No Road Back
By David Glenn Cox
It is really not so hard to be poor, the inability to purchase things or accumulate things is a relatively an easy adjustment. It is also an easy matter to adapt from a personal vehicle to public transport. The primary difference is without any income you really don’t have anyplace to go. You must marshal your resources for those things which are truly necessary. Where for instance would it be more important to visit than say to purchase tooth paste?
Life becomes a matter of rather simple choices, when this poverty first fell upon me, I was in shock. Me? This can’t happen to me, I’ve always been able to find work. I’ve always been that good employee. I’ve danced the Capitalist tune and said nothing as my benefits were cut. But hey, it all going to be alright isn’t it?
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross describes to us the five stages of grief, a hypothesis explaining how the human mind deals with catastrophic loss. So of course, my own shock and disorientation was quite predictable and to be expected. This is the first stage, Denial.
Anger is the second step in the process, and perhaps, the most difficult to explain. If I were suffering from terminal cancer, I could be as angry as I liked but with poverty, ah, that is very different. You better not be angry, no sir, you must smile and say yes, all is wonderful. You mustn’t upset the children or the spouse or potential employers or the police. Your rage at being publicly pillaged must be suppressed because as far as society is concerned, it isn’t happening.
Ten million home foreclosures which really didn’t happen either, twenty million permanently unemployed and under employed who really don’t exist. I have crossed this country in a bizarre odyssey and everywhere I go I see the homeless, the struggling and the unemployed. I see nerves on edge and minds ragged from long nights of distress. Mother’s trying to feed children and mothers put out of their homes because they earned too much for food stamps and not enough for mortgage assistance.
Citizen soldiers stripped of their civilian identities, men living under bridges and men who live nowhere at all. Mother’s explaining why there will be no seconds or Christmas. Politicians who speak of economic recovery as a foregone conclusion as they claim for a third year that the housing market has finally bottomed out, Yet they speak of us the American people, as no more than ghosts, as faceless numbers, as arbitrary statistics. I have met these numbers, these men, women and children; I have felt their pain and heard their tears. The innocents debased and ignored, young people trying to make it in a fixed crap game. Children told to study to get ahead when there are no jobs and will be no jobs.
A minimum of forty million Americans pushed from their homes plus those evicted from rental homes and apartments and this invisible army grows exponentially.
Civilian Labor Force; May 2011, 153,700,000
Civilian Labor Force; May 2012, 155,007,000
Employed; May 2011, 139,808,000
Employed; May, 2012 142,287,000
Not in Labor Force; May 2011, 85,613,000
Not in Labor Force; May 2012, 87,958,000
Persons who currently want a job; May 2011, 6,216,000
Persons who currently want a job; May 2012, 6,291,000
Could only find part-time work; May 2011, 2,475,000
Could only find part-time work; May 2012, 2,649,000
The next step is bargaining; when you begin to bargain you no longer think of yourself as what you once were, you now think expediently. What I can do today to earn a buck, you no longer think of yourself as a manger, salesmen or biological engineer. You’re no longer a grant writer helping underprivileged children, you’re a maid cleaning someone's house for cash to put gas in your car or you’re shoveling dirt or rocks or building fences or lumping trucks to buy a pair of shoes, anything for a buck and for the most part, you’re working for the same people who claim you don’t exist in the first place.
Government workers; May 2011, 20,348,000
Government workers; May 2012, 20,059,000
You bargain for your wages and now, in a new twist many of the Craigslist ads want you to bid on the job in a race to the bottom.
Marginally attached to the work force; May 2011, 2,206,000
Marginally attached to the work force; May 2012, 2,423,000
Discouraged workers; May 2011, 822,000
Discouraged workers; May 2012, 830,000
After the bargaining stage comes depression, which is an easy step with no need to deviate too far or too fast to begin to understand the simple and obvious fact. Not one single occupation listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics website shows any wage growth above the rate of inflation.
Not a single political party offers any plans or prescriptions, let alone respite or shelter from the storm. So we move along to acceptance, now acceptance is a little tougher to swallow because it sticks like a bone in your throat. You’re asked to accept that you will never have anything ever again. You will never control your own destiny but instead just drift along on the winds of discontent and the storms of misfortune.
“Remember, remember always that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt
There is a shattering reality which comes with acceptance that this prolonged poverty daily saps your soul and your strength, it robs you of who you really are. You have become something different from who you once were, you begin to lose your identity and become a cold empty shell unsure of how to act anymore.
“Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made. - Franklin Delano Roosevelt
I am no longer a free; I am no longer either a Democrat or a Republican. I spit upon the foolish political side show of corporate fascism designed to convince the rubes in the hustings that they are somehow free when they are nothing of a sort. I am a revolutionist now with utter contempt for my government, I am oppressed and impoverished by its neo-liberal policies and my only salute this Fourth of July for the government of the United States consists of only one finger.
From the CIA World Fact Book:
“In this market-oriented economy, private individuals and business firms make most of the decisions, and the federal and state governments buy needed goods and services predominantly in the private marketplace. US business firms enjoy greater flexibility than their counterparts in Western Europe and Japan in decisions to expand capital plant, to lay off surplus workers, and to develop new products. At the same time, they face higher barriers to enter their rivals' home markets than foreign firms face entering US markets.”
“The onrush of technology largely explains the gradual development of a "two-tier labor market" in which those at the bottom lack the education and the professional/technical skills of those at the top and, more and more, fail to get comparable pay raises, health insurance coverage, and other benefits. Since 1975, practically all the gains in household income have gone to the top 20% of households. Since 1996, dividends and capital gains have grown faster than wages or any other category of after-tax income.”
“In 2008, soaring oil prices threatened inflation and caused a deterioration in the US merchandise trade deficit, which peaked at $840 billion. In 2009, with the global recession deepening, oil prices dropped 40% and the US trade deficit shrank, as US domestic demand declined, but in 2011 the trade deficit ramped back up to $803 billion, as oil prices climbed once more. The global economic downturn, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, investment bank failures, falling home prices, and tight credit pushed the United States into a recession by mid-2008. GDP contracted until the third quarter of 2009, making this the deepest and longest downturn since the Great Depression.”
If this is the longest downturn since the Great Depression why is it called a recession? It is a rhetorical question of course, as Newsweek magazine promotes a cover story on Annie Leibovitz on its domestic cover and “Losing Afghanistan” as the headline on its international version. No different than any other corporate state sponsored propaganda.
“Of course, Socialism is violently denounced by the capitalist press and by all the brood of subsidized contributors to magazine literature, but this only confirms the view that the advance of Socialism is very properly recognized by the capitalist class as the one cloud upon the horizon which portends an end to the system in which they have waxed fat, insolent and despotic through the exploitation of their countless wage-working slaves.” – Eugene Victor Debs
The modern proletarian class doesn't carry out its struggle according to a plan set out in some book or theory; the modern workers' struggle is a part of history, a part of social progress, and in the middle of history, in the middle of progress, in the middle of the fight, we learn how we must fight... That's exactly what is laudable about it, that's exactly why this colossal piece of culture, within the modern workers' movement, is epoch-defining: that the great masses of the working people first forge from their own consciousness, from their own belief, and even from their own understanding the weapons of their own liberation. – Rosa Luxemburg
So there is one last step in the chain reaction, one more phase of acceptance, it is understanding. The understanding that you did not choose this path for yourself, it was chosen for you by your enemies. An identity created in the crucible of understanding which explains to you, you’ve nothing left and there’s no road back