Monday, April 23, 2012

Discussion On Poor Aims to Put Poverty in Spotlight This Election Year

Found an interesting discussion on poverty this week on NPR. The main guests were Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West. Don't kill the messengers. While the messengers are not the greatest (I sometimes wonder if either of these guys has ever really struggled), I think the topic deserves much more attention. This is especially the case in a Country where the working poor have become virtually invisible and where we have a major Presidential candidate who openly and proudly proclaims that he's not concerned with an entire segment of the population - 1 in 3 Americans - who he wants to represent as POTUS (a President should be concerned with every part of the citizenry...with every person in his/her Country. What is amazing is... Republicans can't even seem to grasp that concept at all). Why is this such a touchy issue for politicians? I'll just come out and say it... the terms "poor" and "poverty" have become buzz words associated with minorities, being black specifically, and with single motherhood. But primarily, it's about race. Classic case of word association. These are portions of the American population that Republicans have developed disdain for...and that the Democrats feel that they cannot afford to mention for fear of getting a "socialism" label and losing support from Independents.

The plight of the working poor and near poor...and those who have fallen out of the middle class, has been completely taken out of the debate... just as it was in 2008, 2004, and 2000. President Johnson mentioned poverty openly way back in the 1960's. It's true that he was being pressured by MLK and others pushing for economic justice. The vision of Bayard Rustin and A. Philip Randolph was to make the March on Washington just as much about economic justice as it was about civil rights- a point usually missed, intentionally or otherwise, by historical revisionists. The point is... at least Johnson wasn't afraid to make poverty an issue of national significance. Fifty years later, Presidents and politicians from either Party are afraid to even mention the word 'poverty' in public. So in terms of the level of debate and the prospect of any real policy solutions on the issue of poverty...the U.S. has regressed.

This is all happening at a time when more and more college students are finding themselves drowning in student loan debt... while attempting to chase the American Fairy Tale, when it has become extremely difficult for those in the working class to enter the middle class...and when so many in the middle class are becoming the new working poor. Listen here.


Anonymous said...

Tavis Smiley grew up in a trailor, one of ten children... thirteen in a trailor, yes he knows struggle.

Brian E. said...

That is correct @Anon. I have been following Tavis for over a decade and somehow forgot that fact. Thank you for mentioning that.