New Orleans I swear there’s a shift suddenly in the recognition that poverty is a big freaking problem. Everywhere I turn in recent days commentators, columnists and reporters feel obligated to at least mention poverty and the poor either directly or euphemistically. In a cultural shift from recent decades, folks feel they should at least pretend to be grossed out by ostentatious and disgusting displays of wealth and inequity. Although there is no indication that this will do one scintilla of good for lower income families or citizen wealth in the short term, it speaks to at least a heartbeat of hope for the future perhaps.
The evidence is everywhere:
- A Times tech columnist writing about how grand it is to live and work in California’s Silicon Valley starts out by detailing the intense economic pressure of living there and details the million dollar parties, fake snow drifts, and other excesses of wealth abounding in the area.
- Another Times columnist, Gina Bellafante, in her “Big City” report the day before starts out her story on low wage workers who can’t make it in New York City’s economy by pointing out the paradoxes of rich kids of the 1% and their gold tinted bubbles.
- The AP garnered headlines with a tragic story that poverty will hit levels we have not seen since the 1960’s, more than 50 years ago before the Great Society and the War on Poverty because of the Great Recession. Furthermore, all indications are that this level of poverty will be pronounced and enduring as low wage jobs proliferate, unions have become sclerotic, toothless, and ineffective, and corporations ascendant with the social safety net in tatters and any hope of mending it lost in the ideological polarization of politics.
- Increasing realizations that the devastation of the economy is such that single-parent families have created a new dimension of the class divide essentially because you just can’t make it any more with only one income.
- Stories proliferate on the enduring consequences of a “lost” generation between 18-35 in this economy that parallels the impacts and lasting effect of the Great Depression. You don’t easily get over long term unemployment. Similar stories are now abounding about the death sentences of older workers past 50 who can never dream of recovery, even if they were to win the lottery of fate and be able to find a job, any kind of job.
I could go on and on and on….
Don’t get me wrong. The gilded grossness of Wall Street and Silicon Valley should go underground. Recognizing and naming the persistence impact of low wages and the life sentences of the service economy is vitally important.
Unfortunately this ray of hope is far from a plan, and though we start by naming the evils of the economy and the victim filled crimes around us, there still seems to be no one talking about the ways and means of solving any of this or a real program that might gain traction to relieve the pain and once again build citizen wealth.