- I heard something on the radio on my drive to work this morning that for me encapsulates the thing that I will never understand about this country and about which I have probed my American interlocutors. The presenters said they were about to tell a “guaranteed to put you in a good mood” story.
They then proceeded to tell the story of a 17 year old boy who just lost his dad, the breadwinner of his family. They said he quit school and began working in a Pizza place to provide for his mom and three younger siblings. They also said that, lacking a car, the boy rides a bicycle to the shop and that he saves his tips to buy pizza from the same shop to take to his family, using duct tape to secure the box of pizza on the back of his bicycle. Then the bicycle got stolen. When news got out the community rallied, launched a fundraising drive and bought him a new bicycle. The presented gushed effusively about this “wonderful” story.
The problem is, I couldn’t get in a celebratory mood like the presenters. The story made me sad for the boy and his family. And for America, the richest country on earth, where a boy of 17 has to choose between quitting school to work to provide for his family or have his family starve.
How this is a celebratory, “guaranteed to put you in a good mood” story as they advertised it I did not understand. And why celebrate raising money to buy the boy another bicycle to continue toiling in a dead-end job whose proceeds will simply go towards paying bills for his family. How is this kid (and his family) going to make it out of this situation in the long term without a major, sustained state investment in their lives? How is he going to complete his education or learn a trade that will set him on a career path?
I kept wondering, this family is the perfect candidate for public assistance, for welfare, if Republicans and their Democratic enablers and supporters had not decimated the welfare state by stereotyping the poor and disadvantaged as lazy freeloaders.
It seems to me that what this boy needs is not a new bicycle. What he needs is for his family to access public assistance temporarily, which would free him from the obligation to have to step into the role of breadwinner for his family at age 17 while abandoning his education and aspirations. With his family on public assistance/welfare, he would be able to go back to school or trade school and better himself and be in a much better position to assist his family while fulfilling his own professional aspirations.
In my opinion, the goal of the fundraiser should have been to help the boy buy a car to drive to the pizza shop for part time work while continuing with his education.
However, without public assistance for his family, which many American politicians are unfortunately opposed to and have all but destroyed, the young man can neither afford to quit the job to go back to school nor change to a part time employee status to continue his education.
Rather than see the story as an embarrassing advertisement for America’s broken welfare system and lamenting it, the radio presenters saw it as a happy story of a hard working young man pulling himself up by his own bootstrap instead of waiting for a handout from the government.
I’ve lived in America for more than twenty years and I stillI don’t understand why it’s such a terrible thing for a rich country to help people who fall on hard times, face unexpected economic adversity, or need temporary help from the state to get started on a path of career and upward socioeconomic mobility. I don’t understand why such people are instead left to depend on feel-good private charity hat then becomes the stuff of motivational and celebratory claptrap on a morning radio show.
2. Mark Zuckerberg hates the prospect of Elizabeth Warren becoming president and has made that quite clear. Other corporate giants are sounding the alarm and speaking about the prospect of her presidency in apocalyptic terms. Anthony Scaramucci, not exactly a serious person, today basically declared Warren unacceptable as an electoral choice allegedly because she is too extreme to the Left. Curiously they don’t say the same thing about Bernie, who is a self-declared socialist and goes even further in his animus towards corporate America/Wall Street. So, for me it’s either they don’t think Bernie can win or they are just being sexist and disguising their sexism in deceptive verbiage about Warren being anti-Wall Street.