A War on the Poor Erupted in 2013

From workers’ wages to voting rights to birth control, this was an extraordinary year for attacks on the poor.

A soup kitchen run by the Food Bank for New York City, Dec. 11, 2013
A soup kitchen run by the Food Bank for New York City, Dec. 11, 2013 John Moore/Getty Images

Taking the “Health” Out of Health Care

The fact that our friends in Canada, France and Great Britain have health care for all and still manage to have functioning societies was lost here in the U.S. The Republican half of Congress spent most of the year trying to stop America from getting a watered-down version of the health care everyone else in the free world has. They were even willing to shut down the government. But so-called “Obamacare” happened, anyway, and millions would have rejoiced if it weren’t for the fact that the darn website where you sign up for the health care wasn’t made of “fail.”

Family Planning Is for Rich People

It’s one thing to be against abortion, but the pill? When did oral contraception become controversial? Well, during the 2012 election it did! Suddenly employers who already covered birth control had a problem with it because it was politically expedient. And this red-hot hatred for adequate family planning and sexual health for women continued in 2013, specifically targeting women who aren’t wealthy enough to travel long distances to get an abortion or pay for birth control out of pocket—thus leading to poor people having more children, then being punished by society for having these additional children. (Then some would debate whether your impoverished spawn should sweep the floors at their school for the privilege of eating free and reduced lunch.)

Voter-ID Laws Targeting the Elderly and Poor

Are you old, black or poor (or all three) and trying to vote? Well, this year, that was harder to do thanks to the Supreme Court suddenly deciding that racism has ended. Voter-ID laws started popping up everywhere, but there was a common problem for some people who were born in the rural South: They didn’t have birth certificates because they were born to midwives, not in hospitals, and they didn’t have IDs because they were old and did not drive or work anymore. Then, the process for the elderly poor to get their IDs was arduous and self-defeating. It didn’t matter that some of these people had been voting for decades. They couldn’t vote now, thanks to voter suppression packaged as “voter-fraud prevention.”

Your McJob Has You McBroke

A lot of people took lower-wage paying jobs when no other job could be found, and some of those people joined the ranks of the “working poor.” Also known as people who work at McDonald’s and Wal-Mart. Employees in both the retail and fast-food service sector tried to shame their employers into paying them a living wage, leading to some workers being fired or even arrested. There was talk that maybe the minimum wage should be raised in response to these protests. But what did Congress have to say? What sound does “silence” make?

Danielle C. Belton is a freelance journalist and TV writer, founder of the blog blacksnob.com and editor-at-large of Clutch magazine.