U.S. demands social and economic equality

by Eric Lee

It seems every time I turn on the news—especially Fox—the government’s social programs are being berated by the right wing. This makes me wonder, how can something so beneficial to those in need be stigmatized and characterized as free handouts for moochers? Do the pundits truly care for their fellow citizens, or is saving a few dollars for the defense budget more important?

As students at San Diego State, most of us aren’t in need of food stamps, social security or unemployment just yet, but unless you’re a trust fund kid, government aid can come in handy.

The California State University Mentor reports that 99 percent of first-time students applied for financial aid. Of these students, 77 percent were determined to need financial aid. Are these students moochers for wanting to further their education and become the best individuals they can possibly be? I don’t think so, but according to conservative political rhetoric, anyone who receives government assistance is a freeloader.

I can’t stand for the belittlement of the disadvantaged, especially from individuals who are lucky enough to be in privileged positions. Say what you want about equality in regard to the American dream, but one fact will always stare you in the face—the richer you are, the easier life will be. Within our nation there are persistent winners and losers, with initial monetary value being a deciding factor between the two.

The stark difference between surviving and thriving has become extremely evident in present times. Let’s imagine the U.S. as an ocean.  Within that ocean the law of the sea dictates that everybody is entitled to a boat. Seems fair, right? As long as we can all stay afloat, the opportunity to survive is equally shared. But when the criteria for judging your life’s vessel broadens from the simple task of floating, to how well this boat can actually gather resources, in terms of positioning and size, the disparity grows.

Very few people are lucky enough to navigate the highly prosperous portions of the ocean with the latest technology, and the majority of us are slightly offshore casting lines from canoes, creating the ever-awkward balance of wealth within the nation.

The duality of modern lords and peasants, the haves and the have-nots, is skewed by the false pretense of the American dream. The notion that hard work can induce upward mobility is astonishingly misleading, and the hardest-working Americans are often the poorest. In a land built by the hands of peasants, the new generation of people who personify poverty are stigmatized as being lazy and incompetent, though they are the backbone of the labor force. This perceptual contradiction, created in the mecca of democracy and capitalism, is often used to the elite’s benefit.

The executives of the world’s greatest corporations, those who own the means of production, reap in millions of dollars while subjugating their work force to the most cost-efficient wages. This hardly unique relationship between the rulers and the ruled has been reproduced in society many times during the course of history, and it never ends well.

Since the ‘30s, our government has engaged in reform acts to help bridge the wealth gap and assist citizens living in harsh conditions,  making social mobility a possibility for all. However, programs such as welfare, unemployment insurance, Medicaid, Social Security, student grants and increased taxes on the wealthy provide little breathing room in the lives of the less fortunate. In our unsure economy, citizens are calling for drastic measures to increase financial security. No longer satisfied with government intervention, the proletariat class is turning their attention directly to their employers.

Completely taken advantage of, the people who fuel the economic power of the U.S. are forced to live close to poverty themselves, manifesting a vicious cycle. Not only is education, safety, and opportunity less accessible in poorer areas, but it takes money to make money. As the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, many individuals are looking for ways to level the playing field. During the past couple of years alone, there have been two nationwide movements—Occupy Wall St. and the recent fast-food strikes—that battled the institution of classism. Many view the solution to be as simple as raising the national minimum wage. Others see more value in destroying the trickle-down system promoted by Ronald Reagan. Though some progress has been made, America is crying out for true social and financial equality.

I can almost guarantee that a day will come when economic equality through equal financial disbursement will be achieved in our nation. Whether it will be obtained peacefully or not is still to be determined. If mouths that need to be fed and wounds that need to be healed are no longer met by the assistance of the government, a nationwide revolt is sure to ensue.