Perhaps it’s because of my professional work, but the latest report that poverty is on the rise in the US doesn’t surprise me at all. One in seven Americans are below the poverty level, for many reading that figure was a surprise. Why? I suspect that for most of us clinging to the illusion that there is still a middle class in this country and living in spaces with people who still plop down $4 for a Pumpkin Spiced Latte from the local coffee emporium and are seen carrying the latest piece of iGadgetry it may be hard to fathom. Yet as someone whose work puts them down in the trenches, I see folks daily struggling to meet ends meet. I see members of the formerly middle class asking for help with their kid’s school supplies, asking for help for food and the list goes on. It’s not just in Maine either, the shelter where I served as a program director back in Chicago now has a waiting list. A waiting list for a homeless shelter! Where does a homeless person go once they lose their housing and the shelter has a waiting list? Food for thought.
The truth in my opinion is that America is literally in the midst of a shift, the gap between the have rocks and the have no rocks is not a gulf but a fucking ocean. Shit, it might even be two oceans. As a provider of social services, I am inundated daily with people who have needs that the current social service net does not begin to address. Even small non profit faith based agencies such as the one I head are simply being overwhelmed with needs we cannot meet. I chuckle when I think of this because conservatives often say agencies such as mine should be the ones to help those in need yet we are woefully underfunded. Perhaps they think the angels and fairies are the ones that replenish our coffers. Interesting tidbit from 15 years in this sector, but at many of the small agencies that I have worked at both in Maine and back in Chicago the staff salaries weren’t much above poverty themselves. I used to have a coworker back in Chicago who often ate at the shelter we worked at because he often ran short of food. Yet people like him are never counted in these poverty rates.
Today’s post really has no point, but between the report that poverty is on the rise and interviewing folks for an opening at my center where multiple applicants told me they were nervous about taking the position should it be offered because it might impact their unemployment compensation benefits. I really have been wondering what the hell is happening to this country? So many of us are just struggling to survive and racked with fear that one wrong move might turn us into the real poor. For many if we at least have a roof over our heads, food on the table and the occasional want we like to believe that we have access to the American dream yet a nation where there is 1 job for every 5 applicants does not sound like a dream but more like a nightmare.
At the end of the day while the talking heads want to put the blame on certain political parties truth is in some ways we have all contributed to this new America. An America where we value low cost and quantity over making sure our neighbors are taken care of. I am not that old, yet I remember a time when a hard working person didn’t need a college degree to make a living wage. I remember the days of my grandparents who worked in plants that paid true living wages and benefits, I am also old enough to remember when we allowed the powers to be to take those jobs and send them elsewhere. So is it really a surprise that now the poor get poorer and the middle class get poor too? Only folks truly doing well are the few who hold the bulk of the wealth in this country.