).
Meanwhile, the top five earnings years during the past three decades have all occurred since 2004.The debt-to-asset ratio for 2012 is pegged at just 10.3 percent, meaning that debt is only about one-tenth of total assets—the strongest position in some 40 years, due largely to rising land values.Farm subsidies are higher now than in the early 1990s, when farm-household income and that of the rest of America were roughly equal.
Farm subsidies, commodity quotas, and tariffs largely enrich upper-income producers of grains, oilseeds, cotton, milk, and sugar, and ignore most other commodities. Nearly 80 percent of farms with gross cash farm income of $250,000 to $999,999 receive government payments, compared to 24 percent of farms with gross cash farm income of $10,000 to $249,999.
Instead of payments based on need, farm subsidies are largely based on the type of crops grown, and the volume produced over time. Because yield has long been a primary factor in the allocation of subsidies, bigger farms receive a larger proportion of the payments. Since the operators of bigger farms tend to have higher household incomes than their smaller counterparts, subsidies have shifted to higher income households.
This is where the rationale for farm subsidies falls apart. Large farms are generally more viable than small farms by virtue of economies of scale and access to technology. Large farms can afford more sophisticated machinery and can take advantage of the latest scientific advances—both of which allow operators to manage more acreage and increase yields. To the extent that taxpayers absorb the costs of farming, farmers are less likely to optimize efficiency or minimize risk.
In 1996, Congress appeared to acknowledge the failures of centrally planned agriculture. That year’s Federal Agricultural Improvement and Reform Act(also known as the Freedom to Farm Act) was designed to phase out farm subsidies by 2002 and allow the agricultural sector to operate as a free market. After spending just $6.2 billion on what is called farm “income stabilization” in 1997—half the amount that was spent in 1992—Congress overreacted to a temporary dip in crop prices in 1998 (resulting from the Asian economic slowdown) by passing the first in a series of annual emergency bailouts for farmers.
By 2000, farm income stabilization spending hit a record $33.4 billion. Farmers quickly grew accustomed to massive government subsidies, and competition for the farm vote induced a bipartisan bidding war on the eve of the 2002 elections. That same year, lawmakers gave up on reform and enacted the largest farm bill in American history, projected to cost at least $180 billion over the following decade. Despite escalating costs and negative economic effects, farm subsidization continued to be the overwhelming preference of Congress and the White House.
Rather than fix this broken system, the 2008 farm bill made it worse. Congress repealed key limits on the subsidies a farmer may receive, thereby ignoring President George W. Bush’s call to subsidize only those farmers who earn less than $200,000 a year, which would have effectively ended subsidies for corporate farms. The bill created a permanent new disaster program, increased subsidy rates, and used gimmicks to cover up a spending increase of approximately $25 billion over 10 years. Even corn farmers, who already benefit from soaring prices resulting from federal ethanol policies, continued to receive billions in annual subsidies.
With the national debt above $16 trillion, lawmakers are finally considering cuts to some farm subsidies. For example, the House and Senate have passed farm bills that would repeal a set of wasteful and antiquated commodity programs. Unfortunately, they would supplant those cuts with new subsidy programs, dubbed “shallow loss” and “target price” programs. A shallow loss program protects farmers from even minor (shallow) losses, effectively removing virtually all risk from farming. In the Senate, farmers would be guaranteed protection for up to 88 percent of their revenue; in the House it would be 85 percent of the revenue. Since the cost of the shallow loss programs is based on an average of commodity prices from the previous five years, the numbers could skyrocket if prices are higher than expected. For both bills, the Congressional Budget Office assumed that commodity prices would stay at or near record highs. If the prices return to long-term averages, taxpayers could pay far more than what is projected.
A target price program sets a specific price in law. If a commodity price falls below that level, farmers of the specific commodity receive a payment. In the House bill particularly, the target prices have been set so high that payments for some commodities would likely be guaranteed, such as payments to peanut farmers.
Not surprisingly, decades of farm subsidies have created an entitlement mentality among a class of farmers who have significant influence in Congress. Prospects for reform also are stymied by the sprawling scope of previous farm bills, which have encompassed food stamps, child nutrition, forestry, telecommunications, energy, and rural development. This concentration of special interests constitutes a powerful force for the status quo.
Major reforms are sorely needed to reduce farmers’ unnecessary dependence on taxpayers. First and foremost, lawmakers must separate the food stamp program from the agriculture-related programs of the farm bill so that reform is a possibility. Nearly 80 percent of the farm bill is composed of food stamps, making it really the “food stamp bill.” These distinct programs are combined solely for political reasons in order to get them passed. If the programs are separated, lawmakers could have the chance to consider each of these programs on its own merits. Thereafter, Congress can move toward elimination of numerous subsidies, placing restrictions on eligibility, and imposing income limits and subsidy caps.
Public policy decisions can alter the fabric of society. Changes in the Index of Dependence on Government are clearly traceable to public policy decisions that expanded or constricted the reach of government. The rapid increase in the 1960s and 1970s corresponds with a new commitment by the federal government to solve local social and economic problems, which had previously been the responsibility of local governments, civil society organizations, communities, and families. Both the number of government employees and people covered by government programs surged in the wake of the War on Poverty.
The 1980s and 1990s generally witnessed much slower growth in the Index as public policy emphasized reining in the size and influence of government. Unfortunately, the first decade of the new millennium was a different story: The Index resumed the growth rates attained during the era of big government and they are now growing even faster.
Americans should be concerned about this relentless upward march in Index scores. Dependence on the federal government for life’s many challenges strips civil society of its historical—and necessary—role in providing aid and renewal through the intimate relationships of family, community, and local institutions and local governments. While the Index does not measure the decay of civil society, it reflects an increase in the size and scope of government with a concurrent displacement of the institutions of civil society.
Today, the growth of government spending is of particular concern as the retirement of the baby-boomer generation has caused sharp increases in government spending. At the same time, the tax code has become a morass of tax credits and deductions that remove millions of Americans from the tax rolls, insulating them from the cost of government.
Perhaps the greatest danger is that the swelling ranks of Americans who enjoy government services and benefits for which they pay few or no taxes will lead to a spreading sense of entitlement that is simply incompatible with self-government. Americans have reached a point in the life of their republic at which the democratic political process has become a means for many voters to defend and expand the “benefits” they receive from government. Do Americans want a republic that encourages and validates a growing dependence on the state and a withering of civil society? Do Americans want sharp class lines drawn between those who receive government largesse and those who pay for it? These are questions increasingly in need of urgent answers. How Americans answer them may well determine the ultimate fate of their political system—and of their society.
It is not too late: The individual genius of Americans, acting through their civil society institutions, can still steer the nation from its present disastrous course. Civil society is not dead today. While government programs have crowded out civil society, Americans do not have to look far beyond their own neighborhoods to find fellow citizens voluntarily helping each other in times of need. Such noble examples should inspire Americans to shed their dependence on government programs that breed a sense of entitlement without any responsibility. The alternative—nurturing family and community relationships that foster voluntary mutual assistance—will help restore civil society as a strong pillar of American exceptionalism.
About the Authors
David B. Muhlhausen, PhD, is Research Fellow in Empirical Policy Analysis in the Center for Data Analysis at The Heritage Foundation.
Patrick D. Tyrrell is Research Coordinator in the Center for Data Analysis.
The former Director of the Center for Data Analysis, William Beach, made a substantial contribution to this report. Former Heritage Foundation policy expert David C. John and current Heritage Foundation policy experts Daren Bakst, Diane Katz, Lindsey Burke, Alyene Senger, Rachel Sheffield, and John Ligon contributed significantly to the 2013 Index.
Barack Obama and the Strategy of Manufactured Crisis
The Cloward–Piven strategy is a political strategy outlined in 1966 by American sociologists and political activists Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven that called for overloading the U.S. public welfare system in order to precipitate a crisis that would lead to a replacement of the welfare system with a national system of “a guaranteed annual income and thus an end to poverty”. Cloward and Piven were a married couple who were both professors at the Columbia University School of Social Work. The strategy was formulated in a May 1966 article in liberal magazine The Nation titled “The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty”.
The two stated that many Americans who were eligible for welfare were not receiving benefits, and that a welfare enrollment drive would strain local budgets, precipitating a crisis at the state and local levels that would be a wake-up call for the federal government, particularly the Democratic Party. There would also be side consequences of this strategy, according to Cloward and Piven. These would include: easing the plight of the poor in the short-term (through their participation in the welfare system); shoring up support for the national Democratic Party then-splintered by pluralistic interests (through its cultivation of poor and minority constituencies by implementing a national “solution” to poverty); and relieving local governments of the financially and politically onerous burdens of public welfare (through a national “solution” to poverty).
Cloward and Piven’s article is focused on forcing the Democratic Party, which in 1966 controlled the presidency and both houses of the United States Congress, to take federal action to help the poor. They stated that full enrollment of those eligible for welfare “would produce bureaucratic disruption in welfare agencies and fiscal disruption in local and state governments” that would “deepen existing divisions among elements in the big-city Democratic coalition: the remaining white middle class, the working-class ethnic groups and the growing minority poor. To avoid a further weakening of that historic coalition, a national Democratic administration would be constrained to advance a federal solution to poverty that would override local welfare failures, local class and racial conflicts and local revenue dilemmas.” They wrote:
|“||The ultimate objective of this strategy—to wipe out poverty by establishing a guaranteed annual income—will be questioned by some. Because the ideal of individual social and economic mobility has deep roots, even activists seem reluctant to call for national programs to eliminate poverty by the outright redistribution of income.||”|
Michael Reisch and Janice Andrews wrote that Cloward and Piven “proposed to create a crisis in the current welfare system – by exploiting the gap between welfare law and practice – that would ultimately bring about its collapse and replace it with a system of guaranteed annual income. They hoped to accomplish this end by informing the poor of their rights to welfare assistance, encouraging them to apply for benefits and, in effect, overloading an already overburdened bureaucracy.”
Focus on Democrats
The authors pinned their hopes on creating disruption within the Democratic Party. “Conservative Republicans are always ready to declaim the evils of public welfare, and they would probably be the first to raise a hue and cry. But deeper and politically more telling conflicts would take place within the Democratic coalition,” they wrote. “Whites – both working class ethnic groups and many in the middle class – would be aroused against the ghetto poor, while liberal groups, which until recently have been comforted by the notion that the poor are few… would probably support the movement. Group conflict, spelling political crisis for the local party apparatus, would thus become acute as welfare rolls mounted and the strains on local budgets became more severe.”
Reception and criticism
Howard Phillips, chairman of The Conservative Caucus, was quoted in 1982 as saying that the strategy could be effective because “Great Society programs had created a vast army of full-time liberal activists whose salaries are paid from the taxes of conservative working people.”
Liberal commentator Michael Tomasky, writing about the strategy in the 1990s and again in 2011, called it “wrongheaded and self-defeating”, writing: “It apparently didn’t occur to [Cloward and Piven] that the system would just regard rabble-rousing black people as a phenomenon to be ignored or quashed.”
Impact of the strategy
In papers published in 1971 and 1977, Cloward and Piven argued that mass unrest in the United States, especially between 1964 and 1969, did lead to a massive expansion of welfare rolls, though not to the guaranteed-income program that they had hoped for.Political scientist Robert Albritton disagreed, writing in 1979 that the data did not support this thesis; he offered an alternative explanation for the rise in welfare caseloads.
In his 2006 book Winning the Race, political commentator John McWhorter attributed the rise in the welfare state after the 1960s to the Cloward–Piven strategy, but wrote about it negatively, stating that the strategy “created generations of black people for whom working for a living is an abstraction.”
According to historian Robert E. Weir in 2007, “Although the strategy helped to boost recipient numbers between 1966 and 1975, the revolution its proponents envisioned never transpired.”
Conservative commentator Glenn Beck referred to the Cloward-Piven Strategy often on his Fox News television show, Glenn Beck, during its run from 2009 to 2011, reiterating his opinion that it had helped to inspire President Barack Obama‘s economic policy. On February 18, 2010, for example, Beck said, “you’ve got total destruction of wealth coming … It’s the final phase of the Cloward-Piven strategy, which is collapse the system.”
Richard Kim, writing in 2010 in The Nation (in which the original essay appeared), called such assertions “a reactionary paranoid fantasy …” but says that “the left’s gut reaction upon hearing of it–to laugh it off as a Scooby-Doo comic mystery–does nothing to blunt its appeal or limit its impact.” The Nation later stated that Beck blames the “Cloward-Piven Strategy” for “the financial crisis of 2008, healthcare reform, Obama’s election and massive voter fraud” and has resulted in the posting of much violent and threatening rhetoric by users on Beck’s website, including death threats against Frances Fox Piven. For her part, Piven vigorously continues to defend the original idea, calling its conservative interpretation “lunatic”.
- Peters, Jeremy W. (November 7, 2010). “Bad News for Liberals May Be Good News for a Liberal Magazine”. The New York Times. Retrieved June 17, 2010.
- Cloward, Richard; Piven, Frances (May 2, 1966). “The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty”. (Originally published in The Nation).
- Cloward and Piven, p. 510
- Reisch, Michael; Janice Andrews (2001). The Road Not Taken. Brunner Routledge. pp. 144–146. ISBN 1-58391-025-5.
- Cloward and Piven, p. 516
- Robert Pear (1984-04-15). “Drive to Sign Up Poor for Voting Meets Resistance”. The New York Times.
- Glenn Beck and Fran Piven, Michael Tomasky, Michael Tomasky’s Blog, The Guardian, January 24, 2011
- Albritton, Robert (December 1979). Social Amelioration through Mass Insurgency? A Reexamination of the Piven and Cloward Thesis. American Political Science Review. JSTOR 1953984.
- McWhorter, John, “John McWhorter: How Welfare Went Wrong“, NPR, August 9, 2006.
- Weir, Robert (2007). Class in America. Greenwood Press. p. 616. ISBN 978-0-313-33719-2.
- Chandler, Richard, “The Cloward–Piven strategy“, The Washington Times, October 15, 2008
- Frances Fox Piven: Glenn Beck Seeks ‘Foreign, Dark-Skinned, Intellectual’ Scapegoats, Kyle Olson, BigGovernment.com, February 8, 2010
- Beck, Glenn (February 18, 2010). “Study Says We’re Toast”.
- Kim, Richard (April 12, 2010). “The Mad Tea Party”. The Nation.
- “Glenn Beck Targets Frances Fox Piven”. The Nation. February 7, 2011.
- Piven, F.F. (2011) Crazy Talk and American Politics: or, My Glenn Beck Story, The Chronicle of Higher Education (The Chronicle Review) 57(25), B4-B5.
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