With Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio throwing their hats into the ring for the Presidency, the battle for the Oval office is beginning in earnest, and Americans can brace themselves for exhausting months of harsh rhetoric, attack ads, and promises that will be broken. The poor of this country will continue to suffer.
Steinbeck’s brilliant novel The Grapes of Wrath depicts the hopeless, terrifying poverty of the Great Depression in an era before “safety nets.” Since the recession which began in 2008, the middle class has been hit hard, with the number of people receiving some kind of public assistance soaring, many good jobs vanishing, earnings remaining stagnant, and the cost of living steadily increasing. We keep hearing about a recovery, and indeed Wall Street is enjoying record highs. Main Street has yet to reap similar rewards.
Against this backdrop, the hard-core conservative talking heads have embarked on a systematic strategy of demonizing the poor, portraying them as lazy, dependent, entitled, and faintly evil. This campaign has worked. People like Reince Preibus, the chairman of the RNC, have framed the issue in such a way that the shrinking and embattled middle-class, one paycheck away from needing help themselves, buy into the distorted caricature. Democrats have fueled the fire in some ways, and have fired back by seeming to couch the debate in ways that make it seem as though class-warfare is actually happening. Both sides are wrong.
The country is losing
If there is any sort of class war it is so one-sided that labeling it a war is like calling the United States invasion of Grenada a war. The elites, the upper 1% are crushing the rest of us. The irony is that they’ve managed to convince the nation to fight for them. It’s a shell game on a global scale. People like the Koch Brothers are buying and will continue to purchase elections for their own economic gain.While the average American saw savings shrink, retirement accounts vanish, jobs go to China, those at the top of the food chain got richer. And many of them did it with corporate welfare which dwarfs any sort of public assistance programs. The hypocrisy is astounding.
Banks bailed out by the Federal government held on to that money, earning billions from interest, while still not making loans and injecting more capital into the economy. Here’s a link to ten corporations with billions in earnings that didn’t pay taxes. It includes Bank of America and Facebook. http://www.marketwatch.com/story/10-us-companies-paying-no-taxes-2013-03-26
Average CEO compensation is up %50 over the last year, with top CEOs earning upwards of Fifty Million bucks. Meanwhile, the multi-national corporations are staunchly opposed to increasing the minimum wage for workers and continue to shift jobs overseas. To distract us from this fact, the media blitz focuses on the poor. Politicians buy into it, left and right, taking the money doled out by lobbyists for entities which don’t give a damn whether the average person lives or dies. Despite the absurd Citizen’s United decision by the Supreme Court, corporations are not people. We all know that.
I have absolutely nothing against wealth, but I do take issue with unadulterated greed which leads to great evil.Rather than pulling together as a great nation, we are increasingly divided, pointing fingers and accusing rather than trying to solve the problems we face. We are being manipulated.
Poverty is not an issue which should be owned by either the left or the right, for it is an American issue. Conservative Christians might take notes from the life and words of Jesus, who spent his time with the poor and the outcast, the disenfranchised and the hurting. Liberals should take a hard look at the Democratic party and the candidates they are continually presented with, who are just as much in bed with corporate money as the Republicans are.Politicians speak out of both sides of their mouths, held on short leashes constructed with money. Movements like Occupy Wall Street end up being polarizing and accomplishing nothing, as the protesters are marginalized and look foolish, the rest of the nation turning up their noses as the cliches of poverty and lassitude are displayed on national television.
“Since the market is right, poor people get what they deserve.”
Poverty must be a choice, then. Rather than try to improve their lives, the poor enjoy wonderful lives of lavish vacations, new cars, and mansions gilded with gold. Some of them even have phones. Damn them!
The fact is, no one wants to be poor. Furthermore, they don’t want to remain so. I’ve been reasonably well off, and I’ve been poor. At the moment, I routinely work fifty hour weeks, plus spend another twenty or thirty hours writing. I don’t want to remain poor. Since the market crashed, the company I worked for went out of business, my customers have less money, and I work harder to earn less. I struggle every month just to keep a roof over my children’s heads and keep the lights on. I know personally other people in the same predicament.
Education is the best way to combat poverty in the long run. Rather than cutting funding for schools and teachers, the Federal and State governments need to focus on this issue. Job training and trade programs should be much more accessible, and should begin in High School. Our education system does not prepare the majority of high school graduates for the real world. The fact is that most grads do attend college, yet school programs focus on this carreer path almost exclusively. As manufacturing jobs have fled the country to go to China, there is a great vacuum left for jobs which pay a living wage. Upward mobility, a crucial aspect of our culture is becoming a thing of the past.
Recognizing our similarities and common humanity, rather than focusing on our differences would go a long way toward restoring a hurting nation. It’s always easier to point a finger at some one else, rather than looking in the mirror, though, so America’s war on the poor will continue while the rich get richer and the American Dream dies a slow death. I pray every day for my beloved, broken country.