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Issue #1579      January 30, 2013

Culture & Life

Working poverty and bombing the Moon

Everything that’s wrong with capitalism is encompassed in the current controversy over cutting single mothers’ welfare payments. The fact that it is based on the unfounded belief that unemployed people are unemployed by choice, for starters.

Anyone who has been unemployed or had a family member in that position knows that no one willingly endures the constant harassment by Centrelink for pitifully little money in preference to working. The fact is that Centrelink has no jobs to offer the unemployed, and its training programs to make people “job ready” are a demeaning farce.

But with government ministers and senior public servants convinced that unemployed people are nothing more than “dole bludgers”, it is no wonder that Centrelink staff have been persuaded to see their role as getting people off the unemployment lists by whatever means they can – short of providing them with jobs, which they can’t.

Jenny Macklin, the extremely well-paid Minister for Families, justified her recent assault on single mothers’ benefits with the inevitable statement “We have to get people off benefits”. But did she announce funding for a job creation project? No, she did not. She simply cut their benefits by $60 to $100 a week.

Employers, who make up Jenny Macklin’s principal constituency, have a long tradition of trying to starve workers into submission. It’s one of their favourite tactics. She didn’t care where those single mothers went when they could no longer feed their child or children on the meagre handout she allowed them. That was not her problem.

All she had to do was report to the House the good news that thanks to her efforts the number of single parents on benefits had declined. Hurrah!

However, news sources and relief agencies report a surge in single mothers seeking jobs in brothels and strip clubs since Ms Macklin’s heartless cuts came into effect. Capitalism’s beloved “market forces” provide no other means for unqualified female workers to earn enough to raise a child.

What a contrast with socialism! In the Soviet Union (and the socialist countries of Eastern Europe) costs were much lower: education and health care were free, rent was pegged at not more than four percent of weekly income, and everyone was guaranteed a job.

When I was a young chap, I vividly remember seeing a film at the local cinema that opened with a shot of some well-known London landmark – Big Ben, Nelson’s Column, something like that – over which was superimposed a prominent title telling us where we were. If it had been an American film the title would probably have said “London, England” in case viewer thought it was supposed to be London Texas, presumably.

But it was an English film so the title read “LONDON – Seat of Empire”. Gosh, how impressive, eh?

Today, however, such a title would be more likely to read LONDON – Seat of poverty and despair. The NHS, once the jewel in the county’s welfare crown, is being dismantled by the Tory-dominated government. In the documentary film Sicko, the director Michael Moore quizzed a group of Americans living in London about the NHS. Not one of them criticised it as “socialised medicine”, the US health industry’s bête noir. Instead they could not praise the government-funded health system enough.

Meanwhile, students are being priced out of an education, jobs are disappearing by the thousand, social divisions within society are widening alarmingly. The Tory-dominated government’s only response has been to more heavily arm the police and increase their powers to spy on the population (on the grounds that it’s necessary to combat terrorism and paedophiles!).

In its latest report, Monitoring Poverty, Britain’s New Policy Institute says over six million people in Britain, in working households, are living in poverty in addition to 5.1 million people in workless households also living in poverty.

Dave Prentis, the General Secretary of the public sector union Unison, commented that “faced with no job, many [people] are being forced to grab whatever they can get – low-paid, part-time work that doesn’t recognise their skills or experience.

“It is a blight on this country that we have so many living with in-work poverty. The government should stop these damaging cuts, bring in the living wage, and create long-term sustainable jobs through investment in housing and infrastructure.”

Did you see that news report at the end of last year about the secret US plan to set off a nuclear bomb on the Moon? The crack-brained plot was hatched by US Cold War nutters in response to the Soviet Union’s launching of Sputnik 1 in October 1957. Until then they had smugly believed that although the Russians also had the Bomb, they lacked a credible means to deliver it to targets in the USA. The Americans, on the other hand, had a huge fleet of long-range jet bombers stationed all around the USSR and constantly on instant alert to fly missions to “nuke” Soviet cities.

With the launch of Sputnik, the USSR reduced all that costly preparation for an airborne nuclear attack to naught. It was now obvious to everyone that the “backward” Russians could hit any city or military installation in the USA at will, and there was nothing the Yanks could do to stop it.

And so “Project A119” was born. Its innocuous cover identity was “A Study of Lunar Research Flights”, but its real function, as related to Associated Press by 85 year-old US physicist Leonard Reiffel, was to intimidate the Soviet Union.

What was planned was simple enough: a US missile carrying a nuclear warhead would be launched from a secret location and aimed at the Moon. The warhead would detonate on impact with the Moon, providing a “magnificent nuclear flash” visible from Earth that would serve to terrify the Soviet Union and boost US confidence.

They would have liked to send a hydrogen bomb but reluctantly concluded that the weight was too great to carry at that time the 238,000 miles to the Moon. Reiffel did not reveal why the project was eventually scotched, but common sense probably had something to do with it.  

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