The popular movements in the 1960’s, women’s reproductive rights, civil rights, sexual rights and so forth left us unprepared for the slowdown in growth and the rise in inequality in the current decade. Today, with union membership reduced to 7% of the private sector most working people have no organized voice at all. Meanwhile, the power of wealth has been fully unleashed by the Supreme Court. The rich protect their freedom with wealth and the people protect theirs with laws. Among most minority groups support for the Democratic candidate is the norm. Whites are the most reliable Republicans democratically in the country.
We have two basic poverty problems in the United States. One is the prevalence of low wage work. The other concerns those who have almost no work. The two overlap, with 103 million people who will go into and out of poverty. 20.5 million is the number of Americans with an income less than half the poverty line, a big hole in our safety net.
So many desperate people lug their lives and possessions around the streets as virtual outlaws. It is so difficult to upgrade skills and opportunity that fully half the jobs in the United States pay the worker less than $33,000 per year. When nearly everyone in the country is poor, the distinction between have and have not becomes meaningless. Some families become masters at rotating their bill payments. Some estimate 69.1 million as the number of poor Americans at the official poverty line. In too many areas, work disappears and dreams die. It is going to take new solutions motivated by a common wit and universal sympathy.