Wed Oct 19th, 2005 at 04:19:56 PM EST
Bumped by whataboutbob: this is just too good of a discussion to let it slide off into oblivion yet...so one more for the road!
Okay all you believers in the American Dream, defenders of the status quo, champions of the huddled masses, and innocent bystanding statistic lovers -- it's time to quit sullying other threads with our wrangling and get down to business.
Time to stop dragging in the costs of tuition, prices of produce and arcane portions of the US tax code into unsuspecting diaries. Don't act innocent -- you know who you are and I expect to see you in here.
As to the rest of you, jump on in! Be forewarned that my head explodes periodically in this type of discussion, but it passes quickly and I can be reasoned with -- I admit I have issues.
The rest of the unrepentant arguers all seem quite nice and reasonable except when they're occasionally stunningly incorrect, but I'll leave that for now.
The issue is poverty in the United States -- does it exist? what is the scope? how bad is it? can it be overcome? how does it compare to Europe? and why does this matter?
Now, I'm one of those always dragging the huddled masses into things types (as if they haven't troubles enough). My stance is that we have terrible poverty in the US. That the problem is quite large and growing. I believe this one "fact" of American life explains our political madness and also holds the key to solving our problems.
And I want to state for the record that I'm a big believer in the American Dream. I believe with all my heart that who you are or where you come from shouldn't matter. I believe we all are entitled to freedom, equality, and opportunity. I believe that if a person works hard, they should be able to at least achieve the basics needed for survival.
But what I'm seeing and experiencing here in these United States is an ever increasing gap between rich and poor. What I'm seeing isn't that the American Dream isn't working, it's that it works fine for a decreasing few but locks out an increasing many.
And the problem as I see it is that we're pushing our system, our economic model on the rest of the world. We're selling our dream hard and showing you the wealthy, healthy, best and brightest highest peak of our system. But we're not showing you what's underneath. We're not telling you how we climbed to those lofty heights.
And we know the hard sell. We're giving it all we've got. We want you to liberalize your economy, de-regulate your markets, and open yourselves up to investment. You will protect our industry instead of your environment, our investments instead of your labor, our economy instead of your people, or you will by-god pay, amen.
And we keep lying to you. We tell you this will be good for you, that it works. Just bend over, it won't hurt a bit. Look at us -- we're doing it and we're fine! The richest, wealthiest most wonderful, powerful bad-ass nation in the world, in history, that there ever will be.
But we're not fine. That's the point I keep trying to make.
And you're all good people. You know there's a problem and you don't like certain things about this and then there's that whole war and oil and things have gotten out of hand. You're looking for solutions. To solve anything you need to identify the problem. And, hey!, I'm an American and I think I know what a big part of that problem is.
So I'm over here yellin' and wavin' and pointin' and stuff, trying to attract attention. What I'm saying is -- look over here! We have poor people and violence and death. We have untenable, intractable, hideous, callous and cruel poverty.
The system they're trying to sell you runs on this stuff!
The plantation is pretty, but it takes slaves to run it. The castle is lovely, but you'll need the moat to keep the peasants out. Our economic model, our shining city on the hill, is built on the backs of the poor. It doesn't work without them.
And the biggest problem I have is that many don't want to listen and some who do refuse to believe. There's not many people like me talking to people like you. People like me aren't supposed to escape, to mix. They make it really hard to get across the moat and, if you make it, they've already told the folks on the castle grounds all about our kind.
From the Wall Street Journal via AEI as regards the victims of Katrina:
. . . We have rediscovered the underclass. Newspapers and television understandably prefer to feature low-income people who are trying hard--the middle-aged man working two jobs, the mother worrying about how to get her children into school in a strange city. These people are rightly the objects of an outpouring of help from around the country, but their troubles are relatively easy to resolve. Tell the man where a job is, and he will take it. Tell the mother where a school is, and she will get her children into it. Other images show us the face of the hard problem: those of the looters and thugs, and those of inert women doing nothing to help themselves or their children. They are the underclass.
. . . The government hasn't a clue. Versions of every program being proposed in the aftermath of Katrina have been tried before and evaluated. We already know that the programs are mismatched with the characteristics of the underclass. Job training? Unemployment in the underclass is not caused by lack of jobs or of job skills, but by the inability to get up every morning and go to work. A homesteading act? The lack of home ownership is not caused by the inability to save money from meager earnings, but because the concept of thrift is alien. You name it, we've tried it. It doesn't work with the underclass.
. . . the statistical reality is that people who get into the American job market and stay there seldom remain poor unless they do something self-destructive. And behaving self-destructively is the hallmark of the underclass.
They tell these lies over and over, that it's not the system it's the people, the underclass with their "certain characteristics." It's not a lack of jobs, education, skills, or opportunity, they say. It's the people. The inert mothers and lazy fathers who won't get out of bed. These people do nothing to help themselves, they always say. And they profit from these lies and this fear and make the moat wider while the castle grounds shrink.
I keep telling this same story and having these same arguments. People bring various statistics to the arguments, and that's fine if we're talking about the area around the castle. What I'm always talking about is how many people are across the moat, how bad it is and what a brutal way it is to try and live. I know this because I lived there myself once. So far as I know, most of that population isn't counted in the statistics, they're simply ignored. But I can't ignore them. I can't keep them out of these arguments because, while I live here with you now, my heart is still with the people across the moat.