I’ve been looking long and hard, trying to find something, just one thing, to say positive about the crooks on Wall Street and in the banking industry. Maybe it’s the Summer Solstice–but, eureka! Those guys have helped moved the poverty conversation in the right direction.
Here’s a new poll (Wall Street Journal paywall):
Americans’ attitudes toward poverty have shifted dramatically over the last two decades.In 1995, Americans were twice as likely to believe poverty resulted from people not doing enough to help themselves out than to attribute it to external forces, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll conducted in April that year. That helps explain why the then-new Republican majority in the House made welfare reform a top priority.
Fast forward 19 years, and those views have undergone a significant transformation. The latest Journal poll of 1,000 adults, conducted June 11-15, found Americans are now as likely to blame poverty on circumstances beyond people’s control than they are to believe the poor aren’t doing enough to dig themselves out of it, 46% to 44%.[emphasis added]
With a big huge caveat that this is one poll and, god knows, polls shift back and forth depending on what the rhetoric is (for example, if there was all of a sudden a president who went soft on bankers and fundraised from Wall Street…), I think this is likely–possibly–a direct consequence of the financial crisis and the growing divide between rich and poor.
While the richest Americans have generally recouped their losses from the recession and gained considerable new wealth during the recovery, the situation is bleaker for the poor and for low-wage workers than it was in 2007.As work dried up and wages stagnated, tens of millions of Americans took jobs with lower pay and fewer hours, many of them turning to the federal government for additional support to help make ends meet.
The number of people receiving food stamps under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program soared to 47.6 million in 2013 from 26.3 million in 2007. Incomes for the typical middle-income family have slipped, and the nation’s poverty rate remains above its prerecession level.[emphasis added]
All of a sudden a lot of people realized, well, hell, it is the damn corrupt system, the so-called “free market”, that robs people and drives them into poverty, not because people don’t want to work or earn a decent living. Clearly, this is a culmination of a trend that has taken place over 2-3 decades (longer…), robbing people of fair wage increases and giving the country the highest poverty rate–46.2 million people in 2012–since that data began to be collected.Something to ponder.
So, thank you, Goldman Sachs, Citibank (especially, Bill Clinton’s best bud, Robert Rubin) and the rest of you guys: you may, through your greed and avarice, given a solid footing on which to cement a better broad understanding of poverty.