All you have to do is pick up the newspaper or watch a few hours of programming on all-day news channels to be exposed to the concept that systemic poverty will fix itself if capitalist forces are just left alone to lift up the poor. This misconception is unfortunately magnified by parties seeking to use it for political reasons, most typically deregulation of corporations and lowering of corporate taxes. This and other poverty myths act to mask the stark reality that systemic poverty is self-propagating and unlikely to correct without strong interventions, such as those promoted by Frederick Baerenz.
The American Dream
AOG’s Frederick Baerenz and others like him have a steep hill to climb as they seek to illuminate the reality of systemic poverty. The very fundamentals of The American Dream upon which the United States was built speak to a reality where anyone, regardless of origin, can achieve success with hard work. With “hard work will conquer all” being part of the national identity in the United States, you shouldn’t find it surprising that the poor are many times blamed for their poverty, with many assuming that substance addictions, poor money management or laziness cause poverty.
Along with this well-ingrained yet false poverty narrative, unregulated capitalism, resource hoarding, reduced bargaining power, systematic oppression of certain social groups, institutional racism and isolation of rural citizens from infrastructure and services perpetuate inequalities. The self-propagation running through so many systems makes it unlikely that any spot-fixes, such as welfare benefits, will have a meaningful effect. Those who understand the magnitude of effort needed to destabilize the poverty system put their efforts into building new, long-term, sustainable solutions that are also self-propagating but in positive ways such as providing ongoing access to education and medical services.
The next time you hear the idea of the poor being responsible for their own poverty, it is worth taking the time to consider the systems that perpetuate social and economic inequalities and perhaps work to help change the narrative so society can move forward to the benefit of all citizens.