As the handful of multi-millionaires running for president threaten to pretend to make “economic disparity” a campaign meme, and then forget they ever heard of it once in power, four out of five adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives. Here’s the new American dream — a nightmare of economic insecurity.
Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to a widening gap between rich and poor, and the loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.
The survey defines “economic insecurity” as a year or more of periodic joblessness, reliance on government aid such as food stamps, or income below 150 percent of the poverty line. Measured across all races, the risk of economic insecurity rises to 79 percent.
The findings come even as Obama is claiming in recent speeches his highest priority (it has only been seven years plus so no hurry) is to “rebuild ladders of opportunity” and reverse income inequality.
No Longer a Race Thing
Poverty is often defined — by many whites — as a minority problem.
While minorities are still more likely to live in poverty, income disparities by race have narrowed substantially since the 1970s. Economic insecurity among whites also is more pervasive than is shown in the government’s poverty data, engulfing more than 76 percent of white adults by the time they turn 60, according to a new economic gauge being published next year by the Oxford University Press. Pessimism among whites about their families’ economic futures has climbed to the highest point since at least 1987.
More than 19 million whites now fall below the poverty line of $23,021 for a family of four, accounting for more than 41 percent of the nation’s destitute, nearly double the number (if not the percentage) of poor blacks.
Sometimes termed “the invisible poor,” lower-income whites generally are dispersed in suburbs and small rural towns, instead of being concentrated in urban areas more common to people of color. As an example, Buchanan County, in southwest Virginia, is among the nation’s most destitute based on median income, with poverty at 24 percent. The county is 99 percent white.
America is indeed becoming a more equal place, but through a gross process of leveling down, not growing up.
The issue of denial is the key to a tiny one percent of Americans getting away with this in what, overall, is still a very wealthy society.
People think because they and their neighbors have a TV, they are fine. Or they are divided into antagonistic groups by race, with one believing the other has all the money and power, while the other sees their urban neighbors as lazy welfare cheats. It does work well to keep people divided, fighting with one another, and thus ignoring that narrow band of upper, upper class folks who really do hold all the cards.
Inside that 80 percent of America slipping into poverty, people pay little attention to the quality of the food they can afford, the (lack of) healthcare, their poor schools and potted roads, the lack of forward opportunities for them and their kids and so forth. Short-sighted viewpoints, coupled with clever politicians who make each election about guns, gays and abortion, mask the obvious, even from the people boiling like frogs.
Peter Van Buren is a former State Department Officer who has an impish sense of humor. He used that to devastating effect in his book, We Meant Well, on our misbegotten venture in Iraq. For telling the unvarnished truth about his service in Iraq, Van Buren was persecuted, then forced into retirement, by the State Department after more than two decades of service.