A Permanent Underclass

Thanks to a recent article in The Atlantic, we are reminded of the New Deal, and what it tried to accomplish.  The New Deal did help the country out of the Great Depression, but now, in spite of all our previous efforts, we find ourselves in a similar situation. There is gross economic inequity, and many have not found employment again since the depression of ’09.  Our country is deeply divided and distracted, and cannot attend to the welfare of its own people.  This contributes greatly to our current social and political woes, but too few can see this, and fewer still point it out.  I’m glad Mr. MacGillis at The Atlantic did.


A case can be made that the time has arrived for a major undertaking in, say, the devastated coal country of central Appalachia. How much to invest in struggling regions themselves, as opposed to making it easier for those who live in them to seek a livelihood elsewhere, is a debate that needs to happen. But the obligation is there, as it was 80 years ago.


What happens to people when daily they must face decrepit surroundings and the hopelessness of poverty?  When a person does something long enough, she comes to believe it, and most people in such circumstances have come to believe in their poverty and hopelessness.  With our society arranged the way it is, it is nearly impossible for a person to climb out of poverty in their own lifetime.  Usually, it takes about three generations to move away from poverty, and that is with concerted effort by all three generations.  Many have lost the ability to make that effort, and these are the ones who need our help.


The demoralizing effect of decay enveloping the place you live cannot be underestimated.


This country was able, during the New Deal, to find the compassion and the wisdom to make some effort on behalf of those who were in need, and boldly did what they could to break the cycle of poverty, at least for some.  Would it not be wonderful to undertake something similar today?  Everyone would benefit from such a program, because the suffering of one is shared by all, and their suffering redounds to our shame.  What is required is leadership, someone to step in and offer real opportunity, as was done by the WPA, for example.  Handouts such as welfare are simply insufficient.  We need to change our attitudes and values, and make real change in our society, so we have, instead of a permanent underclass, permanent prosperity.



Copyright © 2016 Teresa Chupp.  All rights reserved.


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