The crisis is destroying America’s spiritual foundation – its optimism.

The optimism of Americans is ever astonishing. The hope for a better future, not brought about by government or a winning lottery ticket, but one that people create with their own hands and a lot of courage, seemed unshakeable among U.S. citizens.

No longer. The crisis has made it more apparent to Americans just how deeply poverty has eaten its way into the basic fabric of their society. Now, as their debt-based financial foundation collapses, families are finally realizing they can’t afford their lifestyles even if they do have a job; nearly one in three jobs in the United States doesn’t pay enough to live on. That also impacts the lower middle class that has long been the mainstay of the American dream. The confidence of those people who believed they could make a better life for themselves and for their children has been shattered.

There has always been poverty in the United States, and it was worse than in Europe’s social states. For a long time, it was to be found only on the periphery of society, in black ghettos or rural Midwestern towns that lost their only source of employment. Unlike Europeans, these people left those places and their pasts behind and went to where the jobs had gone.

Now, poverty has followed them into the suburbs, into the personification of the American dream. Even there, people are finding it impossible to pay for health insurance and keep up with their mortgages. This poverty cannot be avoided by moving somewhere else. But it is upon the confidence of these suburbanites that the marvelous power of American society has always depended; the confidence that they’ll always come up with new solutions.

The first job of the new President will be to recreate that confidence.