Classism and Welfare.

Classism within the US is particularly interesting in the way in which we as a society tend to blame people in poverty and lower income brackets for their struggles rather than realizing how the cycle of poverty works and how institutionally speaking, class mobility can be really difficult.

The American Dream and the myth of pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps are ridiculous because they assume that every individual within the US is given the same amount or access to resources and that hard work is what will save us all. It has happened where people have pulled themselves out of poverty – that I will not doubt. But to expect every last person to follow suit and be able to do the same without offering support systems and resources is ridiculous. John Swansburg wrote about the myth of the self made man and some of the research from the Pew Economic Mobility Project:

When the Pew Economic Mobility Project conducted a survey in 2009—hardly a high point in the history of American capitalism—39 percent of respondents said they believed it was “common” for people born into poverty to become rich, and 71 percent said that personal attributes like hard work and drive, not the circumstances of a person’s birth, are the key determinants of success. Yet Pew’s own research has demonstrated that it is exceedingly rare for Americans to go from rags to riches, and that more modest movement from the bottom of the economic ladder isn’t common either. In fact, economic mobility is greater in Canada, Denmark, and France than it is in the United States.

The New York Times did a series about why class matters and looked at the ways in which where you are financially can impact things like health, education, and marriage. (The reporters involved on this series also published a book regarding this issue, highlighting that social class remains a powerful force in the US.) Because the thing is that class does matter within the US (whether or not we as a society are will to admit that).

And there are so many myths about both people on welfare and those living at or below the poverty line. Ally Boguhn wrote about how everything we’re led to believe about people on welfare is based on lies and how stereotypes and assumptions about these programs and people using them are really meant to stigmatize. Anna Gibson wrote about how classism and the myths that go with welfare programs work against black women and how stereotypes only help to shape the oppression of marginalized black women. Lastly (for now), Benjamin Irwin wrote about 20 fact based things that those in poverty do every day that the rich never have to worry about.

It’s so important to recognize the ways in which institutions and systems work against so many people within the US and how there are so many that still advocate and perpetuate myths against those in poverty (Fox News is so good at that). The cycle of poverty can be hard to break and picking up yourself by your bootstraps is significantly more difficult than many like to believe.

I am personally fully supportive for programs that help people struggling to make things work. We as a society are particularly horrid at caring for those in need and I definitely think we should be doing more to help others.