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Poverty: America's Hidden Shame

By Joseph J. Adamson  Posted by (about the submitter)       (Page 1 of 6 pages)   4 comments

The rich get richer while the poor get poorer. That phrase has been said so many times it has become a worn-out cliche. Practically no one talks about it any more, and most people just think nothing can be done about it. So it has just gotten worse and worse during the last 27 years, especially in America.

Even worse, when a good, conscientious, influential person does bring the subject up as a political issue, rich right-wing conservatives immediately accuse the good person of "trying to start class warfare." They claim that the American political-economic system is fair. They claim that the rest of us do not get poorer because the richest few get even richer. Some of them even claim that their wealth is a "reward from God." And they claim that all wealthy people deserve what they have, that the poor simply deserve their lot, and that poverty is an inevitable, natural condition created by the poor themselves.

Almost none of that is true, and it's time to acknowledge that the huge and increasing income gap and income disparity is simply not fair, nor is it "natural." And the inequitable distribution of wealth is absolutely not fair or natural, despite what those who profit from it claim.

For example, it absolutely not fair or natural that 90 percent of the total wealth of the nation is pilfered, hoarded and controlled by the wealthiest one percent of the population.

It is not fair or natural that in recent years the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of large American corporations raked in at least 500 times more income than average workers, and at least 1,000 times more than their lowest paid employees.

It is not fair or natural that the wealthiest few live so very luxuriously and even palatially, while the working poor who work full time and sometimes have to take two jobs to try to support their families, cannot afford some of the most basic necessities of life, like sufficient food, housing, medicine, utilities, transportation, etc.

It is not fair or natural that the disabled and elderly have to live on such meager fixed incomes that they are even less able to afford the most basic necessities of life.

It is not fair or natural that even according to the obsolete and far too low "official" government poverty standard, more than 14 million American children live in poverty. It is not fair that even according to the inaccurate and underestimated government poverty reports, 74 percent of those 14 million poor children live in families with at least one parent working full time! And it is especially not fair that the actual numbers are far higher than that.

It is not fair or natural that about 20 percent of the population live below the poverty line, which has pretty much been true even since the early 1960s, when that fact was first pointed out in Michael Harrington’s book, The Other America. That 20 percent figure has remained incredibly steady ever since, even though it has fluctuated somewhat, but it got even worse since the so-called "Welfare Reform" established by the Republicans in 1996 (even though the "official" government statistics now don’t reflect how bad it actually is). That legislation not only made things worse, it has prevented us from being able to accurately know how bad the situation is. (But, actually, we can have a very good idea of how bad it is, simply by knowing how badly needed all the homeless shelters, food banks, soup lines, and toy drives are. If we know about and consider all that, we really do know how bad it actually is.)

It is also not fair or natural that credit card companies can charge hidden fees and raise interest rates, virtually robbing people. It is not fair or natural that predatory lending companies can get away with "payday loans" that charge interest rates that are so unfairly high they used to only be charged by criminal "loan sharks." And it is not fair or natural that bigger predatory lending companies and banks can get away with charging "variable interest rates" that they can raise so high that is has caused many families to have their homes taken away from them in foreclosures.

None of that is fair or natural, and there are many other things going on that are just as unfair. And there is just no way that anyone can honestly and truthfully claim otherwise.

I tell you truly, the problem is systemic. It is the result of deliberate, legislated, legalized inequity and injustice. It is cold-heartedly planned and calculated, and corrupt legislators have enabled corrupt business and corporate executives who have bribed the corrupt legislators. And it is high time we deal with it, and fix it.

Don't get me wrong, though. I am not saying that the people responsible for the unfairness and inequity are "evil" people. Not necessarily. I believe that in most cases they may actually believe they are doing the right thing for the country. They may actually believe that if the rich get richer it will benefit everyone. But they are simply wrong about that, and they believe in a right-wing partisan political ideology that was originated to serve the interests of the wealthy few, and over time it has been carefully crafted to appear as if it's the "right" way for patriotic, religious Americans to conduct their political and private business affairs.

Furthermore, I am not saying there's anything wrong with being wealthy if you deserve it. There are some people who very much deserve to be reasonably wealthy, and there is nothing wrong with that. Those who are hard working deserve to be amply rewarded for their hard work, and those who are hard working and highly talented and skilled deserve to be richly rewarded.

However, many of the wealthiest few are really not deserving of the immense wealth they've managed to amass, and no one deserves to be as absurdly and excessively wealthy as some of the wealthiest few are now. The fact is that they have benefitted from and taken advantage of a very unfair, inequitable political-economic system that serves and caters to the wealthy few, at the expense of the majority, the environment, the infrastructure, and everything else.

The trouble is, right-wing conservative Republican politicians have persistently and dishonestly claimed otherwise. Even worse, hypocritical right-wing conservatives who claim and pretend to be "Christian" leaders have persistently colluded with them, and pushed and sold the absurd idea that great wealth is a reward from God, and that the poor deserve their lot because they don't work hard enough and don’t have true faith in God.

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