Friday, September 18, 2009

A Mighty Wheeze From Little ACORN Grows!

ACORN - (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) is the nation's largest community organization of low-and moderate-income families, working together for social justice and stronger communities. In other words they serve the poor through their advocacy and have been at it since 1970. Fuhgeddaboutit.

Some acorns fall further away from the tree than others. At ACORN as the NY Times recapped this morning "... some workers were videotaped offering advice to conservative activists who were posing as people interested in establishing a prostitution business," and allegedly those workers told them how to do it and how to evade taxes.

"Conservative activists" have long abhorred ACORN. They tried to make it an issue in the Obama campaign (nudge-nudge, Obama was a community organizer). Health care legislation, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, nuk-el-er proliferation in Iran, financial legerdemain, pervasive conflicts of interest, ethical lapses, seedy sex and other hypocritical conduct is not keeping the Republicans (and alas some Democrats) - in both houses of Congress - busy enough. Industrious as they are ACORN is the dog days diversion. The House has voted to prohibit any federal funding of ACORN programs; the Senate is not far behind. This appears a largely symbolic act given that most of its revenues come from members' donations and other non-governmental sources.

The real issue here is not ACORN but the "war on poverty;" not that war, not Lyndon Johnson's famous coinage but the right's war on the poor. For as long as I can remember the image of the peasants storming the castles and seizing all that is ours has inflamed the imagination of the perfervid right. Ronald Reagan of blessed memory brought us the "Welfare Queen" tooling around in her Caddie as he and his cohort systematically disemboweled the Legal Services Corporation (largely succeeding in truncating its ability to defend poor people in civil litigation). The current hullabaloo over immigration is a first cousin to the war on the poor - viz Lou Dobbs a privileged big-mouth whose rantings goose ratings.

As a long time board member of PICO National Network ( a similar but smaller organization doing like work in 50 communities nationwide I have learned that despite their huge numbers (currently 13.2% of the nation's population according to the guv-mint) individual by individual the poor are invisible. But when they act collectively (a word inciting hydrophobia among the likes of Fox News, much of CNN, Hannity, Beck, Dobbs Savage et. al.) on matters like housing, safety, immigration, education, health care and anything else you can think of in which the haves crap on the have-nots they get results. In PICO's "actions," (similar to ACORN'S methods - except we take no government money) carefully organized presentations to legislators locally, statewide and nationally as well, produce results - especially at local levels.

The right wing hullabaloo and stacked "town meetings" railing against Obama's health care initiatives "you lie" (boy) - The Times Maureen Dowd really nailed it! - has at its institutional core racism, pure and simple.The organized war against health care reform and the war on the poor is the same war. Its battlefields are America's inner cities and essentially the people of color who live in them. Though there are millions of people of color in the rural US - African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans - there are actually more poor whites. The whites out in the sticks and the hundreds of thousands of Native American poor on reservations - not benefiting from casinos and cigarettes - are even more invisible than the urban poor.

Congress's latest blather and diversion from the nation's business is not about ACORN. Think of cave dwellers blinded by the light.

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