Sunday, October 02, 2011


The American moneyed and ruling class won’t admit that there is a poverty problem in the U.S., even if the situation gets to the point that millions are sleeping on the street and subsisting on gruel and sop, and at that point they’ll be holed up in their gated community and mansion fortresses, ignoring and dismissing the issue entirely.

In the postwar years of the American economy, ‘round the 1950s to at least the mid ‘60s, the poverty rate decreased and things were a bit different from nowadays in terms of general opportunity and financial security. Folks could find jobs in many sectors for a living wage. Many could easily afford a down payment on a decent home from simply saving their money over time, and housing expenses were routinely around or just over twenty five percent of the average salary. If that wasn’t the case, entry level service jobs, attainable without a college degree or in many cases a high school diploma, were available as a means to pay the rent and survive. Rich folks didn’t quite get so concerned about taxes and such, because they realized that revenue was paying for infrastructure improvements that helped to make them even more money, and besides, they had already tried to overthrow the U.S. government in the 1930’s and failed.

Quality household products such as furniture and electric appliances were not only becoming increasingly affordable, many were American made and could be bought on non-predatory store payment plans as well. People had much more opportunity to save and many could depend upon some sort of company pension to supplement their Social Security upon retirement. Gains in civil rights increased though they did not perfect economic diversity in terms of equal opportunity and overall standard of living for racial and ethnic minorities. For those who were truly indigent, the Kennedy and Johnson administrations began to push for programs such as Food Stamps and the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964.

Forward to the Debtor States of America of the 21st century. The average American household carries about $10,000 in credit card debt. One out of six Americans are living in poverty, with a staggering number one paycheck away from homelessness. It’s only getting worse as the years, or even months, move along.

So how does the right side of the political aisle respond to this increasing problem? By employing a mind-boggling level of denial, such as the Heritage Foundation’s report, based upon circa 2005 data and charmingly titled “Air Conditioning, Cable TV, and an Xbox: What Is Poverty in the United States Today?”. I’d suppose that a more truthful title, “Hey, Fuck All You Liberals, Nobody’s Poor in the United States”, wasn’t as scholarly sounding.

Let's take a peek at this, erm, enlightening and educational research.

Ferinstance. Did you know that you are not poor if you have “amenities” like “a refrigerator, an oven and stove, a microwave, and a coffee maker…” and/or “ air conditioning, a clothes washer, a clothes dryer, ceiling fans, and a cordless phone...”? Somma them thar po' folks even have, according to the Heritage study's interpretation of the Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) index, some kind of convoluted combination of "two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR..."!

Gee whiz. Let’s just close down the government and call it a day! Everybody’s fancy and everybody’s fine! Your body’s fancy and so is mine! It truly is a beautiful day in the neighborhood!

What’s missing from this sunny Mister Rogers-based outlook is the fact that, unlike generations past, more and more people may have some basic household gizmos in their abode, regardless of income level, but on an ever increasing trend, those doodads will end up tossed out on the street by the landlord after eviction or sold in an auction for delinquent payment on a storage bin. Of course, you don’t count stuff like air conditioning, ceiling fans or clothes washers and dryers, because those will stay in the apartment that residents will be kicked out of.

People might be able to pick up certain “amenities” on an increasingly cheaper basis than the past, or get them as part of living in lower income apartments, but the fact remains that the income necessary to maintain day-to-day survival is becoming increasingly scarce. Add to this the fact that things like food, utilities and health care are on a constant increase in cost, and the Heritage Foundation’s bullshit-in-a-pretty-wrapped-package study contains far less relevance. This relevance is further diluted when you consider the fact that unemployment and poverty is much higher in non-white population segments,and in such racial and ethnic groups, recovery and sustainability is even more difficult.

The ways to reverse this trend of increasing poverty are not simple and are not cheap. It’s going to require more government intervention and regulation as well as fiscal stimulus, only this time, instead of funding Wall Street fat cats and banks, we need a return to the days of the New Deal and the Great Society, while analyzing and learning from the mistakes made by social programs of the past. And to get that funding, yup, there’s going to have to be an end to many tax breaks for the wealthy as well as an increase in taxation for the top percentile of income earners overall. In other words, the folks who will be financially hurt in their lifestyles by increased taxation the least will need to sacrifice the most.

Are the rich folks at the top of the economic ladder going to fight this type of government effort hook line and sinker? Sure they are, but fuck ‘em, they got theirs. Those who “have not” presently outnumber those who "have", and somehow the have-nots need to organize and fight for a better life. This means fighting for stuff like a living wage, affordable and available health care, and adequate aid for times when the ability to find and hold gainful employment just isn’t there. People in the lower rungs of the economic ladder want a temporary, not permanent means of assistance when needed, and a hand up, not a handout, despite whatever any conservative radio talk show host or oligarchy apologist mouthpiece will try to say.

Remember, voting is free, and besides, it doesn’t matter who wins an election. That person elected to public office is sworn to represent all of the people, and if they do not listen to all of the people, or act in deference to “insure domestic Tranquility” and “promote the general Welfare”, then We the People have the right, nay the responsibility, to get together with our situational peers and demand a better way of doing things.

Don’t just trudge around through your day expecting the ruling class to make it all better for you. They will be satisfied to see you quickly rot and die, because they will be safely tucked away in their luxurious cocoons and will not have to witness you, and as a matter of fact, they feel that they have the right to use you and destroy your body and your life in order to achieve their ongoing personal gain. True democracy is a process of correction. It’s high time that America’s working people rise up and correct the irresponsible tactics of today’s leaders and begin to truly fight for a better world for each and every citizen, regardless of whether or not your apartment has air conditioning or you were able to put milk on your breakfast cereal this morning.