By D L Ennis
Ethics–1) Motivation based on ideas of right and wrong –2) The philosophical study of moral values and rules
With all the talk about ethics in politics lately, I had to put this article together.
“America should always be mindful of the ravages of poverty, for if we are not among its victims, its reality fades from us.”
–Dorothy Day, Founder of the Catholic Worker Movement
There is an ever widening economic disparity between the rich and poor. The poor fell to a much lower echelon during the Reagan presidency, and during the Clinton presidency, the rich went forth resplendently well. The top 1% of households accumulated roughly 17% of the nation’s income in 1998. And, in 2003, Bush gave us a tax cut which the richest 5% of taxpayers received most of the economic gain. As Jack Newfield said so well, “This is a class-warfare policy of shooting the wounded and looting the amputees.”
This mounting absorption of wealth has given the exceedingly wealthy dominion over politics by means of exuberant campaign contributions, and mass media possession, whose commentary makes them sound like constituents. Few politicians whom have nationwide followers are disconcerted about the ever-increasing gap betwixt rich and poor and the attrition of democracy by means of vast wealth. American politics can be summed up by Gary Hart’s quoted statement in a February 2 New York Times Magazine profile: “How do you make the principles of equality and justice and fairness work in a time when everyone’s well off?”
Ever increasing apartment or home rent, a minimum wage that has been moribund at $5.15 an hour since 1997, and the rising costs for health insurance are amongst the causes of hunger among the working poor in the United States. The greater majority of poor people work. However the roughly $10,700 a year that $5.15-an-hour minimum-wage jobs pay is in no-way adequate to keep a family together. More than 90% of Americans trapped in low-wage jobs are adults, more than 75% work full-time. They are not substance abusers, alcoholics or the mentally ill; they are average, hard working Americans trying to make it in a world where our country’s elite work to keep them down.
It is extremely difficult for people in low-wage jobs to break away from the cycle of poverty. Most obey the law and pay their bills, some try to improve upon their education, and they rarely ever able improve their job status and living conditions.
Jim Hightower said it in such an eloquent way, “If our so-called national leadership had not lost its shame gene, surely it would be red-faced over its failure to do some little something about the plummeting value of the minimum wage. Today’s miserly minimum of $5.15 an hour delivers a sub-subsistence income of $10,700 a year, if you get full-time work. That’s gross, in two meanings of the word. Millions of Americans–most of them adults and supporting families–are working either for this wage or are paid just a few coins more and have their poverty pay pegged to this wage floor.
In a report from Families USA (which analyzes Census Bureau data) estimates that as a result of welfare reform, 675,000 low-income people, mostly children, do not have medical coverage. In an article by the late Paul Wellstone he stated that, “NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby, collected data on people who visited Catholic social service facilities in ten states with large numbers of people eligible for aid and found an increase of 27 percent in the number of unemployed who do not receive welfare assistance.” He continued, “It also appears that many people who find employment are working at jobs that pay below, often far below, the poverty line. I fear that welfare reform is creating a new class of people, the “Disappeared Americans,” many of whom are children.”
Paul Wellstone went on to say, “Because of these disturbing reports, I recently proposed a welfare tracking amendment that would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to report annually to Congress on the employment, wage, health insurance and childcare status of former Temporary Assistance for Needy Families recipients. The amendment was voted down 50 to 49 in the Senate, but I will keep submitting it until the Senate does the right thing.” (Paul Wellstone is sorely missed by those of us that care for people as he did!) He said, “The logic in its favor is straightforward. Congress has a serious responsibility to evaluate the new policies it creates and to conduct oversight to discern whether its goals are being achieved. When you try something new, you need to find out whether it works. Why should welfare reform be any different? It is time to find out what is happening around the country to families that lose public assistance, especially in a period of prosperity, when we have seen an increase of 400,000 children in deep poverty.”
The Swedish sociologist, Gunnar Myrdal, once said, “Ignorance is never random.” Paul Wellstone said, “Sometimes we choose not to know what we do not want to know. In the case of welfare reform, we must have the courage to find out.”
I have no heart for somebody who starves his folks. –George W. Bush discussing North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and US food donations on CNN (January 2, 2003)
In her article “Hungry in America,” Trudy Lieberman reported that, “At the end of 2002 the US Conference of Mayors reported a 19 percent increase in the demand for emergency food over the previous year. Food pantries, shelters, soup kitchens and other emergency food providers now serve at least 23 million people a year. “They are America’s dirty little secret,” says Larry Brown, who directs Brandeis University’s Center on Hunger and Poverty. “They are hardworking have-nots who cannot pay the rent, medical bills, and still feed their families.”
In his article “How the Other Half Lives,” Jack Newfield ended with this statement, “The message of history is that only a participatory democracy can challenge a predatory plutocracy.”
America’s Disappeared, by Paul Wellstone.
Campaign for a Living Wage, by Jim Hightower.
How the Other Half Still Lives, by Jack Newfield.