In un lungo pezzo pubblicato su Jacobin Magazine, Marc Edelman ci accompagna in un viaggio nella solitudine di quell’America rurale dove la devastazione del tessuto economico – della quale l’autore prova a rintracciare le cause – avrebbe prodotto un grave cortocircuito sociale e innescato perfino la graduale scomparsa, dovuta alla progressiva diminuzione dei finanziamenti, del giornalismo locale. Quest’ultimo declino, secondo l’autore, avrebbe a sua volta favorito la contrazione dell’affluenza alle urne, il calo del numero di attori politici territoriali e l’aumento della corruzione.
In July 2018, the White House Council of Economic Advisers claimed that the “War on Poverty” first initiated during the Johnson presidency in the 1960s was now “largely over and a success.” This rosy assessment flew in the face of ample evidence that things were getting much worse.
After 1980, wages stagnated and became detached from productivity growth. Between 1940 and 1980, the wage gap between poorer and richer cities had narrowed by an annual rate of 1.4 percent, but after 1980, this convergence ended. On the international stage, the collapse of the Bretton Woods framework in the mid-1970s spurred an “opening up” of global finance and trade. On the home front, concerted attacks on organized labor, especially after Ronald Reagan entered the White House, undermined the bargaining power of workers.
By 2018, 40 million Americans lived in poverty, 18.5 million in extreme poverty, and 5.3 million “in Third World conditions of absolute poverty.” By 2011, 1.5 million households — half of them white — were surviving on incomes of less than $2 per person per day. Those households included 3 million children. Nine million Americans have zero cash income. By 2016, 63 percent of Americans lacked $500 in savings to cover an emergency, and 34 percent had no savings at all. That same year, the official poverty rate was 12.7 percent.
A 2017 study of fifteen states, which accounted for 39 percent of all US households, found that so-called ALICE households (“asset-limited, income-constrained, employed”) — those who were above the poverty line but earned less than the “bare-minimum survival budget” — made up two-fifths of the total. Between 2007 and 2016, median household wealth fell by 31 percent.
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