Fifty million Americans live in poverty, as do a quarter of this nation’s children. The new poor are the former middle class. Despite reams of indicting evidence, the media arm of the 1% attempts to spin statistics in a way that diverts responsibility from Wall Street elites and onto the negative habits of poor people.
After the recession hit in late 2007, the number of people living in poverty climbed to 46 million, up from 37 million in 2006. The sharp rise in poverty had nothing to do with drug and alcohol use among people in need; it was a result of unchecked and unregulated greed.
Former labor secretary Robert Reich succinctly explained this blame-the-poor rationale: lower-income people, he said, are regarded as “somehow different, either because they’re assumed to be Latin Americans or African Americans, or they are just assumed to be somewhat different.” But Reich also noted that no one in this economy is invincible.
“If you are just a typical American, your chance of falling into poverty sometime during your 30 or 40 years of working life is almost one in three, and the poverty rate keeps on going up,” he explained.
In their defense of the 1%, critics have maligned the Wall Street occupiers as promoting a “socialist” agenda, suggesting that they want government to seize the assets of the rich and distribute them among the poor. Not so, for me. I have nothing against the rich; I just hate unfairness. Besides, wasn’t it socialism when we bailed out the banks? The financially insecure are not “mobs,” nor are they calling for special entitlements for the poor. As William Stack, one of the occupiers, recently explained:
“It is not a crime to demand that our money be spent on meeting people’s needs, not for massive corporate bailouts. The real criminals are in the boardrooms and executive offices on Wall Street, not the people marching for jobs, health care and a moratorium on foreclosures.”
Hundreds of Wall Street occupiers have been arrested for protesting, but not one banker has been sent to jail for their crimes.
Money may determine who has the power, but not the truth. The truth is on the side of the occupiers. My grandmother, Big Mama, always used to remind me that the truth does not move. And neither should the occupiers.
This article was published in our fifth print issue on November 18, 2011.
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