Income Inequality & The New Poor: Who Speaks For Them?

In the daily spin cycle of political madness, it is rare to hear the GOP nominees talk about their plan for improving life for average Americans. Instead, what you hear is vitriolic attacks against their contenders, talk of trips to the moon, tax plan proposals that are proven to benefit the 1%, war, more war, ways to secure the border against the massive waves of immigrants stealing American jobs (not patriotic outsourcing corporations), and an ongoing barrage of negativity aimed at President Obama.

Strip away the rhetoric and one can only surmise that they are not in touch with the average American whom they so desperately wish to represent. This is underscored by small things like the fact that Romney, the lead contender for the GOP nomination, receives the most votes from those making over $200,000.

If they had a clue, they could speak more persuasively and authentically about issues which matter to a larger section of the country, not just the moneyed elite, the bigots, the Tea Party and the like. You know, like President Barack Obama did so beautifully in his State Of The Union address. So, beautifully that 91% of those surveyed, regardless of party affiliation, agreed with the direction and umm progressive plan that he proposed.

Just for your edification, the middle class is loosely defined as:

  • Individuals whose role in society is “conceptualizing, creating or consulting”
  • College educated
  • Salary ranging from $25,000 upwards to $100,000

For a fuller definition, see Wikipedia source here

Stories of The New Poor

They are doing their best to talk around the realities that many of us are facing and so I thought it would be germane to share some real stories of what the middle class, better defined as the New Poor, are going through.

1. A friend of mine, who is a single mother and has an MBA in Business, was gainfully employed until 2009.  In her early 40’s she finally attained her piece of the American dream which allowed her to buy her own home, provide an excellent education for her daughter and have a modest savings.

She was out of work for one year and in that time, ran through her savings and 401K. Unemployment not being sufficient, she began living off her credit and was dogged by the prospect of losing her new home. Tenaciously, she treated her job search like a job, spending three hours a day working her contacts, calling and submitting resumes and spending one day a week at the library.

Going on interviews was an exercise in terror,  as she ran headfirst into the stereotype most educated Black people endure all their lives. Interviewers love you in print, love your articulation and intelligence via the phone but once they meet you the story changes. First to be fired, last to be rehired in a bad economy. Lest we forget, that the African American employment rate is double that of Caucasians historically.

Finally, she found a job through a temp agency, which required that she take a 1/3rd pay cut with no health benefits. Her blood pressure medication costs her a whopping $150 a month and of course, with the stress of her finances, she’s had intermittent health problems ever since her layoff. Yet, despite her qualifications, three years later, she can’t find a job in her former salary range and now only makes enough money to pay her basic bills. She’s thankful that her sister lives with her to share the load and lives in fear of an emergency that she will not have the funds to deal with.

Her daughter, now in public school, straight A and brilliant, is now one year away from college and she’s been told that the cost of her education will now be solely on her. These are the hard choices we make in spite of years of planning and preparation.

2. Another friend of mine, in her 50’s, bought a co-op during the good old days in 2007. She had lived in her one bedroom apt. for 20 years when she sold it at a considerable profit to buy a really nice 1 bedroom condo in NY. Since 2008 she has changed jobs three times. She’s a nice Jewish girl but the reality is that salaries have declined and when companies discover they can do more with less, the people get shafted.

During her bouts of unemployment, her parents helped her because her available income and 30 years of savings quickly evaporated. Her current job doesn’t cover the cost of her basic living expenses anymore so she lives off a combination of credit and her home equity line of credit.

3. My boss retired in early 2008 at 62. He had already lost 50% of his savings when the stock market began it’s course correction in 2007. Thankfully, his home is paid off and in great shape but he too has no discretionary equity to work with so any emergency or extra expense is covered by his home equity which is now $5,000.

He and his wife pay approx. $1,200 a month in health care coverage which eats up a huge chunk of his savings. I won’t tell you about the co-pay because you might get ill. So much for your golden years.

4. And then there is me. You can read my story here.

This is the reality for those who have not been foreclosed on, who are not “welfare queens”, and for those who have been educated to compete and contribute in a free-market society. How much personal meaning does that have these days?

In many cases, this the reality of working people who had already managed to elevate themselves from blue collar working class backgrounds, regardless of race. They are struggling and suffering, mostly in silence.

This contrasted against the greediest amongst our society whom continue to flourish and fight against paying higher taxes as generational poverty becomes a stark and frightening reality. If this trend continues what will it mean to the future of our country? Or, doesn’t that matter?

Who speaks for them? I will give you a hint, the name does not include the letters GOP. Amongst many other frightening realities, it is the spectre of reactionary and regressive policies that do not benefit the masses, or reflect 21st century progressive values, homelessness, lack of medical coverage, hunger and poverty which make this a critical election year.

24 thoughts on “Income Inequality & The New Poor: Who Speaks For Them?”

  1. Great post, Coco! I’m all too aware of The New Poor. I live in what most outsiders consider an “affluent” suburb outside of Chicago, but fact is, folks are grinding and/or very aware of the state of affairs, and the possibility of their being upended or overhauled altogether. Most of us are aware that all it takes really is one diagnosis, or change in circumstance to experience an entirely different reality. The prognosis is grim, to say the least.

    Without disclosing too much (not purposely taking part in the silence, but this is bigger than me), I know folks working out of town just to keep a job and feed the family. The chances of them finding jobs closer to home are slim to none because corporations no longer want to pay them what they’re worth. Instead, they’re being offered relocation packages that put them further under water and exposed in an abysmal housing market.

    It’s all too scary. This is all the more reason we have to stay on top of the issues because clearly there is a whole contingent hell-bent on perpetuating false truths (they’ve been lying so much, that some folks think they’re telling the truth).

    You already know how I feel about Tavis!

    1. Gurl, preach!

      “It’s all too scary. This is all the more reason we have to stay on top of the issues because clearly there is a whole contingent hell-bent on perpetuating false truths (they’ve been lying so much, that some folks think they’re telling the truth).”

      That’s my feeling exactly! 🙂

  2. Coco, you are such a serious young woman and I seriously have to put on my thinking cap when I come over here. Off the topic, I’m wondering what genre of writing you do personally. What I’m seeing is something along the lines of Cornell West. You have a resounding voice for political commentary. But back to the blog topic at hand…

    I don’t think the GOP will address anything you or I need. Their agenda is self-serving and if either of them wins the presidential seat, which I don’t see happening, we can pack our duds and kiss whatever recovery we have obtained, good-bye.

    1. Twin…..please do not compare anyone I admire like Coco, to that house nigger Cornell West. YES, i said the word house nigger…which explains West & Smiley. Sorry….my blood pressure raises when I hear either of those two names.

      1. I’m sorry. I was thinking of the Pre-Obama years Cornell West. In the future, I’ll be careful with that. (Now rubbing my hands from getting smacked) 🙂

      2. No babygirl…I’d never smack your hands, I just had to stop myself from grabbing my nine and going to find Cornell. I forgot he was at the barber shop getting his “do” done up. He and Smiley are busy with their next bus tour…trying to go across America to see how many folks don’t turn out for their bull shit.

      3. Jueseppi,

        You are a livewire lol! Thank you as well for the wonderful compliment. Please don’t cut Brother West, I have admiration for the man and am hoping he’s misguided. I loathe Smiley and conveniently, or am perhaps in complete denial, blame him. So, you can cut Smiley if you like lol.

        I confess that I have watched with shock and horror as the two of them have maligned the President. West seems liks such a logical man that I can’t understand why WHY he is being so irrational and unfair. It confuses me as I thought better of his acumen and spirit…. Sigh.

      4. What I was told by a well placed “source” is that West got his ego/feelings crushed when he requested extra tickets for the inauguration ball. When he was refused by the POTUS social secretary…he went off the deep end with his house nigger agenda. The scoop on Smiley is he sent POTUS Obama an invitation to a function, The President could not attend because of previous commitments and sent his wife, FLOTUS Michelle…but she was not good enough, so that sent Smiley off the deep end. The two oreo’s got together and formed the Uncle Tom Bus Tour.

      5. OMG! I agree with Coco. You are a livewire! “The Uncle Tom Bus Tour?!”
        I’m not only going to split my sides, I’m gonna pee on myself!!
        And Coco, you see how he broke it down and arrived at his conclusion.
        Oh me, oh my, I better get to the bathroom!

    2. LMAO. Y’all kill me. I’m looking at the comments below and I just about died laughing.

      Totsymae – Thank you so much for that wonderful compliment. Jueseppi might kill us both but I still admire Brother West although his stance on Obama saddens me. But his brain is laudable although I’ve been given occasion to wonder about his motivation. He needs to stay away from Smiley.

      The truth is I was not always this serious but my serious side is certainly more on display these days because shit is getting so hectic. The largest body of my work has been in Erotica and Poetry. Then along comes last year and the post which became a speech that Congressman Waters used lines from and I realized a shift was occurring. While Erotica remains close to my heart, it has now taken second place to politics, race relations and activism.

      I’m honestly trying to figure out what to do with that, so far it has taken root here and blossomed. I am mulling over how to get the blog more exposure and trying to decide which to pursue first
      1. An Erotica Book
      2. Professional Blogging
      3. Both lol.

      I need to increase my income stream simultaneously. Thanks so much for the support and encouragement, it means a lot.

      1. Think Amiri Baraka and Sonia Sonchez. They did/do heavy political stuff with their poetry. IPaula Giddings is a safe comparison. I don’t know if it’s safe to compare you to Angela Davis. I’m not up on her status or why she’s been so quiet. It’s almost like she no longer exists. Maybe silenced and still being stalked by the “folks”? What’s the word, Brother J? 🙂

    1. Jueseppi,

      Sometimes violence is the only option and a much needed wake up call. I will turn my face lol. The shame is that they refuse to listen to the voices of many prominent folks who have told them the poverty tour is BS. Listening is a critical skill. I am forced to say that on a daily basis….

  3. Coco. . . I feel the need to say something, but nothing is really coming to me. Saying “I’m sorry for all that you and your friends have gone through” seems so inadequate.

    So, I’ll just say, “we need to get people elected who will help to change the system!”

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