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As we observe the frenzy of revolution on the other side of the globe, Americans might do well to contemplate the sanctity of our own ruling class.

What, you ask? We live in a Democracy! We enjoy freedom to speak, to think, to worship the way we choose! We fought our revolution over 200 years ago. We are a model for the world!

Yah, well, maybe—in past decades we were a model for the world. And yes, people from poorer parts of the world still struggle and fantasize about coming to the United States to start life anew, to grasp that elusive American Dream. Everything is relative. Compared to countries governed by megalomaniacs and religious fanatics, most Americans do live a dream life.

But the American Dream is evaporating, a victim of greed and self-centered righteousness. One need only stand on a downtown street corner to see the poverty of our once proud land of the free. Look into the eyes of a man who lays his tired bones on a sidewalk or under a bridge and carries his closet in a plastic bag slung over his shoulder. Where is his American Dream? What is his freedom? And why is it so frightening to look him in the eye? How many of us shudder with despair and think, “there, but by the grace of God, am I?”

Dreamstime: Susy56

Sorry, I can’t credit God with that man’s misfortune. Even, were I a believer, I could not, would not blame God for the misery of the poor when I know that the rich continue to grow richer in this country and that the buffer between the rich and that man on the street—the famed middle class—grows smaller and smaller each year.

Yah, well, I’m tired of paying for the poor decisions and the drugs of derelicts. It’s their own fault they can’t find work. Why just look at ‘em; they’re filthy, they’re crazy, they mutter to themselves and gesticulate to passing cars. They’re dangerous, a menace. Besides, churches and civic organizations should be taking care of them, not my tax dollars!

It is true that many homeless people are victims of their own poor choices. But many of the rest of us have also made poor choices. By luck or through connections, we’ve been able to rise above our mistakes. It is also true that many homeless people suffer from mental illness. Yes, I said suffer! Mental illness is no choice. Mental illness is expensive. No one is capable of willing the demons away. It takes love, nurturing, professional diagnosis, and medication to lock the demons back in the box they jumped out of. Treatment and medication cost money—lots of money, money that neither you nor I could possibly afford without the help of insurance. Unfortunately, an initial bout with the demons often precipitates the loss of a job. Without a job, no insurance (assuming your employer was one of the few remaining who provided health insurance in the first place.)

It is also true that there will always be those among us who cannot (or will not) work. Back in the day, when this group averaged about 4 percent of our population, it took fewer resources to absorb the cost of their care. And, once upon a time, we locked up the mentally ill if they couldn’t manage their meds. We didn’t come face to face with poverty and failure on a daily basis.

As for relying upon churches and civic organizations to deal with these problems— fine; their contributions are a blessing. But if I had to allow some sanctimonious pastor to pray over my decrepit soul in exchange for a bed, I’d opt for that spot under the bridge. (Yes, easy for me to say from the comfort of my modest home with a cup of coffee at my fingertips.)

Lurch, of Boise.
No home, no job. 

Those of us whose tax dollars fund indigent care, should also think twice about our own circumstances. How many of us are but a paycheck away from the growling bill collector? How many of us live, truly within our means? How many of us could withstand the financial loss incurred with a major medical illness or company restructuring that squeezed out our job? And, if you received the proverbial pink slip today, just how quickly do you think you could replace the salary you currently enjoy? Would potential employers approve of your qualifications, your age, your education? It’s an employers market out there, folks. The slightest blemish negates all your best qualities.

It never ceases to amaze me that the very same people who foam at the mouth about abortion and euthanasia, think nothing of abandoning the living sufferers amongst us. In disconnecting from the reality of poverty here in America, these are often the same people who continue to buy into a system that digs deep into their own pockets while supporting outrageous tax breaks and incentives for corporate America. What do all those breaks do for large corporations? They don’t trickle down to the employees. Those breaks sustain an astounding level of corruption. In 2009, average CEO compensation was 263 times greater than the average salary of employees, as reported by the AFL-CIO. That figure is down from an all-time high in 2000 of 525 times the average employee!

According to TheStreet.com, a digital source of investor related news and analysis:In other words, while federal unemployment skyrockets toward double digits, CEOs pad their own wallets instead of hiring new employees. American citizens, egged on by corrupt politicians whose living depends on the corporate system of bribes and incentives, demand a cut in federal services; Everything is on the table, they say. There are no sacred cows (except corporate tax incentives). We are losing government support for education, indigent services, infrastructure, National Parks, health and safety (except for Homeland Security and prisons). Cuts to the federal budget serve only to deepen the divide between the haves and the have-nots. And this brings me back to my original concern.

A reduction in the CEO pay multiple to the 1980 level (42 x worker pay) would allow the average U.S. company to hire an additional 277 workers. This reduction … would create nearly 1.4 million jobs.

We think we are free of revolution here in these United States of America. We have no single dictator or Shah or King to blame for the erosion of the American Dream. But we do have a system that has grown drunk with the power of the dollar. Who profits when our young men go off to war? What sacrifices has Dick Cheney made for the well-being of the common man in the United States? His name jumps out , not because he is the only man guilty of raping our economy for his own family’s gain, but because he is one of the most visible. There are many more Dick Cheney’s hiding out in our blended political and corporate bedrock.

Once poverty strikes enough of us, we too, will need to rise up and fight for the country our founding fathers envisioned.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. (Preamble to the Constitution of the United States.) 

Volunteers handing out information and toiletries for ISU-Meridian Health Science Center