"An erosion of standards of living for an enormous portion of the population"

Bob Herbert hits another one outta the park:
I keep hearing from the data zealots that holiday sales were impressive and the outlook for the economy in 2011 is not bad.

Maybe they've stumbled onto something in their windowless rooms. Maybe the economy really is gathering steam. But in the rough and tumble of the real world, where families have to feed themselves and pay their bills, there are an awful lot of Americans being left behind.

...There is a fundamental disconnect between economic indicators pointing in a positive direction and the experience of millions of American families fighting desperately to fend off destitution.
Read the whole thing here.

Herbert gets to a fundamental truth of the divide to which John Edwards referred as the Two Americas: It's not just that the Haves and the Have-Nots have different standards of living and qualities of life; it's that the difference is so vast it's like living in separate countries, complete with separate economies and separate cultural attitudes about the US' ability to provide sufficient opportunities to its people.

This chasm, of course, has always existed. There has always been an underclass of endemically impoverished people—blacks and ethnic/immigrant whites in urban areas, Latin@ migrant communities, many Native American reservations/pueblos, rural communities of whites and/or people of color across the country, etc. Young single mothers are more likely to live in poverty. People with disabilities are more likely to live in poverty. People who are trans are more likely to live in poverty. This is not a comprehensive list.

The middle class provided a buffer so that privileged people didn't have to think about the US' permanent underclass, and breathed life into the fantasy that all it takes is bootstaps to succeed in this nation. Now that it's eroding, that story's getting harder to tell with conviction.

And, the reality is, the middle class did provide a path out of poverty for marginalized people who had the right combination of opportunity, luck, talent, and the personal ability to exploit all of the above.

But there's increasingly no more Third America anymore. No safety net for people falling down; no higher rungs for people climbing up. It's just the Haves and the Have-Nots, and a bunch of people who are tourists in the middle, awaiting their fates in one destination or the other.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus