Poverty, policy and Politics…

Nayeem Hossain

Nayeem Hossain

According to US census in 2011 Mississippi’s poverty rate was 22.6; New Mexico 21.5, Louisiana 20.4, Kentucky 19.1, South Carolina 18.9, Texas 18.5. All up from 2010. Funny thing is, it’s easy to say that President Obama’s policies are not working. That’s the reason these states are all in deep poverty. It is partially true, partial because all of these states have a Republican mandate in state level, meaning all state level policies are run by the “true patriotic” party. All of these states are Republican strongholds!! How and why I don’t understand. How a party, whose handsome P90x (a 90 days extreme exercise plan) prince charming vice president candidate; who proposed budget balancing agenda that includes 69% cut on poverty related federal government programs, still attract people from these states? Why after the disastrous response of Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana should vote for a Presidential candidate, who said federal disaster relief organization like FIMA is a burden and who in a very frank manner admits the bottom 47% of population will never vote for him, thus they are not his concern, I don’t get it. In a country where 48 .5 million people are below poverty level in 2011, a party that opposes a dollar increase in revenue by tax against 10 dollars of spending cut, still controls state and federal representation in red color in these states, I don’t get. May be the 20 odd percent people in these states don’t have a voice, who are mostly of minority community, minority in terms of wealth- not by number any more. Lindsey Graham, one of the straight talker Republican said a few months ago, “The Republican party is not energized because, we don’t have enough angry white male.” I guess these are the few states where the white males are in larger number, and of course angry at a black man, who has a ‘wierd’ name. But the bottom line of the fact is, the bottom line always stays in the bottom and no one bothers about them.

But sadly, neither President Obama nor the Democrats have been vocal about the bottom either. To the Democrats the holy grail has been the working middle class or the ‘beer’ Democrats and with them the John Lennon’s “Imagine” loving ‘wine’ Democrats- affluent, college educated, feels sorry for the poor, but loves the squirrel and birds more than them. The President has taken his biggest political bet for the poor, universal health care or “Obamacare”. The ‘shellacking’ that Democrats got for that in 2010 made the President realize one thing. In politics the number of ballot counts, not the souls you save. So the bottom line, let’s keep you in the bottom for now.

Both parties are ignorant about the fact that 48.5 million people are under the poverty line. All the rhetoric of the far right of jobs, unemployment, tax cut has nothing to do with these 48.5 million. They are more worried about the top 1% or even less than that. The idea that small businesses will be buried under tax hikes, families will increase their tax bills by 4500 dollars every year, senior citizens will lose their benefits has been repeated in Goebbels fashion over and over again since the winter Republican kick off of 2010. You have to give them credit for being relentless about their points. They’ll attack the President for doubling the deficit, but will avoid the fact the previous eight years forced the government to spend so much money in bailouts, the trend which actually started under the previous admin. They’ll talk about Obamacare as socialized welfare, as if a person’s well-affair is best understood by profit driven private business, not public money run public administration. Systematically they have attacked global warming as a left wing agenda in such a way that even after the devastation of Sandy, no one-neither Republican or Democrats, or media will relate the storm to global warming. The word has become such a taboo that President himself hasn’t talked about it in the whole campaign. Politics in this campaign has become a focus group marketing case study. Mr. Romney is doing very well because he understands what looks good, people buy it. He’s packaging and rebranding himself everyday on the shelf to attract bigger market segment. And at this point, it seems that marketing strategy is really working. The Democrats are trying to play the game with the game masters and making the same mistake. Instead of focusing what agendas really matters they are targeting vote focus groups that’ll bring them votes. Again, I don’t blame them, after 2010 they realized, in politics the number of ballot counts, not the souls you save.

In this election both sides campaigned with a disgusting amount of money wasted. More than 2.5 billion in presidential election, and according one estimate reported by PBS almost 9 billion dollars in all state, senate, and presidential election combined. In a country where we are campaigning about spending cuts, smart financial decisions they surely have decided to keep those ideas in shelves until they get elected. This staggering amount came from people like you and I and from corporations that either we work or buy products and services from. That tells you that the bottom 47% could’ve been served by people like you and I and the corporations either we work for or buy products and services from. Instead we decided to become a focus market for politics, policy and forget about poverty.

In next segment I’ll try to point out some of the policies I found missing, some of the things that could’ve been addressed but didn’t come in front stage and what that means to me-an average voter. 🙂