Gerald Staack | Poverty: Nemesis of American Dream

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor
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“Lack of power is a universal and basic characteristic of poverty. Poverty is not solely a lack of income but rather a vicious cycle of powerlessness, stigmatization, discrimination, exclusion and material development which all mutually reinforce each other.”  — Wesley James Wiles

If you are a working class Republican and you are frustrated about paying into services to help others in poverty when you can barely help yourself, I get that. I really do.

What I don’t get is why you blame the needy instead of the richest for placing the entire burden on you.

If you’ve worked hard all your life and were successful enough to achieve a relatively comfortable lifestyle in a safe environment for yourself and loved ones, you may want others to have worked just as hard without government support. I understand your ire if you’ve heard that those “others” are just “on the dole,” and “just too lazy to work hard” and you think of them as loners who probably ruined their lives with drugs, alcohol or criminal activity. But being successful is not based on hard work alone.

According to a recent TED Talk, it was LUCK if you were born into a family that had no strikes against it. Imagine for a moment you are in a marathon race, and instead of being in the starting front line of runners you are unfortunately lumped with others to start 50 yards behind the starting line. Everyone’s ready to win, but your unequal starting position places you at a considerable disadvantage as you start the course.

So it can be with life. If you were born into a racial minority family, say black or Latino, you most likely already have a strike against you trying to climb the social ladder to success; discrimination, still dominant, is still a major hurdle in achieving the American Dream. If you are a woman you’ll have the double unfair disadvantage of fighting misogynous men who disrespect you (and feel you should be in the kitchen); you’ll fight inequality in pay and advancement. Being a single mother with a child to nourish, if you become sick, growth to success stops. Then there are the under-employed, the old, the unemployable, and the mentally challenged; with street people littering the streets you see a society sliding into impoverishment in need of help from those more fortunate.

But poverty in America won’t improve. Not with President Trump preaching to make his rich (aristocratic) base richer again. The innocent poor swallowed his bait, thinking the message was meant for them. Now they’ll find only austerity in their future. Cuts to social programs are on board that allow Trump’s rich base to reduce their tax, which forces society to cope with the burden. 

But there is hope. There really are countries in the world that find it morally wrong to suppress and burden those who are less fortunate. The Nordic countries are  good examples. They all have a lower gross domestic product than the U.S. yet are able to afford their citizens a stable, happy and safe society.

Norway, in particular, being the second happiest society in the world, enacts more social-friendly laws without deterring corporate aristocracy profits. Its tax rate is only around 1 percent higher than the U.S. rate, yet its citizens are afforded free health care, free higher education, and financial security for seniors; people get eight weeks’ paid vacations and have a higher life expectancy.

It’s ironic that Americans, having the richest aristocracy in the world, cannot muster a stable, happy, poverty-free safe society.  It should be demanded. Joe the plumber may think of our country as being the greatest, but he simply hasn’t traveled anywhere else.

Gerald Staack

Santa Clarita

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