7/14 The Means-Testing Cops: Withholding Public Assistance from Working-Class People w/ Spencer Headworth

July 14, 2021

Sam and Emma host Spencer Headworth, professor of Sociology at Purdue University to discuss his recent book, Policing Welfare: Punitive Adversarialism in Public Assistance, on how welfare law enforcement has crippled public assistance programs. Professor Headworth begins by walking through what the U.S. sees as welfare, focusing on public assistance like TANF and SNAP, rather than social security or disability insurance, reinforcing the stigmatism of the “deserving” versus “undeserving” poor. Spencer then walks Emma and Sam through his research that led him to the role of federally mandated welfare investigators, and how he highlighted the investigative units in five states to look into both their roles within the welfare state at large and within the state’s incarceration rates and overall socioeconomic status. They also walk through the devastating influence of community reporting in welfare fraud, pitting neighbors against neighbors, and how welfare recipients sacrifice their fourth amendment rights at the hands of investigators’ surveillance practices, before looking into how these enforcement units serve to reinforce the stigmatization of welfare recipients while, themselves, furthering the money lost through public “assistance.” After briefly covering how these bipartisan policies came through the neoliberal consensus around ending welfare and taking on crime in the 80s and 90s, they round out the interview by touching on the role of race in these investigations. Emma and Sam round out the free half by covering the absolute failure of the Democrats to capitalize on the contradiction of McConnell’s pseudo-pro vaccine stance while simultaneously promoting and bolstering the anti-vax Trumpian wing of his party.

And in the Fun Half: Sam and Emma reflect on the failures of means-tested welfare systems, and the fraud that’s baked into them, before touching on some big developments to the Infrastructure Bill, including updates on the ultra-important lowering of the medicare availability age and Republicans maybe coming around to helping their constituents now that they realize it could make China look bad. G.W. Bush reflects on his um feminist (?) occupation of Afghanistan, driven home by the slaughter of citizens regardless of gender, and the crew covers some criticism of the show’s engagement with alt-right figures like Crowder and Dave Rubin, and why engaging with folks outside of the Left, both the bring them over and to bring them down, has been incredibly important to the Majority Report. Stephanie from Minnesota calls in to discuss how the mainstream left tends to leave behind queer folks and people of color in their rescue missions from the alt-right, providing a depth of insight with her own experiences is leaving those depths of the web behind, plus, your calls and IMs!

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