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Excerpt: "Official Washington continues to see poverty with tunnel vision - 'out of sight, out of mind.'"

Portrait, Bill Moyers. (photo: Robin Holland)
Portrait, Bill Moyers. (photo: Robin Holland)


Invisible Americans Get the Silent Treatment

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, Moyers & Company

26 August 12

 

t's just astonishing to us how long this campaign has gone on with no discussion of what's happening to poor people. Official Washington continues to see poverty with tunnel vision - "out of sight, out of mind."

And we're not speaking just of Paul Ryan and his Draconian budget plan or Mitt Romney and their fellow Republicans. Tipping their hats to America's impoverished while themselves seeking handouts from billionaires and corporations is a bad habit that includes President Obama, who of all people should know better.

Remember: for three years in the 1980's he was a community organizer in Roseland, one of the worst, most poverty-stricken and despair-driven neighborhoods in Chicago. He called it "the best education I ever had." And when Obama left to go to Harvard Law School, author Paul Tough writes in The New York Times, he did so, "to gain the knowledge and resources that would allow him to eventually return and tackle the neighborhood's problems anew." There's a moving line in Dreams from My Father where Obama writes: "I would learn power's currency in all its intricacy and detail" and "bring it back like Promethean fire."

Oddly, though, for all his rhetorical skills, Obama hasn't made a single speech devoted to poverty since he moved into the White House.

Five years ago, he was one of the few politicians who would talk about it. Here he is in July 2007, speaking in Anacostia, one of the poorest parts of Washington, D.C.:

"The moral question about poverty in America - How can a country like this allow it? - has an easy answer: we can't. The political question that follows - What do we do about it? - has always been more difficult. But now that we're finally seeing the beginnings of an answer, this country has an obligation to keep trying."

Barack Obama the candidate said he wanted to spend billions on a nationwide program similar to Geoffrey Canada's Harlem Children Zone in New York City, widely praised for its focus on comprehensive child development. In the last three years, only $40 million have been spent with another $60 million scheduled for local community grants.

Obama's White House team insisted their intentions were good, but the depth of the economic meltdown passed along by their predecessors has kept them from doing more. And yes, billions have been spent on direct aid to families in the form of welfare, food stamps, housing vouchers and other payments. What's needed, as Paul Tough at the Times and others say, is a less scattershot, more comprehensive program that gets to the root of the problem, focusing on education and mentoring. Not easy to do when a disaffected middle class that votes says hey, what about us? - and the wealthy one percent who lay out the fat campaign contributions simply say, so what?

Just a few days ago, The Chronicle of Philanthropy issued a report on charitable giving. Among its findings: "Rich people who live in neighborhoods with many other wealthy people give a smaller share of their incomes to charity than rich people who live in more economically diverse communities." Responding to that study, social psychologist Paul Piff told National Public Radio, "The more wealth you have, the more focused on your own self and your own needs you become, and the less attuned to the needs of other people you also become."

Those few who dedicate themselves to keeping the poor ever in sight realize how grave the situation really is. The Associated Press reports that, "The number of Americans with incomes at or below 125 percent of the poverty level is expected to reach an all-time high of 66 million this year." A family of four earning 125 percent of the federal poverty level makes about $28,800 a year, according to government figures.

That number's important because 125 percent is the income limit to qualify for legal aid, but although that family may qualify for help, budgets for legal services have been slashed, too, and pro bono work at the big law firms has fallen victim to downsizing. So it's not surprising, the AP goes on to say, that there's a crisis in America's civil courts because people slammed by the financial meltdown - overwhelmed by foreclosure, debt collection and bankruptcy cases - can't afford legal representation and have to represent themselves, creating gridlock in our justice system - and one more hammer blow for the poor.

We know, we know: It is written that, "The poor will always be with us." But when it comes to our "out of sight, out of mind" population of the poor, you have to think we can help reduce their number, ease the suffering, and speak out, with whatever means at hand, on their behalf and against those who would prefer they remain invisible. Speak out: that means you and me, and yes, Mr. President, you, too. You once told the big bankers on Wall Street that you were all that stood between them and the pitchforks of an angry public. How about telling the poor you will make sure our government stands between them and the cliff?


 

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-59 # barbaratodish 2012-08-26 18:19
It's hard for me to read your views on poverty because there is always that nagging thought that takes away my focus on what you are writing, namely that an ELITE is writing about poverty! I know that poverty is a slippery slope, though, and that even I, who have been impoverished, homeless, etc., may be considered RELATIVELY wealthy by some other's standards. But, regardless, I suggest that elites like you need the "balls" to MAXIMIZE the media opportunities you have to deepen your EXPERIENCE about poverty by writing about poverty with more first hand experience, awareness. Try being emotionally and physically vulnerable for a change instead of getting defensive and changing your picture! lmfao You COULD get poverty experience by going undercover, Bill Moyers, like in the reality show "Undercover Boss" or "Secret Millionaire" (which you probably are, but you, most likely want to keep any millionaire status a secret, maybe even to yourself!! In the alternative, try risking something similar to what Barbara Ehrenreich did in research for her book "Nickle and Dimed"! Until then I have problems reading what YOU write, your THEORIES on poverty because I doubt you have any EXPERIENCE in poverty, other, that is, than what you have VICARIOUSLY PERFORMED!In order to have any real experience you have to have BEEN the experience instead of just IMAGINED it, and if you DO have ANY REAL experience in poverty, you certainly have kept it to yourself!
 
 
+30 # tomtom 2012-08-26 21:25
Experience with poverty, illustrates that to have representation in government, actual poor people should have seats at the decision making tables. Some kind of rotating musical chairs, with people acRoss America, homeless, jobless, educationless, hopeless, contributing real, hands on perspectives, to be smelt, visualized and dealt with. As it is, only millionaires and billionaires are represented by their peers.
 
 
+21 # Carbonman1950 2012-08-26 22:30
Ms. Todish - I took a moment to visit your website. I read there your invitation to "Learn how to be your non-violent "dark side" with dark humor and verbal obnoxiousness."

I'm afraid I could not discern any humor in your response to Mr. Moyers' article.
 
 
0 # barbaratodish 2012-08-28 22:43
Quoting Carbonman1950:
Ms. Todish - I took a moment to visit your website. I read there your invitation to "Learn how to be your non-violent "dark side" with dark humor and verbal obnoxiousness."

I'm afraid I could not discern any humor in your response to Mr. Moyers' article.

MY bad! I thought it was funny that Bill Moyers SEEMED to have changed his photo, when I wrote a comment that asked if Bill Moyers, in his photo, (ironically he changed the photo but now the original photo I asked about is the current one in this article! How appropriate! lol) looked like every nun that any other baby boomer parochial schoolers recalled!
 
 
+9 # brux 2012-08-27 02:03
YES!

There is a huge industry of these elite mouthpieces who never really do anything buy talk writing books, making movies, creating foundations ... like the guy in Afghanistan who was a total fraud.

The thing is in order to keep society running the working class has to be manipulated, ie. given hope, and one way is to have all the people who we see seem and talk liberal. Remember the PR industry and all the charity events rich people and celebrities have to go to to make it seem like they are our side so we waste out time with them and buy their products.

One thing I would like to see to PROVE that these people are serious is some of them getting together and actually doing something. Model for the country what it looks like to have people who may not even like each other and have a hard time getting along, but work together for some common goal. It can be done, and we need to do it, but these endless book plugs of people with books that all say the same thing, none of which is how to overthrow or modify, or evolve our system into a system that serves everyone.

I think the way to do it is to start with declarations of human rights. just like FDR did, and was going to extend if he had lived. It was turned back by the same business plot that tried to take over the US. We need to put that back on track.

It's just that simple.
 
 
0 # mdhome 2012-08-27 19:28
I don't mean to argue with you, just making an observation. Sometime in the 19th century there was a very famous western author who never went far enough west to even see the Mississippi. I have a bit of brain fog at the moment and can't find his name.
 
 
+40 # balconesfalk 2012-08-27 04:02
Bill Moyers is not the problem. Karl Rove, megalomaniacal modern day Machiavelli, is the brains behind the demolition of the American spirit. He is working towards the end of democracy as we know it.
Someone once observed that if you ever see a huge pile of money you can know that you are witnessing a crime scene. Rove represents the interests of those with the biggest piles of money. Just like the bankers who preside over the money he somehow escapes prosecution.
Ms. barbaratodish, you speak with the bitterness of someone for whom there has been no Trickle Down. Join the 99%. But please vote your self interest come election day. I think there are more of us than them.
 
 
+33 # maddave 2012-08-27 04:21
A couple of points made here are not really valid. Eg., An oncologist doesn't have to be a stage four cancer survivor in order to recognize, diagnose and treat the basic malady. Such EXPERIENCE might could be valuable, but perhaps at the expense of objectivity. And, some aspects of all disciplines do not lend themselves to practical duplication. "Vicarious" is as close as 99.99% of all (oncologists) will come to "the real experience".

Take the highly respected work of Barbara Erenreich as an example. Although her work was original and seminal, there is no way on Earth that she could have descended into the depths of utter despair and negative self worth, simply because her stay on the poverty level was, from day one, "finite!". She was NEVER more than one decision or one phone call away from emerging from voluntary poverty. Therefore---lac king hopelessness--- one might conclude that her we work was flawed, but---as with Bill Moyers, close observation combined with intelligence, empathy and competent communication skills can --- and in this case do ---supplant difficult-to-co me-by actual first-person reporting from deep within the depths of poverty.

If we await "the real thing" - "authenticity" - we may wait forever. So, let's move ahead based upon what we have from Erenreich, Moyers', et al. We can fine-tune along the way ahead.
 
 
+20 # dkonstruction 2012-08-27 05:47
Moyers is a journalist and has probably spent more time over the last many decades talking about income inequality and poverty than any other journalist in the country. It is one thing to criticize ideas (e.g., i have problems with the "charter school" model of the Harlem Children's Zone) but to simply write someone's ideas off because of the size of their salary if further evidence of the poverty of what passes as progressive discourse in this country. since you seem to like Barbara Ehrenreich (as do i although i think like to many progressives in this country she focuses solely on problems of distribution and never gets to the fundamental problems/contra dictions of capitalist production (i.e., wage labor and the lack of "worker's control of the means of production"). But, Moyers has interviewed Barbara Ehrenreich numerous times over the years as he has "given voice" to many others who are generally either ignored and or barred from the rest of the mainstream media. So, while i too have problems with some of Moyers positions we need to focus on positions and issues rather than the going for the easy cheap shot soundbite that dismisses someone's ideas becauase of their salary, who they associate with, what they wear or eat, etc otherwise we just wind up trivializing ideas and descend into discussions about things that won't do a damn thing to actually make things better and do precisely what "the system" wants i.e., focus on appearance instead of substance.
 
 
+17 # bbaldwin 2012-08-27 06:37
One does not have to experience poverty to see it, feel it and question it. Bill Moyers is the most sensitive to all matters, poor, rich, over qualified, underqualfied.
 
 
+16 # Mike Farrace 2012-08-27 08:16
Who do you think you're talking to? Are you 13, an amnesiac, or are you one of those people who shoots off their mouths with no basis in fact? Bill Moyers is one of the most trustworthy writers and commentators who have ever lived, with real-life experience in government and media that give him a hard-earned gravitas. If he has wealth, I applaud him. He has worked for many decades as a truth-teller and advocate for those among us with the least. He's about the furthest thing from an elitist I can imagine.
 
 
+46 # medusa 2012-08-26 20:13
He is not writing to express his own feelings or morals, but just to make the point that the public discussion routinely omits accounts of how unbalanced our economy is.
It is sometimes as simple as realizing that the fact behind "so-many new jobless claims" is persons who have finally felt compelled to accept the humiliation and sinking hopes that come with deciding to stand in a welfare line. You would almost believe that people preferred poverty and misery to middle class life--after all, they choose it, don't they?
 
 
-31 # barbaratodish 2012-08-27 03:23
Quoting medusa:
He is not writing to express his own feelings or morals, but just to make the point that the public discussion routinely omits accounts of how unbalanced our economy is.
It is sometimes as simple as realizing that the fact behind "so-many new jobless claims" is persons who have finally felt compelled to accept the humiliation and sinking hopes that come with deciding to stand in a welfare line. You would almost believe that people preferred poverty and misery to middle class life--after all, they choose it, don't they?

It is MY PERCEPTION that Bill Moyers and you are defending your elite class IDENTITY. It's also MY PERCEPTION that instead of expressing his own feelings and morals, Bill Moyers' feelings and morals,(and yours, too) express HIM (and YOU, too!)I prefer being EMOTIONALLY vulnerable and if that means I need to BE my poverty in order to truly EXPERIENCE my poverty instead of the illusion of POVERTY PERFORMANCES, then sobeit!
 
 
+32 # tswhiskers 2012-08-26 21:47
It has never been easy to find a job, even in a good economy. It requires a resume, the willingness to make yourself vulnerable to someone's judgment and the ability to take rejection. And in these hard times there is a lot of rejection. No, people don't prefer poverty to a decent income, and most of us do the best we can to make an income. I've heard a few wealthy say they won't support anyone who will not work (poverty is proof of that to some of the wealthy, after all they made money, why not every Tom, Dick and Harry?). Is Moyers well off? Probably. But at least he remembers his upbringing in Texas and his work under LBJ. Yes, he has a bit of an ego, but he's one of the very few to use that 4-letter word, poor and he uses it often. With the exception of Barbara Ehrenreich, what other journalists talk about the poor? Damn few! So I say thank you to Mr. Moyers for talking sincerely about social problems and being a thorn in the side of complacency.
 
 
+36 # BeaDeeBunker 2012-08-26 21:54
This issue of the shortcomings of the Obama administration has to be settled once and for all.
I can be objective or I can be subjective. I can't be both at the same time, or change viewpoints in midstream.

At this time, so close to the 'most important election' in America's history (as if there is ever an election that is not the 'most important'), I want to focus on the objective point of view. The subjective view gets caught up in all kinds of emotional ideas and thoughts. A lot of 'what ifs' and 'if onlys' and that old standard of 'would've, could've, should've.'

Objectively here are the facts:
1. Norquist decides, at age 12, that politics and governance is all about branding. The 'brand' of the GOP is going to be 'no raising of taxes...no way.' With his brand, you get elected. Before you swear allegiance to the USA, you sign the 'oath' to never raise taxes. These oath signers have made their pact with the Devil; screw the people!

2. After 8 years of being 'Bushwacked' the few citizens who do vote, vote in a Democrat, a black man as POTUS.

3.The leaders of the royal opposition announce their strategy for all to hear. If Obama says yes, we say no; if he says up we say down; if he is fair, we are unfair.
The truth is not our brand; always lie.

4. It is a miracle that ANYTHING has gotten done. Yet POTOS gets no credit at all!

When the deck is stacked, you can't win!
 
 
+18 # balconesfalk 2012-08-27 03:44
Where is Karl Rove in this listing? The branding for the Republicans may be "no raising of taxes..." but the thrust of the R Party is to vote out Obama, ubber alles.
That all out effort united the royal opposition. The devil is in the democracy. Issues are the dispensable details. Money talks. The strategy has become to cripple voting rights, rig elections with redistricting, saturation bomb the air waves to create a "movement" to the far right and damn the consequences. Concern for the poor among us doesn't "sell." The Rovians demand the political assassination of our president.
All else is irrelevant and trivial.
This is an all out assault to crush the American spirit. We'll know come November, if America as we know it is mo more.
 
 
+6 # BeaDeeBunker 2012-08-27 07:39
balconesfalk:
Everything you say here is indeed correct and relevant. I was limited to 1500 characters, and still raging and recovering from watching Norquist spew his venom on 60 Minutes on Sunday. It just galled me that this guy was so arrogant in his assessment of his power over the process, while at the same time downplaying his role and power over the process. His smirk rivaled the Bush smirk.
 
 
+1 # balconesfalk 2012-08-27 20:22
BeaDee, I missed "60 Minutes" and it sounds like I spared myself the pain. I've been wondering if it could not be construed as illegal that elected congressmen and women are prevailed upon to sign an oath to not raise taxes. Surely that has to be an abrogation of the rights of the constituencies they represent.
Once elected it becomes incumbent upon them to represent all the people in their districts and not just the ones who voted for them. To preempt due diligence in considering all aspects of the issues that come before the legislative body seems unethical if not illegal. Surely some authority should step in and protect duly elected representatives from the mob rule of party loyalty over right and reason. Such an oath reduces them to mere puppets whose strings are held by the likes of Grover Norquist, bless his soul. It is bad enough that Karl Rove controls the life blood of their campaign monies.
 
 
+10 # Vardoz 2012-08-27 06:49
R & R are totally owned by the corporations and ALL the special interests. Hasn't anyone noticed how congress has blocked ALL of Obama's efforts. This congress is waging war against the president. Their ONLY goal has been to get rid of Obama and make him look as bad as posible at any cost to anything. They refuse to raise taxes, to create jobs, they hate women, blacks , Hispanics the poor and all working class people. So open your eyes They also want to steal this election. This is the worst obstructionist congress in history!!! Obama if given half a chance would do a much better job. How can a congresses only goal as, they have said over and over, be to get rid of Obama and that's all they care about and if you think an R & R presidency would be better you are crazy.
 
 
+1 # balconesfalk 2012-08-27 20:29
This war waged by the far right is nothing short of a political assassination attempt. I hope the sleazy, bully nature of it is not lost on free Americans--that they can register their offense by trouncing the people who would buy out our democracy on election day.
 
 
+13 # Peace Anonymous 2012-08-26 23:03
Again the in-your-face reality of what Washington politics are all about. A handful of extremely wealthy representatives of Corporate America trying desperately to manipulate the system to squessze out every last dollar for themselves. There is a pattern folks. Do your homework. The citizens get the bill for escapades like the Iraq invasion but where does the profit forom the Iraqi oil go? There is a $900 billion defense budget to fight the enemies we created and we are closing schools. There is a $900 billion defense budget and those who benfit keep starting wars to make sure that bidget is maintained. Every time a bomb goes off somwhere in the world our fear factor goes up and we opne our wallets in an effort to feel safe. The poor?? Do you honestly think the lobbyists and campaign contributors give a damn about the poor?
 
 
+12 # railroadmike 2012-08-26 23:45
Does'nt take a PHD in economy nor politcal history to figure whats going on in Washington. No Fascist Org or wantabe Fascist dictators such as ALEC,GOP and the KOCH Brothers ever took over a country in a good economy with a middle class.
 
 
+8 # Marvin Mandell 2012-08-27 00:13
The article that Bill Moyers mentions, by Paul Tough, says that educating poor children is the key to eradicating poverty. But he does not mention that the welfare reform bill, which President Clinton signed into law in 1996, prohibited parents of welfare recipients from getting a 4-year college degree. The old AFDC program and allowed parents (mostly mothers) to go to college. Many well known and successful women had been helped by the old AFDC program to complete college. Most of them got a job that supported their families and did not return to welfare. Obama's mother was one of them. After 1996, thousands of women had to drop out of college. Many of them became homeless when they were cut off of TANF because they were unable to find a job or because they had reached their time limit.
Betty Reid Mandell
 
 
-13 # pappyg 2012-08-27 01:04
There is a public discussion about poverty, it's embedded within the Social Security conversation, you know the wonderful program that has kept millions of seniors above the poverty level. At the same time it's been used to financially water board millions of middle class working Americans, their families, and the communities they call home. Whether it's Bill Moyers, Bill Clinton, Bernie Sanders, or Bernie Madoff, they all have one thing in common, ant that is selling working American snake oil. Rise up America: http://www.slideboom.com/presentations/598087
 
 
+2 # starlady 2012-08-27 01:22
HELP from GOV? RUMOR. Apply,U-run Apache Gauntlet. SS disability? Multiple doctor visits =turndowns. It'll kill-U. After yrs of petitioning, you get 280$ a month THEN, state won't give foodstamps. Meager stipend puts-U over limit. H.E.A.P another fraud. One in 100 gets UTILITY aid after Doctor visits/letters, notaries, xeroxes, postage. What senior has stamps and a car &can get to P.O? Then, HEAP aid =Every 2 yrs, elec.bill gets paid. ONCE. A SINGLE TIME! http://www.masterjules.net/coldcuts.htm
http://www.luckinlove.com/heapofhelp.htm
http://www.luckinlove.com/heapbodies.htm
http://www.luckinlove.com/HEAP2.htm
OTHER SCAMS run by so-called HELP-poor agencs? MEALS on WHEELS. Granny must pay 8$ each time a meal is deliv. Access Para Transit? 2 doctor visits to qualify then you must pay 5$ each time you need a ride. Bureaucrats make fortune in salaries ;they R-federally funded BUT don't disperse $. My cat BEAVIS sits on BAG OF KIBBLE, sleeps ON IT making certain that no other cat can get into that bag like the dispersers of public bounty. LOS ANGELES has two 'free' help the goofy, demented-clinic s. DEDE HIRSCH and THALIANS at CEDARS SINAI. They both cost 150$ an hour to see your schizy teen --guaranteed kid goes untreated. City confiscates seniormobiles when granny can't afford DMV tag/reg fees calculated off BLUEBOOK value on a dented heap with street value half that. Ticket is $2000, TOWS $1000. Govm't Ptoooey.
 
 
+6 # brux 2012-08-27 01:58
Poor people must function to make our society work.

The fear of being poor and cast out makes people able to be regimented and distorts their behavior and perceptions in very inhuman ways. We become prisoners and slaves to a system elites set up for their own egos.

And as they become less apologetic about it and more blatant we start to approach Nazi Germany or some such break with reality.

If the majority of American does not want to care about poor people or believes the existence of poor people makes them more valuable and boosts their ego ... how do we ever move past it?

The rich are the beneficiaries of hidden history that we do not see, so they can make up mythologies that pile merit and admiration on themselves.

I think the start of whatever comes next is going to grow out of a declaration and acceptance of universal human rights and responsibilitie s, not some kind of free markets invisible hand that most modern economists say is obsolete.

There are two books that are really good on these subjects ... oddly both have similar titles ....

The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future by Joseph E. Stiglitz

and

The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity by Jeffrey Sachs

I prefer the Stiglitz book it is newer, more complete and from a guy who is unimpeachable and knows that he is talking about.
 
 
-2 # barbaratodish 2012-08-27 09:40
I want to read them,BRUX!
For me POVERTY(unless it is absolute,namely life & or death vs QUALITY of life issues)CAN BE FREEDOM.For me just enough $, humor IS FREEDOM from EMOTIONAL "DEATH"!I prefer relative poverty & humor to wealth & seriousness!For me loss of a sense of humor is too much to pay!Sans humor I, at least,become EMOTIONALLY "DEAD"! I used to PERFORM LIFE INSTEAD OF EXPERIENCE IT!I would rather be relatively poor(no one can defend absolute poverty,even monks who take vows of poverty have to eat, etc.,)and emotionally alive than absolutely or relatively rich but so emotionally rigid,sans humor that I might as well be dead!All the wealth in the world won't help me to FEEL & FREE my emotions if my emotions are SO locked up in HAVING AND BEING my DEFENSIVENESS INSTEAD OF my EXPERIENCES OF VULNERABILITY!T HE wealthy and even the middle classes and even some of the poor CLING TO defensiveness as if It's "LIFE"!I used to deny ABSOLUTE defensiveness was emotional death.But for me It IS a CONTROLLED "death" of my emotions!It's difficult to both HAVE EXCESSIVE money & have my emotions,becaus e usually the DEFENSE of my EXCESSIVE money COSTS me in terms of the EXPRESSION of my emotions!(Of course what IS EXCESSIVE money is debated!)I often now get free from emotional defensiveness!I live simply WITH,instead of,in fear of my emotions.I write,do ALT comedy,IMPROV or I let it do me by releasing my "dark side" IMP!Read Barbara Todish's books ie Transcending Competitive Chaos
 
 
+7 # D.J. Scholtz 2012-08-27 02:23
Isn't the real issue not who gives what percentage of income to help the poor, but the belief held by increasing numbers of people that such giving, whether by individuals or social welfare programs, exacerbates the problem? That NOT providing funds will finally get "those people off the public dole?" I think a previous comment about the need to experience the effects of poverty in order to write about it is not at all the answer. For every sociologist who understands what lies behind the poor food purchases made by the obese people paying with food stamps in the line ahead of her, there will be dozens of others who would write, in disgust, "Just see where my tax dollars are going!" People tend to see just the surface effects and not the deep, underlying causes. How to change that???
 
 
+6 # Mrcead 2012-08-27 04:05
Oh no, no, no. It has nothing to do with tunnel vision. People are fully aware of the poor and their plight. They just don't care and don't want to deal with it. A similar attitude surrounds inner city crime. Every person on the street has an opinion about the poor and what their fate "should" be, so it's not like it's some revelation. People would rather build entire cities and communities away from the blight than to just clean up the backyard. It's a very real topic of criticism people in Europe have regarding America - the land of opportunity. It's a definite head scratcher. And I've spent a portion of my time as a young adult volunteering to help the poor. It really puts things into perspective when you see people caring for others rather than for themselves without expecting a paycheque in return. I wanted to be a part of that badly and it felt more fulfilling than a 50 hour work week. But our society isn't geared that way.
 
 
+3 # stonecutter 2012-08-27 04:39
Perhaps what Americans need is to allow poverty here to reach its "critical mass": to have men, women and especially children living and dying en masse in the streets, like they do in India or Bangladesh or 100 other third-world countries. To have massive dilapidated slums spring up IN and around cities, like they do in Manila (I saw them), and Rio (a problem for the 2016 Olympics, no?) and 100's of other cities around the world, but not (yet) in America. Our corporate media makes sure we don't see these places on TV, let alone the horrors of life that take place in them, but if you ever do see them, either in person or through some enterprising Internet surfing, you're hit in the face with their reality, and their message: this too can be your/our fate, with just a few more years of American economic and political degeneration.

Yes, we're the richest country on earth, blah, blah, blah, but we already know that wealth is excessively concentrated among a very few, and the rest of us are going down fast. Cut hundreds of billions from Defense (makes complete sense), and you also cut millions of jobs. You must replace those jobs, but how? Where? Is the political "will" there?

In the recent comic book movie "The Green Lantern", we learned that in that fictional universe, Will is the strongest force for good, but Fear is coming on strong to challenge it, even replace it. Funny, but seems to be happening in this real world as well, and a lot faster.
 
 
+6 # independentmind 2012-08-27 04:49
I was looking at some statistics this week, and what struck me is that the middle class - defined as earnings between $38,000 and $118,000 - has declined by 10% since the 1960's. Now you can bet that the majority of the 10% did not head upwards. This means that the rolls of the poor have increased by 10% over that time-span, and given stagnant to decreasing wages, this trend is likely to continue.
From my experience living in a small town in middle America that has quite a few major industries in town and nearby, and was at one time quite wealthy, the downward slide is quite apparent.
I notice it at the schools, where we now have between 70 and 78% of the kids qualifying for free lunches.
Our high schools are failing the kids that do not want to continue to go on to college. There is a structural problem here that is exacerbated by politics and money issues, that make it unattractive for the schools to send the kids that need to, or want to, go to career centers while still in High School, and they do not offer any alternatives themselves. The chances are, IF these kids graduate, they will not get any training beyond a High School diploma and end up in dead end jobs.
What strikes me is that the branches of major corporations in this area, that need, and are looking for, skilled people, do not step up and offer training or scholarships to young people so they will work for them.
 
 
+5 # BeaDeeBunker 2012-08-27 08:52
"those people off the public dole?"
By 'those people' do you mean the corporations, like GM who get bailed out with 'public' funds?
Do you mean those corporations that take in billions and yet pay no taxes? Are you referring to the countless number of 'private' businesses that treat the 'public' trough as their private cash cow?

The model for running a capitalistic business is quite simple. It is based on risk and reward. You take a risk, and you either succeed or fail. If you expect to take in the rewards, but have the 'public' cover your loses, that's just blatant welfare.

The banking system is a prime example of this. The FDIC insures a depositor's deposit up to $250,000. This system was developed for savings banks. It was not intended for high risk commercial banks. When the bankers got their wish, and combined the two, they used the 'insured' funds to play the high risk game, knowing that they were more or less covered by the FDIC. They are casinos playing with house money. Heads they win, tails we lose.

If you want to know where your tax dollars are going, just ask why a hammer that costs $25 in the local hardware store, costs $700 when the Army buys it from a contractor.

Or ask why if I buy in bulk from a Cosco I pay less per item, but if the Government buys drugs in bulk, it pays more per item! That's insane!

Bottom line, Corporate Welfare is the big problem, not Public Welfare.
 
 
+4 # BeaDeeBunker 2012-08-27 09:29
"What strikes me is that the branches of major corporations in this area, that need, and are looking for, skilled people, do not step up and offer training or scholarships to young people so they will work for them."

Why should they? Their corporate model states clearly that the bottom line is profit for shareholders, no matter how it is obtained.
If they can't find the skilled workers here, they import them from 'third world' countries and pay them much less. If they can't do that then they close the local plant, and ship all the jobs over to a country that has the skilled workers, again at much less cost; or if they can't find enough skilled workers overseas, they will add insult to injury by requiring the current workers to train their foreign replacements.

Bottom line, there is no incentive to be a responsible, loyal 'American' business, when workers are not respected, and GOP leaders are Hell bent on destroying Unions, starting with Reagan and the air controllers.

As to the sorry state of 'public' education, again the powers that be have abandoned the idea the 'an educated consumer is our best customer' and taken up the idea that 'an uneducated consumer is the easiest to manipulate and control.' They figure that a captive audience ensures a steady income. The idea of the 'company store' is going national and global.

The American experiment is failing. Clean out the test tubes and start over.
 
 
+3 # jwb110 2012-08-27 07:55
We know, we know: It is written that, "The poor will always be with us."

That quote from the Bible is there to offer us an opportunity to behave in a godlike manner and come to the aid of and make possible a better life for the poor. That line in no way means that the poor are merely a part of a landscape to be avoided.
 
 
+1 # John Steinsvold 2012-08-27 19:51
An Alternative to Capitalism (Let's end poverty!)

Several decades ago, Margaret Thatcher claimed: "There is no alternative".
She was referring to capitalism. Today, this negative attitude still persists.

I would like to offer an alternative to capitalism for the American people to consider. Please click on the following link. It will take you to an essay titled: "Home of the Brave?" which was published by the Athenaeum Library of Philosophy:

http://evans-experientialism.freewebspace.com/steinsvold.htm

John Steinsvold

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result."~ Albert Einstein
 
 
+1 # Marvin Mandell 2012-08-27 23:54
Regarding rich people writing about poverty: Michael Harrington's book The Other America, written in the 60s, sparked the War on Poverty. Michael Harrington was not poor.
Betty Reid Mandell
 
 
+1 # sschnapp 2012-08-28 08:33
In response to Barbara Todish and others, in addressing conditions of poverty (and other oppressions), we need to consider theories of social change. There are many things that significantly alter such conditions, e.g., technological and scientific advances (agriculture, animal husbandry, penicillin, the steam engine, computers, etc.). However, to alter the relations of power and privilege that condemn so many to lives of impoverishment, insecurity, and environmental crises, requires a social movement. I believe that we need such a movement to be multi-class, multi-racial, and democratic. Here's a link to an article by George Lakey that includes examples of successful cross-class movements . Lakey also addresses issues of how to deal with class tensions in our organizing.
 
 
0 # barbaratodish 2012-08-28 17:36
Some of us need to be able to show the way and lead us all so we are all able to TRANSCEND IDENTITY instead of SETTLING for IDENTITY as being "ALL THERE IS" in life! Race, gender, ethnicity, religion, class etc, are just constructs, illusions, and if we all saw what EGO and DRAMA and took ego and drama for what it really is namely "as if" LIFE PERFORMANCES, we might then prefer to risk EXPERIENCING life, real life, before it is too late! Why, we might even all become TRANSPARENT VALIDITY instead of DIVIDED by our "colors" and different IDENTITIES!http ://www.youtube. com/watch?v=XUQ 2etn_Vhc&featur e=plcp
 

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