I'm always amazed when I hear people suggest that, if someone is living in poverty in this great nation of ours, the fault must be entirely his own. After all, this is supposed to be the land of freedom and opportunity, isn't it? And if someone has enough drive and ambition, he should be able to find some kind of job that can support a decent standard of living, right?
Comments like these serve to indicate just how indoctrinated Americans have become to conservative free-market propaganda. We've been hearing this sort of nonsense since the Reagan years: it wasn't true then, and it certainly isn't true now.
In a country with over 9% unemployment--with rates far worse for minorities and those without college degrees--it simply isn't that easy for people to find jobs at all. And when jobs are available, quite often the salaries that these positions pay barely enable a person to survive, let alone provide adequately for a family. Making matters even worse, at the same time real disposable income dropped 1.7%, food prices have risen 4.8%, health care costs rose 5.4%, and gas prices rose 4.4%.
To hit home on just how hard it is to survive these days on a working class salary, a 33 year old copyrighter named Jenny Nicholson came up with the concept for a computer game called Spent. The game lets you apply for various jobs at different rates of pay, and then shows how the kinds of ordinary expenses that everyone has create a situation in which it is virtually impossible to survive on the kinds of salaries that many Americans depend upon.
If you're one of those people who constantly complain about lazy riff-raff feeding off the public trough or if you're so well off that you never have to think about the price of things like gas or cereal, you might just want to try this program.
It may not turn you into a bleeding-heart liberal overnight, but it might just inspire you to begin questioning some of the "self-evident truths" about the working poor that you always took for granted.