Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Voters Have Spoken-- The Nightmare Continues for America’s Poor
Dr Mark Naison
Fordham University

The results of the election are in, and they offer nothing but bad news for America’s poor. Even before this election, the United States was the most unequal nation in the advanced world, with the highest percentage of income going to the top one percent of its population, and the largest percentage of its population living in poverty; but the results November 2 assure that this will continue for many years to come
The Republicans who swept into power in State governorships and the House of Representatives are determined to resist all tax policies which redistribute income; cut subsidies to beleaguered state governments, and reduce outlays for programs – from food stamps to housing to health care- which provide a safety net to poor workers and families. While they will not achieve all they set out to do in cutting federal entitlements, they have the power to prevent any moves toward progressive taxation by the federal government and to institute austerity plans at the state level which lead to layoffs of state workers and cuts in vital services that working class and poor people depend on
Since there is no chance that the private sector will generate enough jobs to funnel income into poor neighborhoods any time soon, much less compensate for the services about to be lost, we can expect to see an increase in the Recession generated misery that is already wreaking havoc with poor workers and families
As someone who works closely with schools and community organizations in the Bronx and spends a good deal of time driving through and walking through Bronx neighborhoods, I have already been receiving alarming reports about the fraying of the social fabric and growing desperation among the people
Here are some of the things I have been hearing , none of which give me cause for optimism about where we are heading
More and more people being forced into homelessness by foreclosures on apartment buildings and homes and by rising rents and declining services in public housing.
Rising levels of violence in families and neighborhoods, resulting in a sharp increase in the murder rate and the return of “mugging” as a form of income acquisition for desperate young men and women, making everyone less safe on streets and subways.
More fights and violent incidents in schools, and more abusive behavior toward teachers, as young people feel stress of the economic crisis on their families and caretakers
Young mothers turning to prostitution to help them and their children stay in apartments whose rents they can barely afford.
More vicious attacks on vulnerable groups- particularly gays and recent immigrants- by groups of young men and women.
The average middle class or wealthy New Yorker, who lives in neighborhoods segregated by income if not race, doesn’t see these signs of a frayed social fabric, unless they work or do business in a poor neighborhood, but it is only a matter of time before the violence and desperation being spawned will spill over into the entire city.
Humanitarian considerations, and a sense of justice, dictate that we try to do something about rising levels of desperation among poor New Yorkers, and poor Americans generally, but we will find out soon enough that if we continue to beat our poorer citizens down, it will lead to patterns of behavior that will not be o easily contained, and will undermine our own sense of security, and our safety in public places
We are all about to reap what we have sown.

Mark Naison
November 3, 2010