Poverty, John Edwards, and the American Dream

  • Posted on August 5, 2014 at 3:15 pm

In the beginning of this video from John Oliver he talks about income inequality, you know whether you get your HBO legally or illegally.  I had to laugh from the get go as I have to go to watch John from YouTube because I don’t have HBO.   John has such a way of getting to the heart of things and explaining how we are too stupid for our own good.  It was even funny when he said we have to have some Brit telling us what we probably should already know, and wouldn’t you know it he is a Brit as well.

It isn’t easy for politicians to push in this area because corporations and the wealthy are really driving the political agenda.  The last politician that really talked about poverty and inequality was John Edwards.  His own personal issues took him down, you know having an affair on his cancer stricken wife, and this essentially put a damper on the issues he was talking about, poverty and inequality.  He was going to be the voice for the voiceless.  John’s agenda was the driving force of the 2008 election.  He took Senator Bobby Kennedy’s 1968 trip through Middle America to put a spotlight on the issues of the poor and disenfranchised.  It wasn’t Hillary or Barak that were driving the discussion.  John was the one hitting on Hillary and trying to get Barak to chime in during debates.  John was the one that talked about fair wages and single payer.  John may have been an imperfect messenger but killing the messenger seems to have killed the message.  It really makes me wonder why other politicians can do what John did and survive politically.  Could it be the message that was really the target?

Are politicians today so corrupt and tied to their corporate masters that they cannot see what it is doing to our country?Perhaps they just don’t care?  When I was young, I had politicians that I looked up to, respected, and even idealized.  Bobby Kennedy was one of them.  These are his words, “It is a revolutionary world we live in. Governments repress their people; and millions are trapped in poverty while the nation grows rich; and wealth is lavished on armaments.”

These timely words could have been spoken today.  Our country is far more concerned about the military machine than the plight of the poor and middle class.  The ideals of my youth have grown to skepticism in my maturing age.  The people that seem to make the most sense about political matters are entertainers like Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and John Oliver.  With the exceptions of Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, I cannot name politicians that make me feel that sense of respect and admiration for standing up for what is right and just.  There is a gap in our country between the rich and the poor, the powerbrokers and the bottom feeders that just try to be that crab in the basket that wants so badly to reach the top.  Someone at the bottom keeps tugging him down and someone at the top puts a lid on the pot.  In the end, he is cooked into a system that has no freedom because he is stuck to a class system that only recognizes the rich and the connected.  If you have connections, you are going places.  If you are poor, you are probably stuck in a system that is working to keep you down and under control.  I always find it interesting that your credit report can be tied to so many things that help or hurt you.  If you have good credit, you get lower insurance, lower interest on loans, and more respect.  If you are poor and you have a tough time paying your bills, you can now expect even more problems because your credit is going to tie you to a life of debt.  They say we don’t have a debtor’s prison any more but that really is not true.  Students getting out of college soon discover they have a world of hurt when they start trying to pay back their student loans.  Those loans can follow them for their entire life if they are stuck in some low wage job with no chance of real promotion.

I know I tend to rant about certain things but I am an observer in a system that I see is stacked for certain people.  It doesn’t matter where you live today, there seems to be two different worlds:  The world for the rich and connected and the one for everyone else.  If you or your family is “someone” in your community, then you will have a better chance at those connections, even if you aren’t wealthy.  They can lead to jobs, scholarships, and ultimately success.  If you are poor with few or no connections, you are like the crab in the pot.  You have to work extra hard to climb to the top.  Some at the bottom will be pulling you down and sometimes it is through their own lack of understanding the system.  It always amazes me when the poor vote for people backed by the right wing establishment.  These people are controlled through religion and do-goodery.  Yeah, I made that word up, so deal with it.  They are so busy trying to be on the right side of the “Kingdom of God” that they forget about the here and now.  They believe that old Biblical saying about the rich and the camel through the eye of a needle when it comes to heaven.  They are kept stupid by a system that wants to maintain the status quo.  They sacrifice their kids for war because they are inclined to believe that wars really matter.  They don’t believe in global warming because they have been told that these things are cyclical.  They are waiting for the rapture and worried about public schools putting some harebrained idea in their kids’ heads.  Then there are the other poor:  The ones that are so down on their economic luck that they have lost all hope.  They don’t see how they can change anything.  They may not be into religion and surely don’t bother to vote because they don’t have the time to worry about such matters.  They are too tired trying to keep food on the table and their bills paid.  Life for them is just a continuous sucking machine of bad luck and meager existence.

From my perspective, as a nation we seem to be more concerned with the poor in other countries than in our own.  I used to feel that sense of pride in my country and what “we” stood for in the world.  Today I have many mixed feelings.  Maybe I have become immune to the propaganda.  It is hard when I watch protesters screaming at kids on the border.  That behavior is in direct contrast to what I thought we were as a nation.  It is hard when I can remember being a student at Michigan State University back in the seventies and I was full of idealism.  Reality is so much more complicated than that young idealism that I held in my youth.  I worry about the young students I teach today.  What kind of world we are leaving them?  If they are poor and not connected what do they have to look forward to, a world of debt and stress?  People used to be able to live a good life by working for GM on the line.  Today, that just isn’t possible.  Most families need two incomes and if you are poor, you are probably going to need some kind of assistance to have a decent life.  I do not have all the answers I just know that the politicians today disappoint me with their constant representation of their corporate donors and not the poor and the voiceless.

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