An excerpt from Kennith Surin’s Essay, “Poverty American Style”.

There are not many aspects and norms that are left to chance in society.  The norms we accept, the ‘common knowledge’ we are all expected to understand, and “the way things are” are all socially constructed choices.  The decision whether to have society work for the majority of people or just a select few is not a codified law of nature, but rather a choice made by the people who currently control society.  The author of this piece argues that the crushing poverty in the US is a tacit choice made by the elite in American society, and because it richly benefits them, see no reason to change the current status quo.

 

“It doesn’t take an economic genius to know that what rescues the US is the dollar’s role as the primary global reserve currency, and the vast size of its economy. A huge and rampant stock market helps, but since that contributes significantly to cycles of boom and bust (87, 97, 2007, ??), its contribution to the overall economy should not be overestimated. In objective economic terms, therefore, with a smaller overall economy and without a global reserve currency, the US would in all probability be more like Brazil.

After making his statement on the US, Alston gave an interview on the Amy Goodman radio show, at the time when the Republicans published their tax-cut bill which is now law. To quote him:

“[T]he issue with elimination of poverty always is around resources: ‘We don’t have the money.’ The United States, again, uniquely, has the money. It could eliminate poverty overnight, if it wanted to. What we’re seeing now is the classic — it’s a political choice. Where do you want to put your money? Into the very rich or into creating a decent society, which will actually be economically more productive than just giving the money to those who already have a lot?”.

It is impossible to disagree with Philip Alston when he says that this state of affairs has resulted from political choice and not economic necessity.

Apart from his plutocratic supporters (the Kochs, Papa John the pizza man, Sheldon Adelson, Art Pope, Robert Mercer, Robert Kraft, the DeVos wife and husband, and of course the army of their hangers-on and wannabes in Republican country clubs), Trump’s base consists of moderately or less well-off whites who’ve had the show all to themselves for many decades– this making their own systemic exploitation somewhat bearable– but who now have to share this show with blacks and Latinos, Muslim Americans, “the gays” (as the near-senile televangelist Pat Robertson refers to this community), as well as a small quota of refugees from America’s unceasing wars and bombing campaigns, and so forth.

As other CounterPunchers have noted, “Make America Great Again” is code aimed at this group of white self-professed “victims”— thanks to Trump’s declamations the latter somehow believe they are more likely to have the show to themselves once again.

Supporting the very affluent wearer of a baseball cap (made in the US but from imported fabrics) sporting this slogan, is always a political choice, as is the preference of the plutocracy to line its already ample pockets by donating massively to the cap-wearing con artist: “con artist” being the appellation used by his fellow Republican plutocrats Michael Bloomberg and Mitt Romney, who have political ambitions of their own not entirely congruent with Trump’s white-nationalist agenda, however incoherent the latter may be.

Trump, Romney, or Bloomberg? Whichever one gets ahead politically; the plutocracy will prevail. As it did with Bill Clinton and Obama.

Also a political choice in this context is the preference of mainstream Schumer and Pelosi Democrats to make congressional shadow-boxing a pitiful facsimile of real opposition.

And so, a great many Americans have before them an option expressed by a well-known philosopher, if only they opened their eyes: “You have nothing to lose but your chains”.”

The level of poverty in the US is unacceptable, it won’t change until the streets are filled and people re-engage with the political process.