The Death of the Middle Class: The Huddled Masses in America’s Backyard

On Tuesday, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, released a statement in support of President Trump’s approach to poverty. The approach comes in the form of an Executive Order titled, “Reducing Poverty in America by Promoting Opportunity and Economic Mobility.” The order outlines a plan intended to motivate those living in poverty to seek out better circumstances without relying on government aid.

According to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Perdue applauded the Executive Order, saying

“I commend President Trump today for his leadership on moving Americans back to work. At the Department of Agriculture, we are responsible for administering programs which help people access nutritious food for themselves and their families, but we also know that long-term government dependency has never been a part of the American dream. Providing people with the training and skills they need to find gainful employment will help place them on the path to self-sufficiency and restore the dignity of work. It’s the right thing to do for our people, just as it’s the right thing to do for American taxpayers.”

President Trump has proposed stricter requirements for those applying for any type of welfare benefits, including an increase in mandatory work hours. The Executive Order also hints at a number of changes that aren’t yet concrete.

These changes would also allow individual states an increased level of discretion when dealing with issues relating to benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid.

“Since its inception, the welfare system has grown into a large bureaucracy that might be susceptible to measuring success by how many people are enrolled in a program rather than by how many have moved from poverty into financial independence,” the Executive Order reads.

This new stance on poverty has been met with mixed results and convoluted with a tirade of misrepresented statistics and false information. Many people are concerned that President Trump is targeting the poor in an effort to cut costs and masking it as a step in a more positive direction.

The USDA released a report stating that the country spends $70 billion on the SNAP program each year. The statistics fanned the flames of controversy between taxpayers who feel that their hard-earned money is going to support someone committing welfare fraud, and those that have seen the true horrors of poverty. The reality is somewhere in between.

2015 study by UC Berkeley showed that an overwhelming amount of welfare benefits went to working families who are struggling in areas providing a lower pay wage. These recipients were working at least 10 hours a week and reporting all necessary information to the government.

This is a far cry from the lazy and fraudulent stereotypes portrayed by naysayers. Most of the people who receive these benefits genuinely needed them to compensate for a receding economy

and a loss of high-paying positions. Some of these recipients are college educated and were simply unable to make ends meet.

The taxes that Americans pay every year aren’t based on any one factor. Doing away with welfare wouldn’t necessarily lower anybody’s taxes and would free up more money to pay for government ventures.

The percentage taken out of each paycheck is based on a person’s particular tax bracket, the number of persons claimed, and other financial factors. When people cry foul over paying for welfare out of their taxes, many of them don’t realize just how little money they actually contribute to it.

The release of the Executive Order has reopened a dialogue on poverty in America. People are being forced to confront the destitute conditions that some have learned to call home. The middle class was once thought of as a comfortable average; this was the group of Americans that made enough money to pay their bills with limited financial flexibility. They weren’t living paycheck to paycheck and were able to amass a sufficient amount in savings.

But the cost of living is rising at breakneck speed and leaving many of the middle class struggling to survive. The gap between poverty and wealth is becoming too narrow to include another socioeconomic class.

Some Americans have found themselves trapped in a vicious cycle of making just enough money to get through a week while working a full-time job complete with overtime. This hand-to-mouth existence leaves little time for recreation or an attempt to improve one’s position.

The 40-hour workweek isn’t sufficient to support a family anymore, and a larger group of Americans are being born into poverty than ever before—this further perpetuates the problem, as children grow up accustomed to subpar living conditions.

There is no one area where this problem is prevalent. There are families living in every state who face financial ruin if their car breaks down or their furnace stops working.

This Executive Order has the potential to wipe out what few resources are afforded to them. Many fear that this will cause an increase in crime and further devastate the most vulnerable populations. This problem has spread like wildfire amongst minorities and immigrants who came to the country legally—or with the intention of becoming legal—to seek out a better life.

Children being raised in homes with particularly low incomes aren’t being given the resources to build a better life. In fact, many of these children grow up completely unaware of how to pursue an education, or to succeed academically and are forced to start working at an early age in order to contribute to the family income.

These communities show telltale signs of financial trauma at almost every level. The frayed edges of the neighborhood can be seen in an increase in violent crime and drug use. For some, this may be their only source of income.

These Americans grow up with no sense of financial responsibility because of their constant struggle to provide for even basic needs; it’s difficult to learn how to manage money when they don’t have any. The only rehabilitation many of these people get is from the judicial system, and this is hardly adequate.

A person who gets arrested for selling drugs in an effort to put food on the table will only be further hampered by felony convictions and jail time. This stigma prevents them from seeking a better job even if the prison system teaches them how.

It’s a vicious cycle that perpetuates recidivism and further ingrains the culture of poverty. The government seems to promote unrealistic expectations of college and a climb to financial stability that just isn’t available for many.

Attending college is almost impossible when one has to work a 60-hour work week in order to keep the lights on and to provide the bare minimum for a family. This calls for a different viewpoint of rehabilitation and what it really means to America.

A report released in 2017 by the United States Census Bureau shows a steady decline in poverty rates due to a growing awareness of social issues. The number is still staggering at 40.6 million spread throughout the country. Some parents have started to point the finger at the school system claiming that their children aren’t being prepared for higher education.

In truth, many schools that serve impoverished areas struggle to function at all. Teachers are extremely underpaid, and classrooms are overfilled with students. This is far from an ideal learning environment, and not one that promotes an interest in or love of education. The learning environment in an area dominated by those living below the poverty line is very different from those in wealthier communities.

This is another instance of the advantages of being raised in a financially secure household. Wealthier schools have more resources to offer students, and more access to programs promoting careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—the highest paying professions.

The middle class is slowly sinking into a quagmire of financial ruin perpetuated by poor education, the rising cost of college, and few opportunities. Many of them don’t know how to deal with financial crisis and end up damaging their credit at an early age.

The housing market has started to recover, but there haven’t been enough buyers to fill in the gaps. Creating a stronger financial infrastructure starts with a stronger financial education. There are huge advantages to knowing how to set up a savings account, or how to use a sample hardship letter as a template that can stop a home from going into foreclosure.

Only time will tell how this Executive Order will impact those who depend on government aid for their necessities. Many Americans will be facing a “sink or swim” situation that could very easily point them in a negative direction.

The idea of social reform is something that activists and political parties have talked about for decades. This isn’t some abstract concept that exists thousands of miles from our doorstep. It’s a cry for help that can be heard in every food pantry, thrift store, and failing school across the country.


Source: PandeyLife & RelationshipsThe Death of the Middle Class: The Huddled Masses in America’s Backyard On Tuesday, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, released a statement in support of President Trump’s approach to poverty. The approach comes in the form of an Executive Order titled, “Reducing Poverty in America by Promoting Opportunity...Sky is the limit !!