I am currently reading When Work Disappears, The World of the New Urban Poor by William Julius Wilson about the poor on Chicago’s South and West sides. I was struck by how hard it is for those who want to work, who want to get off welfare to do so. The laws we impose on the poor and the lack of infrastructure geared to assist them makes life much harder than it should be. I think that critics of the poor should be encouraged to live as they must for a week or two to experience first hand the circumstances of the daily lives of the poor. I think that then we, the more fortunate, would have a better understanding of what it is like to be poor in America, and perhaps be more willing to help our less fortunate brothers and sisters.
Racial discrimination in the US is a chicken and egg situation; which came first, the chicken or the egg. Some of the majority believe that the poor/minorities do not deserve our help because the poor/minorities do not live up the ideals of American society. Some of the poor/minorities are lazy (unemployed) and others are criminals (drug dealers and/or gang members). What some of the majority are forgetting or do not understand is that jobs have disappeared from the inner-city ghettos where the poor/minorities are forced to live because they cannot afford anything better. Jobs have migrated to the suburbs and public transit is often inadequate to connect the inner-city job seeker to suburban job opportunities. The job seeker may need private transportation (a car) to gain a job, but he/she needs the job first to afford a car. A catch-22 situation.
Looking at the situation from the viewpoint of the poor/minorities, American society has let them down by providing fewer and fewer services due to policies begun in the 1980s. Education is poor and public transit for job holders and job seekers is inadequate. Without education and good paying jobs, what do we expect the poor/minorities to do? Life must go on. Unemployment/welfare benefits and crime may be the only sources of income for a growing number of Americans.
This is not a policing problem, where putting more of the poor/minorities in prison is the answer. As prisons are privatized, there is a profit motive to incarcerate more and more people. We should be spending our tax dollars on better schools, not more prisons. I believe that the answer to the problem of increasing poverty and crime is better education so that our poor/minorities can become productive members of society. And some portion of the better education must go to educate those of the majority who believe that the poor/minorities are solely or largely responsible for their own situations.
For additional information, I recommend When Work Disappears, The World of the New Urban Poor by William Julius Wilson. I know that the situation of the poor/minorities in the US is a complicated subject with many factors affecting the outcome. Looking at it as a chicken and egg matter is a vast simplification, but I think that it does provide a valid insight that may be helpful in understanding the problem(s).