Around the globe there is a feeling that America is the land of unlimited opportunity where anyone can prosper in the richest country in the history of the world. There was never unlimited opportunity in America, but ambition, hard work, and perseverance could earn anyone a good life and a semblance of security in their old age. However, since the 1980s, conservatives have chipped away at the so-called American Dream and slowly transformed America into a land where the wealthy absorbed the nation’s riches at the expense of the rest of the population, and after over 30 years are on pace to achieve their goal of universal poverty in the land of opportunity. The increasing poverty numbers in America seem to be a badge of honor for Republicans whose economic agenda is founded on providing the richest Americans with as much wealth as they can drain from the peasants as a sacrificial offering to earn the favor of the wealthy elite.
In the fall, new census figures for 2011 will tell Americans what many already know; poverty is growing at an alarming rate and there is little hope for any improvement in this Republican economy. In fact, looking back over the past couple of years, it is apparent that the increase in poverty is the result of a concerted effort by Republicans to finish the job they started when Reagan was president. That is another article.
As poverty spreads across the country as a result of underemployment, lower wages, cutbacks in assistance, and outsourcing, economic experts cite specific causes that just so happen to be the heart and soul of the Republican economic agenda proposed by Paul Ryan and Willard Romney and supported by every Republican in Congress. What makes matters worse is that for millions of Americans at or near poverty, the prospect of falling through the cracks and ending up destitute are guaranteed if Republicans slash unemployment benefits, Medicaid, wages, public sector jobs, public assistance, and particularly food stamps. However, diminishing public benefits is not the only culprit and as economist Peter Edelman, director of Georgetown Center on Poverty Inequality and Public Policy noted, outsourcing, automation, and less unionization is pushing most median household incomes lower adding to the number of Americans in poverty. Analysts’ estimates are that at least 47 million Americans lived in poverty last year with the old number of 22% of children living in poverty increasing drastically, and they expect the numbers to rise until at least 2014. If Republicans are successful slashing food stamps, housing and heating assistance, Medicaid, and other public assistance programs, there is little hope that millions more Americans will not live in poverty for the foreseeable future.
The Republican economic agenda of cutting food stamps, wages, Medicare and Medicaid, public sector jobs, and breaking unions is not about reducing the deficit or balancing the budget, it is about funding tax cuts for the wealthy, and if millions more Americans slip into poverty, then as John Boehner says, so be it. It appears Republicans are finally within reach of creating poverty levels reminiscent of the 1960s that prompted then-President Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty that created Medicaid, Medicare, and many other social welfare programs. Those programs are favorite targets of Republicans who are promising to eliminate or drastically reduce if they gain control of Congress and the White House in what they call fiscal responsibility. It’s not news that the Ryan and Romney budgets will blow up the deficit with unrealistic tax cuts for the wealthy, but deficit reduction is an oft-repeated canard for creating more wealth at the top at the expense of 98% of the population.
The American people overwhelmingly oppose cuts to anti-poverty programs, and 79% correctly cite the ever-widening income gap between rich and poor as the cause of growing destitution in the population. In a Public Religion Research Institute survey last November, over 67% oppose cutting federal funding for social programs that help the poor as a means of deficit reduction, and yet the only deficit reduction plans from Republicans are Draconian cuts to food stamps, public assistance programs, Medicare, Social Security, and public sector jobs. For the past three years, Republicans have perpetuated high poverty numbers by refusing to fund infrastructure projects or pass any of the President’s jobs plans because they claim the country is broke, but they have had no problems pushing for more tax cuts for the wealthy or reducing tax rates for corporations that are posting record profits as they outsource jobs, reduce wages, and hide money in offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes.
The GOP caused the economic recession that helped send millions of Americans into poverty, and they are attempting to take the country back to the same situation that nearly crashed the world economy with deregulation, unfunded tax cuts for the rich, and two unfunded wars. Their austerity program for 98% of the nation will send poverty levels skyrocketing and analysts predict that the numbers coming out in September may indicate that child poverty increased to a point that America will finally achieve Republicans’ coveted number one rating for the highest percentage of children living in poverty in the world. At present, America is number two. Willard Romney’s proposed tax plan will eliminate tax credits and food stamps that keep working-poor families from dire poverty, as well as send many middle class families precariously close to poverty level existence. Romney said he doesn’t worry about the very poor and proves it by promising to eliminate social safety nets to make room for tax cuts for the one percent.
The conservative think tank, Heritage Foundation, believes that America’s social safety nets have outlived their usefulness and that it is time to bring them to an end. Robert Rector, a senior research fellow, says he is worried that news of increased poverty will cause advocates for the poor to use rising poverty rates to justify additional spending on the poor that he claims live in houses, drive cars, own microwave ovens, and have a television. The Heritage Foundation authored the Ryan Path to Prosperity budget that if enacted, will guarantee that the poor live on the streets, go hungry, and lose those storied symbols of wealth and prosperity; microwave ovens and televisions. It is a sick, twisted mindset that sees poverty rates rivaling third world countries as proof that social safety nets have worked their magic and need to be eliminated to make room for more tax cuts for the wealthy and their corporations. But that is the conservative mindset that every bit of the wealth in America is rightly owed to the richest 1% and if it means rising poverty, homelessness, child hunger, and a population without healthcare, then so be it.
Republicans have abandoned any precept of caring for the American people who are not the wealthy elite. Their economic malfeasance is solely responsible for the economic stagnation the nation is suffering, and their persistent attempts at cutting social safety nets will ensure that whatever the poverty numbers reveal in September, they will not be high enough to stop the slash and burn economic agenda to provide the rich with what little wealth 98% of the population still holds. There was a time when the American Dream was attainable for every American willing to work hard, follow the rules, and persevere, but the dream vanished when Republicans began their march toward plutocracy that culminated in the Great Recession of 2008-2009. It is difficult to comprehend, but Republicans are deliberately sabotaging any chance of any American ever achieving a decent life and as they cut wages, reduce the public workforce, eliminate social safety nets, and hand the wealthy more tax cuts, it is obvious that they revel in the news that America’s poverty rates are extraordinarily high for the richest country in the world, and if they are successful, America will finally be the nation of peasants they have worked tirelessly to create for over thirty years.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.