Konformist editor Robert Sterling turned me on to the writing of Joe Bageant in early 2005. I spent an entire snowed-in weekend in Northern, NJ reading the various essays on his blog, laughing my ass off and nodding my head in total agreement. Writing about working class issues from more or less a Marxist bent—a huge plus in my book—and with wonderful wit and trenchant analysis, has gained Joe Baegent quite a following. You’d have to have seen life from many different angles and traveled a lot to have such a wise perspective on things. The guy is just brilliant, a national treasure. He’s also the author of a book, “Deer Hunting with Jesus.”
This weekend I read Joe’s article, “Look Out, Are You About to Join the White Underclass?” on the always great Alternet blog and I was thrilled that someone said this out loud:
More than 45 percent of U.S. single mothers are poor, compared five percent in Sweden and Finland, where no stigma is attached and substantial public resources are applied to child health and development. But research done in Europe shows that even if U.S. women had a zero rate of single motherhood, poverty among American women would still be higher than in European and other socially advanced nations.
Armchair sociologist that I am, I have a theory about this: Millions of American women are in poverty because they are paid poverty wages. I could be wrong, I often am, but there seems to be a connection between poverty and money. I started developing this theory when I was in a Melbourne, Australia hotel and learned from a single mother hotel housekeeper there that she made $19 an hour, had government assisted childcare and was going to college at night toward becoming a medical technician. Hmmm. Over here we tell single mothers, “Get a six dollar an hour job or get married bitch! Workfare, baby, workfare.”
I grew up in a union family in West Virginia back when the unions really meant something in the lives of the members’ families. We had great health care and I was able to have special glasses and contact lenses to correct my astigmatism. My sister got low cost braces for her teeth. That hardly happens anymore for American families.
The lives of working people in his country have become so degraded that there is a real anger rising in the American people. People are sick of being shit on by the elites. Not everyone who is poor is so dumb that they vote a straight Republican party ticket, wave tea bags around and think Sarah Palin is terrific. A lot has changed in the past decade or so with almost everyone having access to the Internet and being able to read political views outside of what they’d hear about in their local church or get on Fox News. People are educating themselves. They’re starting to figure out why they are being ground down by life —and by whom—and they’re getting really pissed off. It’s about time.
“Look Out, Are You About to Join the White Underclass?” by Joe Bageant
Joe Bageant website