In France in 1787 and in Russia in 1917, the poor were very, very poor; the rich were very, very rich. The response to these examples of gross inequality was aptly described by Jean-Jacques Rousseau:
When the people shall have nothing more to eat, they will eat the rich.
Which, metaphorically, is what The People did. Over sixty years ago, an American President who was an avid student of history encapsulated the lessons of the French and Russian Revolutions into a warning for America:
A free society that does not help the many who are poor, cannot save the few who are rich.
In America today, the poor are very, very poor, and the rich are very, very rich. Senator Sanders’ claim that “The three wealthiest people” (Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett) own “more wealth than the bottom half of the American people” has been deemed “true” by Politifact. These two articles accessed by the links provided offer info that supports the reality of income inequality: The .1 percent are the true villains and Forget the 1% ,
The above graph from The Economist article shows that approaching 2014, the wealth of the top 0.1% was on track to exceed that of the bottom 90%. It can be acknowledged that the referenced article in Salon as well as a subsequent report in Business Insider indicates that the two lines have not yet crossed, but it seems that eventuality may have been ordained by the massive reallocation of wealth from households of the middle class to the wealthiest Americans as a result of the 2018 individual and corporate tax reforms signed by President Trump, as well as by the economic crisis created by Covid 19.
And while the concerns about income inequality exist across America, one of the most egregious examples of it lies right in front of our noses. An article in the Philadelphia Inquirer (New Federal Report Surprises: Philadelphia Poverty Down, Income Up; updated: 9/26/2019) has an upbeat headline, but it reports Philadelphia’s 2019…
… childhood poverty rate was 34.6%, compared with around 20% nationwide. And while its deep poverty rate — a measure of people living at 50% of the poverty line or below — dipped somewhat in 2018, it came in at 11.1% the highest among cities with a population of one million or more. The poverty line for a family of three in 2018 was $20,780.”
It should be noted that the deep poverty line for a family of three was half that of the actual poverty line. Despite the Inquirer’s identification of a drop in the number of impoverished residents, Philadelphia still had the highest poverty rate of the largest U.S. cities: 24.5% or ~388,000 souls of whom ~175,800 were living in deep poverty.
While I have a citizen’s concern about the inevitability of the poor taking to the streets in America’s poorest urban neighborhoods in places like Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware, with devastating results, a major focus of my blog has been American Education. Just as a canary’s death from the accumulation of deadly carbon monoxide once warned coal miners of impending doom, dying urban-American public school systems serve the same function of alerting us to the impending doom awaiting schools that are dying from the deadly vapors of economic inequality.
The only proven way out of poverty in this country—taken advantage of by millions of impoverished immigrants and other poor during the last century—has been American Public Education, against which war has been waged by advantaged conservatives, the soldiers of the Army of Liberty. These politicians rarely call for Public Education’s demise publicly, in order to avoid confronting media revelations of their treachery, but in private, I am aware that some declare they do not want “their” tax dollars going to support “failing schools.”
In trying to understand conservative politicians’ strategies, it is imperative to ignore what they say and instead observe what they do. A good example would be a conservative candidate repeatedly stating, “Everybody is getting a tax cut, especially the middle class,” and then acting to create a tax reform program that most economists agree will permanently transfer massive amounts of wealth to the wealthiest Americans with only transitory cuts for the middle class, while all the while the now elected candidate repeats his campaign claim that has been proven erroneous.
In the same ambiguous vein, conservative politicians declare that a principal reason for supporting school choice and vouchers is that these policies will provide opportunities—finally!—for poor students to access quality education, when the actions of these same politicians reveal their intent is actually to provide tax breaks or vouchers for those Americans currently wealthy enough to send their kids (and many do) to private school without any assistance from the state, and these recipients of government largess are the very same Americans who are the most likely to chastise the notion of a welfare state.
(Continued in Equality, Freedom, Education: (4) Public Education and Eating the Rich–Part 2)
This is the third of several posts that I will be updating and reposting in an attempt to refine and arrange all of my education-related posts in a logical, conceptual order. As always, your comments will be much appreciated.
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