There are a few topics that I can be fairly certain that, when I write about them, I’m going to hear from a few people, almost always via FB or Twitter message, or through email. One of those topics was a focus in yesterday’s post, USA Ranks 28th Out of 29 for Income Equality. And yep, the negative feedback appeared. I figured it only appropriate I should follow-up today with a focus on a related topic that almost always gets just as much unhappy response: poverty.
“Income inequality” is a term many probably first heard via the Occupy movement. That’s likely one reason some react so negatively to the whole concept – if Occupiers use it, then ‘income inequality’ must be wrong and bad. And socialist. And un-patriotic, un-American, and worst of all, against the most obvious indicator of the Creator’s extra special love for USA! USA!: American style capitalism. It’s a system that requires winners and losers to work, and looking around today, it’s never been clearer at how well the “winners” are separated from the “losers”. The .01% must surely and unequivocally deserve the rewards of their super-wealth, and the growing numbers living in or near the poverty level just as surely deserve their status.
Because everybody knows that America is the bestest nation EVER. Any poverty here is nothing compared to other really, really bad countries, and anyone who thinks poverty is a result of some kind of un-American income inequality nonsense just wants “big government” programs to give unearned and undeserved tons of money to people who are too lazy to get a job. And more than that, the Bible says “you’ll always have the poor among you,” and who are we to go against the Bible (John 12:7, and yes, this is completely pulled out of context, but then, most biblical quotations are) and try to eliminate poverty?
Earlier thoughts about all of this include, Do you know your 2012 place in the American Exceptionalism myth?; Unemployment, foreclosures, poverty and other things we’re not suppose to talk about; Poverty is Growing in the ‘Exceptional’ USA; What Romney and Obama Aren’t Talking About: $7.25 vs. $4326 Per Hour Wage Gap.
I mention those just to point out that this isn’t a new focus for me, and while it’s impossible, unfortunately, to separate the discussion from the political presidential election year moment, this is a much, much bigger issue than Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. It’s much bigger than Republicans vs. Democrats. If all that happens is another round of “why my side is better than your side” of the Duopoly, the Duopoly will be happy.
From Dean Baker, at HuffPo:
Poverty: The New Growth Industry in America
Recent trends in poverty rates should have the country furious at its leaders. When we get the data for 2011 next month, we are likely to see yet another uptick in poverty rates, reversing almost 50 years of economic progress. The percentage of people in extreme poverty, with incomes less than half of the poverty level, is likely to again hit an all-time high since the data has been collected.
A key word there is “should,” because the truth is, poverty just isn’t that interesting to a lot of people. They might be “furious,” or at least upset, maybe even surprised, if they knew about it. But who will tell them? Presidential candidates (actually, most all candidates) talk about the near-sacred “middle class,” not the poor, except on rare occasions. Mainstream media – same story.
Baker writes that in 2010, 27% of children in the U.S. lived below the poverty level.
Many will blame the welfare reform law in 1996 that passed with bipartisan support. That is appropriate. This bill involved a great deal of political grandstanding and removed guarantees that could have protected millions of families in a severe downturn like what we are now seeing. …
However, there is the other side of the story, the overall state of the economy, which is the more important cause of the increase in the poverty rate. The vast majority of the people in this country rely on work for the bulk of their income and that would also be true for the tens of millions of people in poverty, if work was available. These people cannot find jobs in today’s economy, or at least not full-time jobs that pay anything close to a living wage.
The reason why so many of these people cannot find jobs is the incredible economic mismanagement by people with names like Robert Rubin, Alan Greenspan, and Ben Bernanke. …
Add to those names, of course, the bipartisan Electeds who made the “mismanagement” possible.
As much as it is important to have strong safety net protections to ensure that people are able to survive tough times, it is even more important to have a strong economy that can generate good paying jobs. Unfortunately, there is nothing on the political agenda at the moment likely to bring the economy back towards full employment any time soon.
Both presidential candidates claim to be committed to deficit reduction as though there is magical process that causes private businesses to start hiring workers when they see that schools are laying off teachers and defense contractors are laying off factory workers.
Read Baker’s entire thoughtful post if you can.
I think both presidential candidates, and both legacy parties in general, are fully aware that “deficit reduction” isn’t the answer to the actual problems with the economy, poverty, etc. And what they will do is what they always do: address themselves to the issues which really matter to them.