Beyond Tea-Party Somnambulism!

Posts tagged ‘poverty’

The Working Poor…Not Looking For Hand-Outs!

Judy Davis, an activist from Worcester County, MD, is involved with important issues in our state. She recently participated in the Marylanders Against Gun Violence rally, in Annapolis, MD and is a participant in the Emerge program, which trains women around the country to take more active roles in leadership positions in their communities.

It would be hard to ignore the working poor, while living in a seasonal beach town, as I do. Although many unskilled jobs are filled with visiting foreign-exchange students, “locals” hold about half of those positions.  These “locals”, some of who are lifelong residents, live in the area year-round and find that they’re without work when the businesses close for the season. The fortunate ones are able to receive a modest unemployment check, twice a month. Renting in our area is expensive and lodging is only available in the off-season. Those that choose to remain in a year-round room/apartment, pay much higher rent than a comparable living space, elsewhere.

During a recent conversation I had with two local business owners, I heard claims that people are living off “the system”, wanting “hand-outs”, and “those people” are not properly planning for emergencies or their retirement. When I asked how anyone, especially those of advanced years, could pay for living expenses at wages of $7.25 hour, there was no response.

Our society’s perception of the working poor has deteriorated, from one of providing an honest day’s work, to one of expecting entitlements and being shiftless. According to Charlie White (Think Reality: Wealth Inequality in America), 15.1% of the U.S. population (approximately 47 million people) lives below the Poverty Line.  An average worker needs to work one month to equal one hour of income that an average CEO earns. That equates to about 160 hours to 1 hour.  Some figures have shown that to be as high as 400 hours to 1 hour!

The working poor have no discretionary income. If they are lucky enough to own a vehicle and a tire goes flat, the choice is between buying groceries to feed their family or purchasing another used tire.  Trying to save money for deposits on utilities, medical emergencies, gasoline, school supplies, clothes or other basic needs, is impossible, as there isn’t enough money to cover everything. Many parents go without, in order to provide the very minimum subsistence for their children.

The frustration of “just scraping by” impacts a person’s self-worth, causing a cyclical, downward spiral, which is difficult, if not impossible, to recover from.  Don’t forget who also suffers, aside from the parents: Approximately 19% of children in my county live below the Poverty Line (One Maryland: The Plight of Maryland Distressed Jurisdictions).

Rather than blaming the working poor for their situation, how about giving a “hand-up” to help people have their basic needs met, especially where they are desperately trying? In my county, over 25% of female-headed households make just $14,900 per year. Most of our lives would look very different if we suddenly became unemployed, developed significant health issues, needed elderly care or had another traumatic event crossing our paths. Instead of criticizing and demeaning people who are dependent on some form of assistance, in order to survive, their critics should be saying, “There, but for the grace of God, go I!”

The following is a video that clearly explains wealth distribution in America, including how Americans think it is, how they think it should be, and finally, the reality of the way it really is.  It will open your eyes and may, in fact, surprise even the most conservative among you!

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Robert Reich At The American Dream Conference

This is a summary of the presentation by Robert Reich, speaking at the Rebuild the Dream conference, sponsored by MoveOn.org and being held in Washington, D.C., 10/3-10/5. For more LIVESTREAMING, go to: http://www.rebuildthedream.com/

“Time to Rally” – Robert Reich at the Take Back the American Dream Conference

The crowd was hyped for Robert Reich yesterday as we kicked off the first American Dream summit here in DC.  And he didn’t disappoint. Reich – the former Secretary of Labor under President Clinton, public policy professor at UC Berkeley, and acclaimed political economist and commentator – brilliantly weaved together the history of our broken economy with today’s progressive movement.

America is divided between two great forces, says Reich. The progressive force stands for tolerance and equal opportunity, and believes firmly in the interconnectedness of humanity. The regressive force believes in the opposite – intolerance, unequal opportunity, and that we all function on our own, independently. But as bleak as things may seem, “progressive forces always win out over the regressive forces.”

Reich speaks at the Take Back the American Dream conferencePhoto courtesy of HarvardEthics on Flickr

Reich offered a quick overview of where three decades of regressive politics have gotten us. To name a few:

-One of the worst Supreme Court decisions in American history: Citizens United, ruled that corporations are people.

-Currently, 37% of families with young children are living in poverty, the highest percentage we’ve seen since records have been kept.

-Corporations are sitting on $2 trillion in cash, and the ratio of coroprate profits to wages hasn’t been this high since before the Great Depression.

-The top 1% rakes in 35% of total wealth in the country, the highest rate since the 1920s.

-The conservative right has left Americans feeling demoralized and cynical of our political system.

While the facts may be disheartening, for Reich, they mean the time to instigate change is not only urgent but inevitable.

“Look at the civil rights struggle and the anti-Vietnam struggle, the darkest days of the 1950s with Mccarthyism. Every time this country has really been challenged, every time the regressive forces look like they’re going to win, the progressive forces RALLY. That is the history of the United States.”

Catch this clip of Reich’s speech from MoveOn.

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