On October 11, 2013, ten days after the government of the United States shut down, leaving hundreds of thousands of federal workers without pay, Republican Congressman Steve Pearce left a message on his Facebook page.

"If you are a furloughed government employee, we encourage you to reach out to your financial institution as soon as you worry you may miss a pay cheque," he wrote. "Financial institutions often offer short-term loans and other resources. Don't wait until you are behind on a bill; call now and explore your options."

As the global employment crisis worsens and income inequality reaches record highs, it becomes difficult to find a government that does not fit this model: a government not by and for the people, but above the people, oblivious and apathetic to their concerns.

Again, this is not unique, nor is it new. Governments above the people are how most systems of rule functioned throughout human history. They are frequently abetted by state censorship which prevents the suffering of citizens from being publicly addressed.

This is not the case in the United States. As we hurtle toward the deadline on the debt ceiling – which economists say will cause a global catastrophe if not raised – Americans openly discuss their country's woes. 95 percent of Americans disapprove of Congress. 60 percent would vote out everyone if they could.

The day after a millionaire congressman told employed, unpaid federal workers to take out high-risk short-term loans, millions of American families found themselves unable to buy food.

The Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) system allows welfare recipients to purchase groceries using a payment card. Most Americans who use EBT are families with children, the elderly, or the disabled. Many are military veterans or spouses of soldiers on duty. Over 40 percent of households receiving welfare include a person who has a job, but is not paid enough to provide for the family. Roughly half of babies born in America receive assistance from the Women, Infants and Children program (WIC). Most welfare recipients are white.

At around 11:00 am, the EBT system stopped working in seventeen states. No one knew why or how long it would last. Panicked reports came in about mothers who could not feed their children, which were responded to with vile and racist rhetoric.

The breakdown went on for nearly twelve hours until Xerox, the corporation contracted to provide IT to the EBT system, restored service. It was the kind of crisis that one expects the government to solve – until one remembers the government is not operating.

A crisis you have to explain is a crisis is the most dangerous kind. Suffering made rote becomes rationalised, its urgency but an echo to those who cry. Poverty is a crisis of the mainstream redefined as a crisis of the margins, in a country where marginalisation has gone mainstream.

The debate on welfare is structured around what people "deserve". Critics of welfare argue that no one "deserves" assistance from the state. This is true. No one deserves to live in a country where wages are so low that working families cannot feed their children without government aid. No one deserves to have the accreditation requirements for well-paid employment cost more than the average household income. No one deserves to be denied food -- period.

Critics fault the poor for their dependence, telling them to get a job or get an education, when jobs for the educated have disappeared. They tell them to work hard and climb the career ladder, neglecting to mention that it terminates at a locked door opened with a golden key.

A government above the people is built on purchased power. A government above the people rules by default – a default that, this week, may become literal. This is why so many Americans shun the safety net. We fear the indifference of those who hold it when we fall.

 Courtesy Aljazeera.