The Occupy Wall Street movement, which emerged in the fall of 2011, has reduced the problem of the United States to a growing gap between the ultra-rich 1 percent and the 99 percent of Americans generally included in the heterogeneous middle class. This catch-all slogan conceals a scourge that undermines the very idea of the American dream — poverty.
In a country where achievement is usually synonymous with heroism, 15 percent of the population is poor. Following President Lyndon Johnson’s success in the war against poverty, started in 1964, uncertainty worsened yet again during the Ronald Reagan presidency. This phenomenon has sped up over the past decade under the pressure of globalization.
The low level of education that makes the U.S. seem like one of the OECD’s boneheads, lack of medical coverage for 48 million citizens, single-parent families unable to face a new economic reality: The factors causing poverty are complex and often intertwined, but one draws special attention — low income.
Today, in the midst of Black Friday fever, the frantic day of sales following Thanksgiving, Wal-Mart employees have decided to defy prohibited strikes to claim their annual income of $25,000 and urge the American giant to fulfill its social responsibility.
In the United States, which cultivates the entrepreneurial spirit at a remarkable level, nonetheless, companies like Wal-Mart can easily justify their income policies through the competition from emerging economies and rely on the government, charities and generous philanthropists to make up for the insufficient compensation they allocate to their own staff.
However, uncertainty should not be a destined outcome of a liberal economy. President Barack Obama has definitely attempted to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10 an hour, among others, as a measure to defeat poverty.
However, Republicans are not willing to discuss the matter. They prefer to stigmatize the poor, whose condition could be nothing other than the result of a lost work ethic. Seeing how the poorest juggle two or even three jobs should inspire these same Republicans to demand that private and public sectors negotiate a new social contract to restore the dignity of American income.