'Invisible Bomb': American Poor, the Twenty Percent

As various countries have been following America for its middle-class lifestyle starting in the 21st century, the “middle class movement” has gradually caught on around the world. However, in 2013 when the U.S. economy is “doing well” in its recovery, 20 percent of the country’s population are still starving. The latest data released on Sept. 12 from Gallup, a research-based global consulting company, indicates that the number of people “starving” is increasing, while the widening gap between the “richest families” — the 1 percent — and “other families” is at its widest since the stock market crash in 1929.

All this time, equal opportunities were supposed to be a core component of the “American dream.” On the ideological level, regardless of Hollywood movies or roadside billboards, the country has been working incessantly to establish itself as a middle-class state. While the concept of the middle class is not clearly defined, the “American dream” for the middle class has been strongly restated and depicted, and thus embraced by millions of Americans as well as those foreign immigrants embracing the American narrative. A two-story garden house in the suburbs, two cars, a husband and a wife, two or three kids and a dog: This is what a typical and ideal image of American middle-class life would look like. Similar settings are seen in so many American movies that virtually everyone thinks they apply to all of America.

As a result, America has been deliberately and inevitably shrouded by an unreal fantasy of fairly divided wealth and individual equality. Questions of class have always been avoided, rarely or only superficially discussed until Occupy Wall Street, a movement that has brought the class topic to the surface. As a matter of fact, O[ccupy] W[all] S[treet]’s roughly interpreted dichotomy of “the 1 percent rich versus the 99 percent poor,” on one hand, has profoundly debunked the special status of the financial tycoons, the 1 percent that control the state’s finance; on the other hand, it has oversimplified differentiations within the population of the 99 percent. Since Occupy Wall Street, the poor people in America have been pushed onto the historical stage. These days, the ratio of this unrepresented, unrecognized, unattended yet indispensable group — the American poor — has reached a stunning high of 20 percent to the country’s whole population.

Without this statistical reminder, America would still have been absorbed in enjoying its anachronistic dream of being a middle-class state. Unfortunately, even after these stunning research results were publicized, America has not paid enough attention and failed to create measures to help this group of the population out of this predicament. Their voices and lives are only to be buried by the “fair” economic recovery. With the lowest income and a constant need to worry about their next meal, the poorest 20 percent in America are still struggling to put food on the table.

Actually, as opposed to the more rigid “99 percent versus 1 percent” dichotomy, the American poor who account for the 20 percent are the ones that need attention. While their poverty doesn’t necessarily lead them to an unlivable plight, the unaddressed situation can shake America’s society from its foundation, the once solid structure of the middle class. The poor will bring complications to American society. Their “negative power” is more destructive and a sort of “invisible bomb” looming in the American class system. While emerging economies are all building and stabilizing their own “middle class,” America is probably facing a sudden “short circuit of the middle class.”

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