The Fear of Poverty: Moral panic and other psychological mind games in latent capitalism
By Nancy Hanks
Some years ago, I asked my dad (who was born in 1929, at the beginning of the Great Depression and grew up marginally poor in Arkansas) for some money to see me through a particularly rough patch of joblessness when my unemployment benefits ran out. The infusion helped but didn’t outlast the “bad economy” of the moment. At the time, I was getting older and less desirable and productive in the labor market, and went back to him to ask, apologetically, for another sum to see me through another few months while I continued to look for work.
He obliged and sent the check with a note that read “Nancy, if you can’t take care of yourself now, what are you going to do when you get older?”
“I’m going to be poor like everybody else,” I said – silently.
I’m not afraid of poverty.
America is afraid of the poor, not of poverty. America is afraid of race-mixing. America is repelled by the poor, especially poor people “of color”. America’s failing institutions exist and continue to survive and rule through fear – institutions that depend on the denigration, de-humanization, and finally the elimination of poor people, not the elimination of poverty.
I’m not afraid of America.
I welcome this America and the decisions we are making and will have to make in the coming years and decades. I embrace the possibilities that come with the creative struggle by ordinary people to have and live decent lives that give the world so much beauty and compassion. The issue, in my humble opinion, is not so much the elimination of poverty as it is the creation of new forms of life, the active creation of new cultures, new songs, new visions, new ways of speaking with each other, new ways of being together.
Nancy Hanks is a life-long grassroots independent political activist currently living in Philadelphia PA. She works closely with Independent Pennsylvanians and is the Interim Philadelphia County Chair for the Forward Party PA.
Sadie Stewart on POVERTY, BY AMERICA
While I appreciated all this book, I found it profoundly interesting that the assumptions about the economic impact the extended government aid to the poor would have on local economies, were not supported by the data.
Also, I was glad to have had the opportunity to read some of the other’s comments before making my own. And here is why.
I had initially felt that the book pointed out how integrated we are in the creation and sustaining of poverty. And that it was too complicated to be unraveled, but then I read one reader’s response to this very thoroughly researched and digestible book, and I was amazed: instead of her feeling pessimistic about our plight, she was moved to act, and disinvest in the maintenance of Poverty.
This is certainly inspiring that some will be compelled to action, However, I fear the majority will do as I did and see any opposition to this evil system as futile. And to an extent it is.
If society finds merit in Capitalism as a viable economic system: trying to tweak it into some kind of acceptable economic form (via unions, labor laws, Social Security Benefits etc.) is impossible, as we are essentially trying to fix an inherently evil system dependent for the most part on poverty.
Any system that produces millions of dollars annually for some, off the backs of those least compensated for actual labor, does not represent just income disparities, it is probably equivalent to slave owners’ wages. The cost of shelter food in the 1800s is probably about what amounts to what many today who are paid minimum wage and below. No money for vacation or boat rides, less alone own a boat. And there are of course yacht owners and private planes and other over-the- top materialistic ownership.
It will indeed take a “paradigm shift” to eliminate the capitalist system that depends on poverty, disguised as the all holy “free market”.
Sadie Moore Stewart is a 70 year old lawyer and independent activist from Ohio.
July 25th at 3pm ET
Join our host, Cathy Stewart, for a Virtual Discussion with author Matthew Desmond
Ohio Poverty Fact Sheet
In conjunction with the release of Poverty, By America, Matthew Desmond also developed a fact sheet with information on poverty indicators for each of the 50 states.
We will be sharing the fact sheet for the state of each Reader’s Forum author. Below is the fact sheet for Ohio.