Puzzled by Obama’s Missteps? Read the Cloward-Piven Strategy

First proposed in 1966 and named after Columbia University sociologists Richard Andrew Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, the “Cloward-Piven Strategy” seeks to hasten the fall of capitalism by overloading the government bureaucracy with a flood of impossible demands, thus pushing society into crisis and economic collapse.

Inspired by the August 1965 riots in the black district of Watts in Los Angeles (which erupted after police had used batons to subdue a black man suspected of drunk driving), Cloward and Piven published an article titled “The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty” in the May 2, 1966 issue of The Nation. Following its publication, The Nation sold an unprecedented 30,000 reprints. Activists were abuzz over the so-called “crisis strategy” or “Cloward-Piven Strategy,” as it came to be called. Many were eager to put it into effect.

In their 1966 article, Cloward and Piven charged that the ruling classes used welfare to weaken the poor; that by providing a social safety net, the rich doused the fires of rebellion. Poor people can advance only when “the rest of society is afraid of them,” Cloward told The New York Times on September 27, 1970. Rather than placating the poor with government hand-outs, wrote Cloward and Piven, activists should work to sabotage and destroy the welfare system; the collapse of the welfare state would ignite a political and financial crisis that would rock the nation; poor people would rise in revolt; only then would “the rest of society” accept their demands.

The key to sparking this rebellion would be to expose the inadequacy of the welfare state. Cloward-Piven’s early promoters cited radical organizer Saul Alinsky as their inspiration. “Make the enemy live up to their (sic) own book of rules,” Alinsky wrote in his 1972 book Rules for Radicals. When pressed to honor every word of every law and statute, every Judaeo-Christian moral tenet, and every implicit promise of the liberal social contract, human agencies inevitably fall short. The system’s failure to “live up” to its rule book can then be used to discredit it altogether, and to replace the capitalist “rule book” with a socialist one.

The authors noted that the number of Americans subsisting on welfare — about 8 million, at the time — probably represented less than half the number who were technically eligible for full benefits. They proposed a “massive drive to recruit the poor onto the welfare rolls.” Cloward and Piven calculated that persuading even a fraction of potential welfare recipients to demand their entitlements would bankrupt the system. The result, they predicted, would be “a profound financial and political crisis” that would unleash “powerful forces … for major economic reform at the national level.”

Their article called for “cadres of aggressive organizers” to use “demonstrations to create a climate of militancy.” Intimidated by threats of black violence, politicians would appeal to the federal government for help. Carefully orchestrated media campaigns, carried out by friendly, leftwing journalists, would float the idea of “a federal program of income redistribution,” in the form of a guaranteed living income for all — working and non-working people alike. Local officials would clutch at this idea like drowning men to a lifeline. They would apply pressure on Washington to implement it. With every major city erupting into chaos, Washington would have to act. This was an example of what are commonly called Trojan Horse movements — mass movements whose outward purpose seems to be providing material help to the downtrodden, but whose real objective is to draft poor people into service as revolutionary foot soldiers; to mobilize poor people en masse to overwhelm government agencies with a flood of demands beyond the capacity of those agencies to meet. The flood of demands was calculated to break the budget, jam the bureaucratic gears into gridlock, and bring the system crashing down. Fear, turmoil, violence and economic collapse would accompany such a breakdown — providing perfect conditions for fostering radical change. That was the theory.

Cloward and Piven recruited a militant black organizer named George Wiley to lead their new movement. In the summer of 1967, Wiley founded the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO). His tactics closely followed the recommendations set out in Cloward and Piven’s article. His followers invaded welfare offices across the United States — often violently — bullying social workers and loudly demanding every penny to which the law “entitled” them. By 1969, NWRO claimed a dues-paying membership of 22,500 families, with 523 chapters across the nation.

Regarding Wiley’s tactics, The New York Times commented on September 27, 1970, “There have been sit-ins in legislative chambers, including a United States Senate committee hearing, mass demonstrations of several thousand welfare recipients, school boycotts, picket lines, mounted police, tear gas, arrests – and, on occasion, rock-throwing, smashed glass doors, overturned desks, scattered papers and ripped-out phones.”These methods proved effective. “The flooding succeeded beyond Wiley’s wildest dreams,” writes Sol Stern in the City Journal. “From 1965 to 1974, the number of single-parent households on welfare soared from 4.3 million to 10.8 million, despite mostly flush economic times. By the early 1970s, one person was on the welfare rolls in New York City for every two working in the city’s private economy.”As a direct result of its massive welfare spending, New York City was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1975. The entire state of New York nearly went down with it. The Cloward-Piven strategy had proved its effectiveness.

The Cloward-Piven strategy depended on surprise. Once society recovered from the initial shock, the backlash began. New York’s welfare crisis horrified America, giving rise to a reform movement which culminated in “the end of welfare as we know it” — the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, which imposed time limits on federal welfare, along with strict eligibility and work requirements. Both Cloward and Piven attended the White House signing of the bill as guests of President Clinton.

Most Americans to this day have never heard of Cloward and Piven. But New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani attempted to expose them in the late 1990s. As his drive for welfare reform gained momentum, Giuliani accused the militant scholars by name, citing their 1966 manifesto as evidence that they had engaged in deliberate economic sabotage. “This wasn’t an accident,” Giuliani charged in a 1997 speech. “It wasn’t an atmospheric thing, it wasn’t supernatural. This is the result of policies and programs designed to have the maximum number of people get on welfare.”
Cloward and Piven never again revealed their intentions as candidly as they had in their 1966 article. Even so, their activism in subsequent years continued to rely on the tactic of overloading the system. When the public caught on to their welfare scheme, Cloward and Piven simply moved on, applying pressure to other sectors of the bureaucracy, wherever they detected weakness.

In 1982, partisans of the Cloward-Piven strategy founded a new “voting rights movement,” which purported to take up the unfinished work of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Like ACORN, the organization that spear-headed this campaign, the new “voting rights” movement was led by veterans of George Wiley’s welfare rights crusade. Its flagship organizations were Project Vote and Human SERVE, both founded in 1982. Project Vote is an ACORN front group, launched by former NWRO organizer and ACORN co-founder Zach Polett. Human SERVE was founded by Richard A. Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, along with a former NWRO organizer named Hulbert James.

All three of these organizations — ACORN, Project Vote and Human SERVE — set to work lobbying energetically for the so-called Motor-Voter law, which Bill Clinton ultimately signed in 1993. The Motor-Voter bill is largely responsible for swamping the voter rolls with “dead wood” — invalid registrations signed in the name of deceased, ineligible or non-existent people — thus opening the door to the unprecedented levels of voter fraud and “voter disenfranchisement” claims that followed in subsequent elections.

The new “voting rights” coalition combines mass voter registration drives — typically featuring high levels of fraud — with systematic intimidation of election officials in the form of frivolous lawsuits, unfounded charges of “racism” and “disenfranchisement,” and “direct action” (street protests, violent or otherwise). Just as they swamped America’s welfare offices in the 1960s, Cloward-Piven devotees now seek to overwhelm the nation’s understaffed and poorly policed electoral system. Their tactics set the stage for the Florida recount crisis of 2000, and have introduced a level of fear, tension and foreboding to U.S. elections heretofore encountered mainly in Third World countries.

Both the Living Wage and Voting Rights movements depend heavily on financial support from George Soros’s Open Society Institute and his “Shadow Party,” through whose support the Cloward-Piven strategy continues to provide a blueprint for some of the Left’s most ambitious campaigns.

So now you know. You don’t have to wonder whether Obama is deliberately trying to bring down capitalism. He is. No need to wonder why ACORN is being “rewarded” with billions.

Read Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. Obama is a follower of Alinsky.

From Kausfiles:

Shouldn’t Republicans be making more of a fuss about the provision in the stimulus bill–both House and Senate versions, apparently–that spends $2-3 billion to the states for “temporary welfare payments”? I initially thought Charles Hurt of the N.Y. Post was being alarmist when he suggested the provision would “drastically undo two decades of welfare reforms.” The essence of the 1996 reform was ending the individual legal entitlement to AFDC (cash aid to single mothers, basically) and replacing it with state-run programs that, in theory, require recipients to enter the work force. The stimulus bill doesn’t rip up that basic deal, as I understand it. But it is part of a larger liberal campaign** to use the recession to weaken work requirements and let millions of non-working single mothers back on the welfare rolls. Specifically, it would apparently reward states that expand their welfare caseloads–even if the increase is only the product of loosened work requirements rather than a worsening local economy.

Nothing wrong with helping states avoid anti-stimulating cuts in a recession. Nothing wrong with targeting money to the poorest, who are most likely to spend it quickly. But why use the aid specifically to encourage expansion of welfare?

Well, it makes sense if the purpose is not to “stimulate” the economy but to effect a fall of the state.

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10 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    siouxie said,

    Hi. I’m an independent voter, though I did not vote for obama…I thought him too extreme and liberal based on his short season in elected office. I googled Cloward and Piven because of Glen Beck (fox news). I saw your blog. I found the writing of this article/essay well summarized. I do wonder (and I haven’t looked in other places on your blog yet) what is the Republican/conservative/non obama plan for the disenfranchised poor. Just wondering what Republicans/conservatives would say to the poor, what message, what words of hope…or is the party really for the middle class and rich only. This is a genuine question that I hope won’t put you on the defensive.

  2. 2

    What's Really Broken? said,

    Siouxie, hello.

    The answer to your question lies in the Judeo-Christian worldview, that upon which the United States stands: life, freedom, family, family values, faith, responsibility, accountability to God, justice, voluntary charity and community involvement.

    Justice does not mean government correcting the injustice of Life (circumstances into which you were born); justice is laws used to punish and restrain the criminal, who is all about taking which isn’t his. To manipulate the market / laws to ensure wages higher than the work itself commands in a free market is immoral (and destructive; witness unions) – it’s stealing. Justice does not mean taxation and manipulation of society and laws to take from producers to non-producers with no payback or reward to society.

    Helping the poor has everything to do with ensuring that opportunity is available: public elementary through high school education (real education requiring real achievement); availability of loans for financing post high school education. Accountability is a must – studying, passing tests, graduating and paying back loans. School loans are a government backed (tax payer paid for) gray area that most people support since it is THE track for the poor to more forward from their circumstances.

    Implementing programs that seduce the poor to stay poor is immoral (victimizes the poor; takes from producers for whom there is no payback (i.e. enhanced society) and in fact increases the drain on producers. For example, in my neighborhood is a family with 9 children, ages 4 months through 11. The mother is an LPN and makes less than $40,000 a year. The father is moronic and employable only at minimum wage; he stays home to care for the children. They live in 850 square feet. For a couple of years the Catholic church allowed the two older children to attend Catholic school, then stopped as the children kept coming. The mother is insured through her employer, the husband is uninsured, and all of the children have health insurance through the state. No doubt they qualify for food stamps. They will most likely have more children that they cannot support on their own, since there is no limit to the government assistance based on number of children per family. They know they can depend on “the government” in their poverty. They cannot legally transport all of their children, even dispersed between their two old vehicles.

    When parents find themselves with a rebellious child; when the child does not respect the realities of life, does not respect the law in the home, and does not respect the parents, the parents realize that they are in a position of no power. If the parents continue to support, rescue, enable the child in her rebellion, the parents do the child no favor, and in fact, harms the child. Their love and pity and fear for the child shields their child from reality. Their actions tell their child that they don’t believe that she is up to the challenge of life. When the parents release the child to herself and reality, they give her the gift of life and liberty.

    I have a daughter who just turned 25. She has school loan debt (for 2.5 years of college) that she is ignoring; she is not on any career track. She’s living a hippie lifestyle on Maui (working for room and board, sometimes work for spending money (under the table, not reported income); she has no health insurance, and although she lives very healthfully, she has a condition that she should be monitoring). In short, she’s rebelling. She will eventually face her debt, her health, her future. I must be prepared to support her as a cheerleader not as a money source when she faces herself. She’s bright, creative, a good worker, and so I don’t fear for her personal resources. She may end up in a single room with a microwave and clothing from the salvation army and my gift to her will be to let her be!

    I don’t know if I’ve answered your question, Siouxie. Everyone has a worldview and it’s the worldview that determines their reality; getting back to the Judeo-Christian worldview: it created one of the most exciting, productive, creative, wealthy societies the world has ever seen. Its citizens were high on morality, dignity, hope, and courage, all inspired by faith in the Judeo-Christian God. Does it surprise us that immorality, depravity, despair, fear and anxiety reign in our increasingly God-hostile, God-denying, “Freedom From Religion” culture? We threw the baby out with the bathwater in the 60s and now Obama and his ilke are busy killing the baby.

  3. 3

    BamaBlake said,

    Dear Siouxie,

    I too found this site after googling Cloward-Piven from listening to Beck. I am not an economist, sociologist, political hack or an expert on conservative politics. In fact I am a stay at home mom and owner of a very small business.

    With that said, I would like to give my understanding as an answer to your question.
    Your question is what is the republican plan to help the disenfranchised poor?
    The overarching answer to that question is to lower taxes for everyone, remove government intrusions that make it difficult for businesses to succeed both large and small. Yes that will help the rich and middle class but as a family that lives on the bubble of poverty, I understand how that helps me. When taxes are lowered there is more money spent to stimulate the economy. I just heard on the radio that consumers are expected to spend less than $30 on a toy for their kids for Christmas this year. That will mean that there will be less Christmas jobs available for the disenfranchised poor who take extra jobs at Christmas to have the extra $ to make the holidays special for their families. I don’t know of any conservative who believes that the entire “welfare” system should be done away with. There will always be a safety net for those who are truly “disenfranchised”. We really have very few truly poor people in our country. Instead we have many people who feel entitled to be provided for by others. My husband and I have 2 children and hover right around the poverty line. We both are highly educated, he works 2 jobs in order for me to stay at home and raise our children. We do not believe we are entitled to “welfare” and in fact do not want it. Instead we choose to make sacrifices and not live above our means. We live very frugally and do without most non-necessities. Yes that is our choice but if we lived by an entitlement philosophy we could “have” a lot more.
    When the economy is let loose from government interference, people will spend money, businesses will begin, employers will hire workers, and there is great opportunity for improvement for individiuals. Yes some will be smarter, savyier (sp?), work harder and as a result make a lot more money but it is those people who then use their wealth to create jobs and opportunity for all. I hope that makes sense, it is difficult to really flesh out the matter in a forum like this.

    • 4

      ScaredforUS! said,

      Kudos to you BamaBlake! I applaud your hard work and restraint to live a lifestyle that is within your means and realize that you are not simply entitled to keep up with the Jones’. Greed and materialism is what got us into this mess and one thing I know for sure is that the government will not be the vessel to get us out of it! What is taking place right now is down right scary. Name one government agency that is efficiently run (postal service, BANKRUPT; Medicare, BANKRUPT; Social Security, BANKRUPT…!) So why would we all sit back idly and watch the current administration takeover more and more and more of the private sector with printed unbacked money? No doubt they failed on their own, health care, banks and the auto industry got greedy and out of control. Conservative reforms needed to be taken, not government takeovers. Notice how quickly the banks are scrambling to payback TARP monies so get the government out of where it doesn’t belong. I realize that I am all over the place and I could go on for a long time talking about the dangerous directions we are heading in, but there are a few things I feel very strongly about:

      1. BamaBlake should be commended for how she and her family do not feel entitled to HAVE what others have, but instead, work hard to provide for themselves and not depend on the government or anyone else to live a life that I am sure she and her family are happy with. Constantly striving for material things that bring a very brief moment of happiness is a never-ending quest that leads to nothing lasting. I applaud your outlook and work ethic and wish you and your family well!

      2. We are rapidly heading to a society that is being FORCED into dependency on the government. Can’t afford you mortgage for the house you never could have afforded in the first place, BIG BROTHER is there. Can’t afford health care because your priorities are out of whack, BIG BROTHER. Can’t afford groceries but your have a 50″ flat screen in the living room, BIG BROTHER. We are letting the government into places it doesn’t belong and we will rue the day we did nothing about it!

      3. We need to do anything we can to avoid the government having control of our health care system! They will run it into the ground like they have done with most every other government run program. I won’t argue that our current system needs to be changed. But that fact is that it is still the best system in the world. Sure other countries have “free” health care. They also have ridiculous wait times for office visits, extremely high taxes and the government having a say in their health care decisions. Do what you can to stand up for your right to have private health care; VOTE these puppets out of office. Don’t vote by party, vote by values and philosophies. Obama promised change, and we are getting change. He just veiled exactly what kind of changes he was going to make.

      WE ALL HAVE THE ABILITY TO DO SOME CHANGING OF OUR OWN!!!! VOTE!!!!!

  4. 5

    Lazza442 said,

    Thank you for thisvery insightfull article.Hats off to “BamaBlake”for her values Sys.
    I also heard of C&P from Glenn Beck & Google’d it.I alway’s wondered why 535
    lawmakers+obama-biden were selling us out to destroy this country.Our enemy is
    not terrorism so much as our own politician’s.This C&P article is must-read,I’m
    printing it. They give terrorists rights,release terror leaders,on&on,next we’ll give
    these people unemployment because they can no longer”work”I’m outraged by
    these rat”s we keep electing.They openly laugh&give us the finger every day.They
    care nothing about us except to RULE OVER.It’s power they want,a ruling class. I
    can’t abide their loathing for us while their self interest,special interests&Party are
    the value they hold near&dear.Both party’s complicit. I hope other people,besides
    G.Beck”s can get this info.I know know what there up to,which open’s way’s for
    us to combat what I call traitorous!! I would like to see the entire house&senate
    voted out,it’ll never happen,but a good purge might work.Let’s not lose faith, these people will expose their TRUE agenda & it’s not the econonomy&jobs. The
    health care debacle clearly it’s a power grab of 1/6 of our economy,job’s go to
    china where there’s no cap-trade,regul. nosalt,no smoke,notrans fat,teach your children chinese,spanish won’t do a thing for them,it’s the language of poverty,like english soon will be if pollitical correctness is jammed up our — any
    further. I hope we wake up before obama’s social justice,anti-american value’s
    become law& indocrinating children aboutagenda-driven thinking becomes normal.
    Hey,has anyone seen Al Gore the past few weeks??,speaking of self-serving
    agenda-hoaxes. What ever these people say,it’s only to placate you, I believe I
    can no longer trust ANYTHING they say!! Not while they call us teabagger’s,
    rednecks,racist’s,etc. The 1’st pres. to have his own private army,acorn.I also
    worry this guy will rig the midterm’s &2012 elections.AS Sean Connery said in
    The Untouchables”It’s the Chicago Way”

  5. 6

    LDChapman said,

    RIG THE MIDTERM ELECTIONS? Now…how could they possibly do THAT? Let’s see…how about LEGALIZING all those ILLEGAL ALIENS? If we make them citizens, they’ll surely VOTE for us…especially since they can’t use the language and all we have to do is point at a picture of Glenn Beck and say “he’s a racist…he hates everybody who isn’t white.” And, Sarah Palin is (unfortunlately in this day and age) just about as white as it gets. The idea will transfer. Remember…many of these illegals were living in grass huts a couple of years ago.

    FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT the upcoming immigration reform bill. If they do this we’re all completely screwed…and the stars and stripes — well…it’ll all turn red.

    They’ve dumbed down the last couple of generations of kids (many of them can’t find Washington, DC on the map). There’s a reason for this. If they don’t KNOW history, they’ll certainly repeat it. If we keep them stupid (math and science skills do not apply here…stupid in terms of actually KNOWING what’s going on in the world around them), they’ll vote for us. They won’t know we’re turning them into Communists (er…progressives…sorry), because they won’t know what a Communist really is.

    By the time they finally get it, the trap will have been sprung.

    I am more than just concerned. Sometimes I feel like I’m fighting this solo. It’s very disheartening to see what these radicals from the 60s have done to our country (and the entire world, for that matter).

    God help us all.

  6. 9

    thelastword said,

    Thank God for Glenn Beck. I have learned so much from his program he helps me understand why Obama is doing what he’s doing. Because I got a bad gut feeling about the direction Obama was driving our country, I knew something was not right.

    But I have faith and pray for guidance every day. God Bless America and Glenn Beck

  7. 10

    Dennis Nolen said,

    I love everything I have read hear , I am personally on food stamps and do not gave a job .i have been a cellular networking technician since 1998 up til mar. 2011 , I need a couple surgeries so I can’t do alot but what I have done is put an ad in Craigslist for electrical work and get about 10 small electrical jobs per month but I am on food stamps and am embarrassed every time I pay for my food with this card ,, another thing I have done I have setup my own bill which I call the Nolen bill that has been sent to Paul Ryan , a retired air force colonel who is moving it through his network , a congress women in my home state ,,,, every one loves my bill ,, it involves six month training for only citizen WellFare recipients and also it is mandatory it would use out of work teachers and closed down government owned building and computers from closed schools it is cheap and will require police officers on site to drug test anyone thought to be high or drunk it would give lowlifes tthe ability to learn a trade and added to paul ryans bill that will undoubtably bring jobs ,, so it would put them to work and they would get out of poverty and give the country more tax income instead if costing the country money it would also offer out of work bus drivers work to be used to pick up people with know ride and offer , breakfast dinner and childcare ,,,, so there would be no EXCUSES FOR THE LOWLIFES ,,, AND IT IS CHEAP everyone that has read th


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