Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Watching America devolve

There’s no question that our civil liberties have been eroded over the last six years. That’s a given.

But what I think is killing America more is the ever-widening gap between rich and poor in the country. Every economic study I’ve seen shows undeniably that this has happened. I see evidence all around me in small Illinois towns, jobs gone and people living a hardscrabble existence. Whole families living in motel rooms. Old cars spewing blue smoke from the tailpipes.

To speak out against this social change subjects one to being called a socialist, or even communist, as if somehow you’re automatically against people making a profit and living well. But can any thinking person believe it’s a good thing that since 1979 the income of the top one percent bracket has risen 7 percent, while that of the bottom 20% has fallen by the same amount? Is it good for our country that more people are falling behind?

Look at how crime rates have already soared across the nation. Are images of tent cities on the edges of our suburbs with ill-clothed children warming their hands over fires in rusted oil drums that hard to envison? Our landscape will increasingly look more like that of third world countries.

Beyond the devastation of the poor, what of the impact of the super-rich themselves? Besides the toll their profligate use of airplanes and mega-mansions and Humvees takes on the environment, what does their extravagance teach us about what really matters in life? And how do they drive up the cost of living for the rest of us? Barbara Erenreich has an interesting article in The Nation that offers some insight. I don’t have a lot of hope this can change because I don’t know how the powerless can get the powerful to turn it around. Maybe just by those of us in the middle saying it’s unacceptable to us.



At 12:56 PM, Blogger DetroitGirl said...

New York Times Sunday magazine devoted the whole issue to this subject. I've been having my students read essays about poverty by Robert Reich. Somehow solidarity with the poor is seen as subversive, as you say. Reich asserts that the upper 1/5th of the country is seceding--into private clubs, gated communities, private jets, private schools, and have no connection to or concern about the poor until they have to hire home health care or immigrant apple pickers. How inconvenient! Poverty is destroying what little democracy we have left. Yet, so many of the working class are still convinced that the poor are lazy. How is it that lazy people seem to have so many jobs? Of course, the farther away you can get from poor people, the less compassion you have to have, right?


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