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Conflict & Tragedy

The Forgotten Class

September 23,2010, Washington]-----According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the income gap between the rich and poor is currently at it's widest, yet I have never heard a presidential candidate, spend more than a fleeting few minutes on the poor part of this country’s population. The “working class” seem to not exist.

I’ve heard copious speeches on the “middle class.” For there to be a middle, there must be a top and a bottom. Nothing exist in a vacuum, yet our elected officials continuously act like they do.

President Obama was a beacon of hope in 2008. His sweeping, electrifying speeches, ignited passion for change everywhere. But even he, stayed away from uttering that dreaded phrase, “poor working class.”

The UN is currently in NYC, discussing global poverty and it’s ills, yet in this great U.S.A., we have more homeless, than some so called “third world” countries. Some are lying right there on the streets of Manhattan, as the UN’s officials and our President’s motorcade, whisk by.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the disparity in wealth is growing wider. In 2008, an average White family’s median yearly income was averaged at $52,113. compared to a Black family’s $34,088. In 2009, average White family, $51,861 and Black family, $32,584.

Note, the numerical difference and though the wealth seem to be decreasing for all, you can clearly see who’s closer to the bottom. This week, statistics showed that one in every seven American lives below the poverty margin. Yet the Republicans and some Democrats want to keep the tax break for the wealthy, permanently.

President Obama recently visited a public school to deliver a motivational speech to our nations children. Though he encouraged students to give of their best and persevere even if times are tough, he didn’t deliver what I though would have been the opportunity to address the gross disparity and educational crisis in our public schools.

Telling a child to do his best, when his school is substandard, his home life is abysmal, his neighborhood a war zone or a foreclosure nightmare, is really ineffective. It’s like telling the president to fix the economy, joblessness, corruption and a gridlock, inept Congress without him having the tools to implement such change.

Kids need more than lip service. They have to do their part of course, but we adults have not done ours. It’s disingenuous, then to ask them to give of their best, when we haven’t given ours.

Disparity in wealth; poverty; affects every aspect of ones life. How long does the establishment think this country will survive as a viable, competitive player on the global market, if the largest percentage of it’s population live in poverty?

Can the 1 percent wealthy carry this country? Can the one percent manufacture goods, harvest crops, oil, and grease the spokes that are absolutely essential to the smooth spinning of the wheels of any productive country?

Some might say poverty is not their problem. They came from nothing, and they “made it,” why can’t others do the same? We are not all monolithic. We do not all have the same level of skills, opportunity, acumen etc. But if there is an outbreak of something contagious and the sick do not get help, guess what, it will certainly spread, maybe eventually to you.

We are all interconnected. That child who gets a good education , will more likely go on to be a productive member of society, contributing to the whole. On the other hand, that child who was left by the wayside, then turns to a life of crime, will negatively impact your world whether you like it or not. Society need a cycle checks and balances to get to the common good.

Politicians don’t mention the working poor for I suspect they have categorized this class as not much political capital. I suspect they think, they can’t contribute millions to campaign funds. I suspect they are thinking, those “people” don’t even come out to vote. I suspect they’re thinking “those poor folks” are so bogged down by poverty, they do not have the will or the inclination to fight and demand change.

I suspect they might be right. Someone once said, I think it was Mark Twain, that the rich depends on an abundance of the poor. True and oh so profound.

In our society, if everyone had millions or billions, no one would be rich. Money would return to it’s intrinsic value, zero. I heard an economist speak, a long time ago and he said something that always stayed with me. He said that a strong economy depends on some of the poor, remaining poor. That seems so obscene to me. Don't we need an economy and society where everyone can adequately feed, cloth, house and educate their familes and themselves?

So the ‘Haves continue to amass wealth and the “Have-nots” continue to tiptoe from the bottom to take a peak at the top. Only, the top is so far up, they can only barely catch a glimpse of the glint of the rung. It’s so far out of hanging range, that they can’t even hang on by making a jump.

I suggest the powers that, take a long, hard look at history and start implementing some profound changes. For, the “poor masses” might appear apathetic, like they did in Imperialist France, Great Britain, the Caribbean, Africa, Rome but they all eventually exploded in rebellion at the abject poverty and feelings of powerlessness.

Inequity and inequality can be a cataclysmic catalyst for change. The ugly, painful, kind.


By Veronica P Roberts 9.23.10