Spread of Poverty a Central Source of Conflict
The riots in Missouri after police officers fatally shot an unarmed black teenager engender the deep-seated fear and racism experienced daily by minorities in the U.S., particularly in the South.
For all our talk of progress, this situation shows we have much farther to go. If we truly want to see progress, our Miami consumer rights lawyers believe we shouldn’t stop at the improvement of race relations. The truth of the matter is, in modern-day America, one of the greatest sources of discrimination is not based on the color of one’s skin, but rather on the size of one’s bank account.
We are the wealthiest nation in the world, and yet, poverty persists like a plague, continuing its spread. Through aggressive policies advanced by big business interests, the “middle class” is rapidly shrinking, and the divide between the rich and poor continues to expand.
This idea was recently touched on in an article published in TIME Magazine, and written by former basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabaar. He suggested police overreactions are rooted less on the basis of skin color, and more on the perception of poverty. Of course, in many places in the U.S., being a person of color is practically synonymous with being poor, which is synonymous with being criminal. He said this erroneous perception persists even among those who are poor.
According to the U.S. Census, some 50 million Americans live near or beneath the poverty line. Abdul-Jabaar suggested if these individuals ever sought to organize, they would be a powerful force, particularly as a voting block. However, the wealthiest 1 percent have successfully divided this block with distractions on wedge issues, such as abortion, immigration and gun control. People become so impassioned on these points, they fail to ponder their own situation.
It also helps their cause when between 46 percent to 60 percent of what is reported on major news networks is false. That’s according to a PunditFact’s recent scorecard of Fox, Fox NewsChannel, NBC and MSNBC. Abdul-Jabaar aptly notes that it’s nearly impossible for people to make informed choices when their sources of information are so inherently corrupted.
Recently, comedic news host John Oliver aired a segment on the payday loan industry, which exploits the desperation of the poor. This is a business model that extorts 1,900 percent interest from its customers. Poor customers. And gets away with it. Is rewarded for it. Oliver noted there was a regulatory bill on the industry introduced in Texas recently. However, the measure was blocked by State Rep. Gary Elkins, who just happens to own a chain of payday storefronts. These business models lure poor workers into getting a loan, and when they are unable to pay it back, they have to secure yet another and another. It becomes a vicious cycle from which it is extremely difficult to escape.
Meanwhile, a 2012 Pew Research Center report indicated about half of U.S. households are middle class. That may not sound horrible, but it’s an 11 percent drop since 1970. The median income for middle-class workers has fallen by 5 percent in the last decade, and the total wealth is down by nearly a third. Less than a quarter of people believe they are going to have enough money to retire. Perhaps the worst indicator is that very few Americans today believe in the so-called “American Dream.” They have waning hope that if they work hard, they can accomplish anything.
While there are certainly those among the wealthy who support their communities and give back, the reality is most millionaires and billionaires are lobbying to slash food stamps, withhold relief from student loan debt and reduce unemployment benefit extensions.
Peaceable protests in Ferguson and elsewhere are justified. But as Abdul-Jabaar suggests, we need more of them, and with a broader focus. We need marches to unseat corrupt politicians, businesses that seek only to exploit, Wall Street wolves who gamble away our financial future and legislators who fail to enact policies that promote economic equality. Then, and only then, might we see some real change.
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