Red Tide or Blue Wave, Americans Stay Poor | Opinion

I live in urban poor South Phoenix, a decrepit Democratic district with one of the highest poverty rates in Arizona. If you've never seen a chain of Rent-A-Tire shops, we got em'. We're the economic mirror image of AZ's rural poor districts that dutifully elect Republicans. Neither party tries to break the monopolistic stranglehold from which both parties benefit. As of 2022, the majority of Arizonans are registered Republicans, then Independents, and lastly Democrats. I was a registered Democrat till I switched to Independent this year.

Democrat Katie Hobbs, our current Secretary of State, whose most newsworthy accomplishment while in public office was the firing of a Black woman who objected to being paid less than her male counterparts, just claimed victory in our gubernatorial race by an eye squinting margin of 0.6 percent. Her Republican opponent was Kari Lake, a TV smashing political newcomer whose one-note resume consisted of anchoring the local Fox News for 22 years.

Hobbs refused to debate her opponents in both the Democratic primary and the general election. After all, why debate your way into office when you can skate your way into office? This mealy-mouthed institutionalist trumped an anti-establishment loudmouth. In other words, nobody in Arizona's urban or rural piss-poor stranglehold districts won on election day.

There's a boot on the neck of most Americans. Sometimes it's red. Sometimes it's blue. Red tide or blue wave, the boot stays. And America remains a majority poor nation.

As most young and old poor kids in this country can attest, we don't become what we're good at or what our mamas intended. We become a reaction to what the political and corporate boss class makes us. We become their prey.

Every fall, the Social Security Administration publishes its wage statistics for the prior year. Last year's just dropped, and they're bleak. They confirm what we already know: We're poor.

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LANCASTER, CA - JULY 6, 2022: Aletha Johnston, 68, outside of her home in the Mojave Desert on July 06, 2022, on the northern edge of Los Angeles county, miles from the nearest store. Barbara Davidson/Getty Images

In 2021, under Biden and his then-Democratic majority, the median income for an American worker was $37,586.03. That's $18.07 an hour. What can you do with $18 an hour? You can't buy a reliable car. You can't rent a one-bedroom apartment. You definitely can't buy a house. You can't have a kid, or raise a kid. There is no retirement. You stop working when your body stops working. That's poor, and that's normal.

Most of us see home ownership as the singular sign of American middle class stability. That stability is now gone. Making $18.07 an hour, the middle class doesn't buy. We rent.

Yet the 2022 federal poverty rate for an individual is $13,590. If you make more than that, the feds say you're not poor.

Under Trump, between 2017 and 2020, the median worker got an annual raise of 37 cents an hour. Trump screwed us over like he did every unpaid contractor who built those now-bankrupt Jersey Shore casinos.

Obama was worse. His rope-a-dope presidency gave us a paltry annual raise of 26 cents an hour.

Both parties govern against our economic interests. Voting does not work. There is not a politician or political party in this country pondering let alone proposing a minimum wage that would get you a one-bedroom apartment at the median monthly rent in this country. Our slum politicians are owned by our slum bosses.

Poverty is neither complicated nor nuanced. It's sadistically simple. People are not poor because they are lazy and troubled. People are poor because they are paid poorly. That's it.

Ask the majority of Americans what they need, and they will give you a one word answer: money. We need money because the slum bosses we work for don't pay us for the true value of our work.

Instead, we are compensated with unfettered pressure and big tech surveillance at work. We're paid in corporate efficiency quotas that outpace inflation, timed-by-the-second bathroom breaks, no-notice schedule changes, and increasing workloads with fewer workers. This pressure is killing us.

Over 60 percent of Americans don't have a four-year degree. Life expectancy for a kid who didn't complete high school is 10 years lower than that of the elitist college grads who earn 200 percent more in their lifetimes.

Poverty-induced desperation fuels internal and external violence. The number one cause of death for American kids ages one to 19 is gunshot wounds, and the number one cause of death for all Americans 18-45 is drug overdoses. Homicide is now the leading killer for pregnant women in America. Our fathers are killing our mothers. These aren't rich people being murdered. They're poor. There is a country bleeding out behind these stats.

Americans are personable, not political. We all want the same things for our neighbors that we want for ourselves. When you get sick, I want you to get better. When I get sick, you want me to get better. God made you good at something. I want you to do that something! If you are able to fulfill your potential, then I am able to fulfill my potential. I want to fulfill my potential!

On January 11th, 1944, FDR gave his second to last State of the Union address. Too sick to go before Congress, he gave that year's address as a fireside chat, reading into a phalanx of broadcaster mics from behind his broad desk in the Oval Office. FDR asked that the last eight minutes of his address be filmed. The footage, long thought to be lost to history, was found in 2008 by Michael Moore while he was putting together his film Capitalism: A Love Story.

To the WWII families gathered 'round their radios listening to their ailing president, FDR proposed a Second Bill of Economic Rights. "We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence," FDR said. "Necessitous men are not free men. People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made."

FDR argued for a constitutional right to healthcare, a rewarding job, a decent home, and a good education. The simple things.

What Americans needed in post-Great Depression 1944 is what we need in post-Great Recession 2022. 78 years later, we're dying for lack of these rights.

America is not woke vs. anti-woke, but practical vs. impractical. Neither party can claim the mantle of practicality. The status quo outcome of this election cycle proved it.

The solutions are simple. The solutions are universal. What you need is what I need. But the predator class that runs these corporations and governs us maintains a prey class of poor kids generation after generation, to keep itself satiated with cheap labor, cheap profits, and hungry voters.

America is not destined for a civil war, but a civil reckoning. Our politics will be the last to reflect it.

Cyrus Tharpe was a hazmat tanker truck driver for two decades.

The views in this article are the writer's own.