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What about the Poor?
“Our inequality materializes our upper class, vulgarizes our middle class, brutalizes our lower class.”
Politicians and the media focus incessantly on the middle class. The politicians make empty promises about how they will do whatever they can to help them, and the mainstream media (MSM) report these comments without question, without follow up on the promises and without consideration of the economic inequality created by Congress’s largess toward the wealthy. In fact, the middle class is disappearing in the United States. Meanwhile, the politicians and MSM almost completely ignore the poor that truly suffer in this economy.
The Obama White House even started a “Middle Class Task Force,” a feel good gesture toward the middle class. However, there were no actual members of the middle class in the task force, “...the middle class may have a better shot at making ends meet than at influencing the Middle Class Task Force. That's because no member of the Middle Class Task Force is actually middle class.”
As the media and politicians talk about the middle class, more and more people are entering poverty. More than 46 million were living below the poverty level in 2010 according to the latest census. There are another 30 million Americans that are one paycheck away from being being in poverty. “Meanwhile, the rich are only getting richer. Income inequality in the United States is greater now than at any time since 1929.” Even with rising poverty, the media chooses to focus their discussion on the wealthy and middle classes.
Moreover, when the MSM does talk about the middle class, they misrepresent the facts. For example, Tom Brokaw said on meet the press that those that make $250,000 a year are middle class, “Brokaw explained that "the middle class is going to have a date for the prom," but that how we define that term is open for debate. And he thinks wealthy people should be counted as middle class too: 'A lot of people don't realize in large urban and suburban areas of America, $250,000 doesn't make you rich. You have got two kids in college at $60,000. If you're a boomer, you may have a dependent parent of some kind you're spending another $20,000 or $25,000 on...'"
Mr. Brokaw, for years one of the most visible anchors on national television, thinks that $250,000 is not a lot of money. He sounds much like Mitt Romney and other wealthy people who have no experience living in poverty or on the edge of it. He can afford to spend $60,000 to send his children to university while most people in the U.S. make less than that a year. Clearly, we should not expect wealthy news anchors from corporate media outlets nor wealthy congress members, 62% of whom are millionaires and all earning over $100,000 to work in Congress, to address poverty in an informed way. (For more examples of this misrepresentations of class in the media, go to FAIR online)
Ignoring poverty issues
According to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, FAIR, there is almost no media coverage of poverty-related issues. “It's no particular secret that politicians do a much better job representing the interests of the wealthy than those of the poor.” They are, after all, working for the interests of their own class, wealthy Americans.
And Congress is unable to address poverty. On one side, Republicans are activity cutting poverty programs, on the other side Democrats only propose small anti-poverty programs, for anything larger will be blocked by Republicans. Also, Democrats don't want to upset their wealthy donor base by addressing wealth inequality.
“The trick is to keep the public gaze in the U.S. transfixed on people trapped in poverty, to reinforce the myth that poverty is the result of individual weaknesses (a lack of "grit," for example)” while promoting the myth that the wealthy have earned their millions. In fact, a vast majority of millionaires were born into wealthy families." (truthout)
Low Wages Create Poverty
Millions of Americans are earning $10 or less an hour, a poverty wage in most areas of the nation. And for those who have children, it puts them well below the poverty level. So even Obama’s proposed $10.10 an hour wage for government workers is too low for many families.
Schools in Poor Neighborhoods are the First to Close
Education has been called "the great equalizer" in the struggle to become upwardly mobile in the United States. However, school reform has led to the defunding and closing of schools in poor neighborhoods across America. Instead of looking to improve these schools, mayors like Rahm Emanuel of Chicago and others have chosen to close them and fund charter schools. “Twelve thousand Chicago children are walking new, often longer, routes to school this fall—after Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed 47 schools, almost all in poor Black and Latino neighborhoods.” So poor children get punished for decisions made my administrators and mayors who only see them as statistics on a balance sheet. (See my article on education "reform" for more on this issue.)
The poor get poor education
In “Savage Inequalities”, Jonothan Kozol writes about the horrendous conditions public school students in poor areas of the nation have to learn in every day. He discusses schools without heating in the winter or cooling in the summer, schools with backed up toilets and collapsing ceilings. They are far from getting these students computers, the technology solution for educational advancement touted by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and many education reformers and administrators.
Writer and education specialist Alfie Kohn makes it clear that the low ranking of the U.S. on international tests is because of poverty, “...if you look closely at those international test comparisons that supposedly find the U.S. trailing, it turns out that socioeconomic factors are largely responsible. Our wealthier students do very well compared to other countries; our poorer students do not. And we have more poor children than do other industrialized nations.”
If educational attainment leads to a better life financially, it is clear that creating a system of good schools for wealthy families and bad schools for poor families will only exacerbate this inequality.
As midterm elections approach, we will hear promises made over and over to the U.S. middle class by the two major parties. When you hear that, contact whoever makes those promises and ask, "What about the poor?"