Current Affairs, the Other America
There is a very great consensus in the "more fortunate" America, that Welfare recipients are the representation of poverty. Hogwash. People on Welfare programs get cash subsidy, food stamps, and some of the best health care available. Just because they may not have a car... does not make them the "Poor"! In most areas they also get bus passes. They qualify for subsidized housing because they have a reliable payday with a consistent amount, every month, and... they wear out a lot of TV's!
As of late, there has been some exposure, still not enough though, of the fact that there is an America, a very, very large America, that is Generationally locked in an income bracket that is too high for money from government assistance programs, but not enough to have what people at that Network, employed by Government agencies, and in that News Agency take for granted everyday. The parents and children in these families don't go to the Dentist... they eat handfuls of Aspirin and swipe a tube of Ora-Gel from the drug store. In a dire situation, they go to the hospital emergency and wait for 4... 6... 8... 20 hours, using the ER as their "clinic" to get their temperature taken and a prescription for an anti-biotic. They don't actually get the anti-biotic, though. They go home and have to make an appointment at the qualification program for being determined to be medically indigent. That appointment is usually 3 to 14 days away. By the time they could get this done, they feel well enough to forego the sitting and waiting at yet one more place. Or... they're now so sick that they have to return to the ER and now they are triaged and the ER administers the medicine that they needed 2 or 3 weeks ago. Sometimes... they just die! No medicine wasted, huh? This class works... puts in a week that should support them, but doesn't. They are not going to the Food Bank, no way are they going to take handouts. So... they eat a diet really full of beans, potatoes, eggs and bread products. But they don't have to ask for a handout. Why should they, most of them have a job? As life progresses they become overweight, often developing hypertension and diabetes, and never knowing that, that is why they feel crummy so often. For most of them recreation involves beer. Watching sports on TV and going to the park don't have admission fees. In the summer, if they are lucky enough for there to still be no fees charged, they go to the river or lake for "cool" recreation. If they live in a city, they usually just have a back yard BBQ and a wading pool, a slip-n-slide, or a water hose and sprinkler. What's "air conditioning"? Can't afford to pay the power company even if they have it... a fan keeps them from being overcome by heat prostration, sometimes. They're used to this stuff, though. They may wish it were different, but have to learn not to live above their means. They have a pretty decent used car, but don't drive it any more than necessary because they can't afford to pay for insurance, and if they get pulled over, most places these days, their car will get impounded or confiscated. There's not much time for helping the kids with homework, so they don't do especially well in school, and end up working somewhere similar to where mom and dad work. Their children are going to do the same thing, too. Unless...
"Man, if I could sell that "Crank" and not use it, I could bust out of this place." We know that seldom works!
"Heh, those "Arian Boys" that hang out down at the old plant take care of each other. They got some things ‘goin' on', and always have money. They hardly ever do any of that race stuff everybody says they do." Oh... Yeah... they do; just not in the daylight!
"I took a hit off of a joint for the first time the other day" the 12-year-old says. "... and it made me laugh and forget about dad hittin' mom in the face." Twelve is the average age kids first use Marijuana now. Crank is just over the horizon!
"Heh Joe, I know that Pot isn't going to get me hooked. I've been smokin' it since I was twelve" the 14-year-old says. "Why don't ya let me have a taste of your Heroin? Just once won't hurt anything, I'm sure." The average user who likes the "down" from Heroin can get psychologically hooked in two or three weeks, using 3 to 5 times a week. I've seen people try Meth and start using every day... starting with the 1st trial run!
Three 15-year-olds that have been hanging out together since 3rd Grade are sitting on the block wall in front of the Clinic on a warm summer evening, wishing they had the money to go see a movie, or get Arnie to buy them some beer. Bill says, "See that hall, right behind us, in the Clinic?" Tasha and Geraldo reply, "Yeah!" "Well," Bill says, "there's a window that is always open, and the supply room is on the other side of it! You know what's in there, huh?" Oh yeah, they simultaneously reply. Bill says, "I've walked up there and pushed on it and no alarm went off. I don't think there's one on it, and I could fit through there, easy!" Geraldo asks, "You think we could get some money for something in there, easy?" Tasha says, "No problem! My brother knows some dudes who'll buy almost anything, and sell it for some profit. That's what they do!" There's an alarm. It's a sensor on the windowsill, not the window. If they were to get away with it, it would just make the next time easier to move on. If not, as young as they are, first offenses usually don't cost much. But, either way, there's a good chance that this kind of thinking is the beginning of an anti-social lifestyle, because of their environment and financial status. Anyway, it's probably just the beginning of thinking that results from desperation and predictably low expectations. Even if they don't turn toward crime as a future, but are dissuaded by consequences, a low paying job is often their future, as was the fate of their primary role models. If they do become Addicts and go to Prison behind a felony conviction, one new door will open... Drug Treatment. Sad but true, in most States that is the only access to funded treatment, that is far to expensive for most Addicts or their families. Bush's vouchers are a joke, intended to subsidize "Faith based programs". Separation of Church and State? No, and few Addicts are able to adjust to them as a 24-hour-a-day way of life. The streets don't inspire much faith in anything!
These American that are America, feel fortunate to move from an $8/hr job into one that will eventually peak at $15/hr with no benefits. For these really common, everyday Americans Social Security is the light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel. There isn't going to be a 401K, stocks or bonds. ... just Social Security, and finally health care will be in their reach, too. This is not "the Other America". It is America. Notice that no one mentioned here owns a home? The death of the American Dream is not a recent phenomenon.
Children of these families are many of those fighting Bush's War. It's a shot at getting out! We all know by looking at the VA hospitals that, that's no done deal! Find out how many Senators or Congressmen have children fighting the War in Iraq. Find out how many had children fighting in Vietnam. See how many families with two College educated parents, or even one, have children in Iraq. See how many UAW members, Electricians, College Professors, Doctors or Lawyers are Veterans.
These are the people who have nothing to really hold on to if Social Security is not stabilized and kept out of the privatization mode. These are the people whose faith in America could be reborn if they just found they could go to the doctor when they get sick. We know that there are about 40,000,000 of them if that News agency is accurate in their reporting. That's no sure deal either, though, is it?
If we are not at an epic moment where the myth of the Free Market economic stabilization (trickle-down economics - Neo-Conservative philosophy) concept is finally realized to be at an end, and socialization of basic necessities for daily living is not implemented as a result... we may be at the end of a dream set forth in 1776. Capitalistic Democracy just may not work as a permanent philosophy for an entire culture. The American Dream may die because Capitalist greed will have alienated its workforce. As it is, the average working person has become the modern version of the Plantation Owner's Slave. The lending agencies have replaced "the Company Store"! We're kept just healthy enough to assure that the corporation's product continues, but no longer well enough to be the best producers in the world. Quality was the backbone of American production, and the Unions kept up wages and helped workers realize the American Dream, as a result. Well may very well pertain to psychological fitness even more than physical fitness. Right now the problem is that the "Company Store" got so greedy that they loaned past the point where the "Slaves" could ever repay their debts. The debts are closing the Company Stores. The workers losing their jobs, no longer can even attempt to pay their irresolvable debt. The economy is stuck because greed has produced a broken link in the chain and it can't hold up the system. No workers work, no product is produced, so there is no need for the company. So, after enough companies fade away an entire industry fades with them. America is in trouble and it's big. As much as our leaders talk about mainstream America, they still don't get it. Almost anything that is strong is strong because it has a strong Foundation. The Banks are not the foundation of America. The Insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies are not it. The foundation is at the bottom of anything and everything. The lowest paid worker is the bottom. They are the foundation of the United States. The Unions, at one time grew to protect almost all workers in every capacity, and this country thrived like it never had. But when Ronald Reagan broke the Air Traffic Controllers Union strike, big business began a campaign to break them all and maximize their profits and their shareholders dividends by gradually lowering wage, not providing the Health-care covered by the Unions, and doing away with Retirement Benefits by introducing the, eventually (NOW) to become an absolute failure, 401K, placing the future of all workers in the Stock Market. This move favoring the "Corporations" resulted in such outrageous profit that the CEO came to make 7 to 10 figure salaries and other executives secured commensurate salaries. This kind of wealth bread a class of power that produced Criminal business practices rooted in pure greed. These were companies like Enron and people like Dick Cheney. Though Enron more or less got exposed, what was not seen was how widespread and well hidden these practices were in the major corporations of America. Well, we can see them now. The sad thing is, that the average American worker whose future is very questionable, is paying for all of it. That problem grows unbelievably as our bankrupt Government slips ever farther into debt to the rest of the World. They're now spending our Grandchildren's taxes. Still, in the long term, all of the Capitalist greed has to be paid for by the workers not their bosses.
Start at the bottom, the foundation. Raise the minimum wage. Raise it a lot. Make sure that full-time employment is always "gainful" employment. Legally protect the Unionization of workers with regulation. Socialize Health-care and get the workers healthy. If the Unions are strong they'll then contribute to the Health-care socialization program. Fund Drug Rehabilitation and get those people out of Prison and back into the taxpaying public. Fix Social Security so that benefits increase and the age of retirement does not go up. If people are working and making reasonable pay, the Social Security tax could go up without affecting the overall income of its contributors, and they won't mind because their Golden Years will be funded. Give the people the ability to "spend" money. If we do that, everything else will follow. Yeah, the Stock Market will have to become realistic, and shareholders will only get reasonable dividends. Executives will still be rich but they don't need the income of an entire small community or some small countries, to live above the rest of us. They can keep their "Power-trip"! Throw out all the "pork barrel" shit and invest taxpayer money on three things that all charge the economy. First is infrastructure 101. Get our bridges and highways up out of the rubble and safe again. Second is powering our country. Wind and Solar generation need to be taken to the maximum conceivable state. They are inexhaustible. Also, there is no "clean" coal technology, abandon it. The automobile needs to become clean technology and that means fossil fuel is out of the picture. In all reality we should be able to produce electric vehicles that inevitably cost less than current internal combustion powered vehicles. We should already have a battery that meets the needs of the average American's transportation demands, but we don't. Why? Expand rail service nationwide and locally, with existing models as guides, including High Speed. In cities elevated and subways can be retrofitted in. Clean buses should run 24/7. Make solar power a building code inclusion for construction of new structures including private, business and public. Third and finally, we should build our foreign policy around peaceful coexistence, eliminating hunger and disease in third world countries, and including them in the world of technology with all counties included in all aspects of improving quality of life on the planet, with all things, always considering ecology and the future of the Planet. You see Mr. Television Network, Doctors, Lawyers and Chief Executive, and you safe and secure Government Employees... YOU are not only the "other America", you are the other "World"! Most of the people on this Planet do not know what it is like to be in the upper 25%, whether American, British, Japanese, Indian, Iraqi, Israelite, or French and Spanish.
Do you realize that most American teenagers can no longer afford to go to a concert to see their favorite musicians or other performers? Tickets that cost $60 to $250 dollars are a monthly payment on a decent used car, for really a lot of people. What percentage of the people do you think ever see a play, Broadway level, or a Ballet, or a Symphony Orchestra? The American Dream has been fading for some time now. For the true majority of us buying a home as a primary financial goal has been replaced with buying a New Car, and that's fading fast. These are the facts that brought the Stock Market into "realistic" phase. All the BS facts used for speculation have been forced to more or less call in the debts and see what's really left given true values. 50 to 100 million people is a big number, but it's actually not a big percentage of the population if you're making realistic evaluation of the quality of life in our country. Even if you look at the incomes of the top 250 million citizens, it leaves a lot of people to consider. I'll bet that 25% of the people in almost every town in the U.S. can't afford anything that costs an extra $50 per month added to their budget!
The job situation in this country is an ominous problem for the future of our economy, and it's beginning to look as though it is not readily solvable. Companies are down-sizing and folding, period. In folding, the jobs they provided no longer exist. They're not coming back is what that means. My God, just exactly how many jobs have been lost and companies folded during the Bush Presidency. I think we're talking about a historical unseen event in modern history. Neo Conservatives with their de-regulation and trickle-down economics may already have destroyed the United States, as we have known it during my lifetime. And if they have, it is in truth, a direct result of greed and selfishness at a National level. We have two choices, right now, as I see it. We can move toward socialization of essentials (spread the wealth), or... we can do as Third World countries do, and just let a lot of people starve to death and die from curable disease! I think that would actually make us a 3rd World Country, huh? "the Other America", hah... it would be hilarious if it weren't so frightening to hear the Majority of Americans being referred to as "the Other America"!
Related Tags: news, economy, main street
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