Let’s begin with a short story. This is the story of a woman I know well. She is an active member of her community, a woman who volunteers so much she is busier now than she ever was during her full time working days. What meager income she accumulates, she often carefully parcels out so that there is some to donate to charities in need. Hers is a uniquely American tale, one in which each citizen is expected to fend for themselves. One in which a government of the elite shows a disturbing disregard for the reality of the nation they govern. Forget the promise of the Free Market giving rise to unbridled opportunity. American Dream? How about American Reality. Here she is, in her own words, asking to remain anonymous.
“I am 71 years old and live in section 8 housing. I Get $928 a month SS and Medicaid pays my $104 Part B. My rent is $268 per month which makes this doable. If, as I am hearing, the present administration is contemplating huge changes to both Medicaid and HUD subsidies, I am terrified that I will find myself homeless. The story of how I got here, from a middle class life with a husband who became an Engineer, then went back and got a degree in Biology and became a physician is long and sadly familiar to many who have worked to take care of a family while one of the couple goes to college. It really doesn’t matter at this point. This is where I find myself. I manage pretty well on the money I get, but there is no real room for severe cuts. I urge those in seats of power to fight against these draconian measures, dreamed up by those who have no idea what many in our country are going through.”
This story is not uncommon. Millions of Americans rely on the government for assistance and the vast majority buck the stereotype the right has led us to expect. They come from every walk of life, every imaginable circumstance. Many are women who tried their best to fulfill the expectations of family life, some even while balancing careers as our Masters level speaker did, only to have the rug pulled out from under them.
Family values are popular buzzwords among the conservative right. They speak to traditional gender roles and a family dynamic in which women are expected to sacrifice in order to raise a family and support the needs of a working husband. In these days of nearly 50% divorce rates, traditional values can spell economic disaster for so many women. The same party parading out the trope of family values ignores the reality when it comes to statistics and economics. They seek to enact policies that will create unbearable hardship to those who do not fit within a set of very narrow economic guidelines.
Forget for a moment that this is the party that wishes to destroy access to reproductive care. Forget that this is the party currently taking aim at environmental regulations that are just barely sustaining this planet for our inhabitance. If you can forget all this, consider for a moment the millions of people who will be severely adversely affected by the tone deaf policies currently on the table. These are not just women of reproductive age, but women who have raised their families and now spend their later years in constant fear for their own survival. Men and women all across the country who have been systematically lied to and are now on the eve of losing everything.
We are a nation where the average wage for working Americans lingers in the low to mid $40 thousands. And yet we are ruled by a congress whose net worth approaches $250 million. Over half of all congressional members are millionaires. These are not, by and large, folks who have lost much sleep over personal economic concerns. They are an economic elite who value the bottom line of the large corporations that buy their political support over the very health and wellbeing of those they are elected to serve.