Are we our brother’s keeper?

Joe Bageant (1946-2011) writes in his novel, Deer Hunting with Jesus Dispatches from America’s Class War about the poorest of the poor and the proudest of the proud: the working-poor whites.

From the book:

To be white and poor or just making it is a paradox in America Whites, especially white males, are supposed to have an advantage they exploit mercilessly.  Yet slightly over half of all the poor people in the United State are white.  Poor whites outnumber all poor minorities combined.  Black poverty consumes a larger percentage of black society, to be sure.  But that does not negate the fact that there are at least 19 million poor and working-poor whites and their numbers are growing.  (By the way, most poor people work.  About half find employment for at least half the year; public assistance accounts for only one-quarter of the income of poor Americans.  Beyond that, the distinction between poor and working poor may well be a meaningless moral distinction shaped by the Protestant work ethic.  Poor is poor, whether you have to work for your poverty or not.)  In fact, as of this writing, according to the 2005 census Bureau data, poor whites are the only group that is both growing in number and getter poorer.  Everyone else is pretty much stuck, regardless of the Bush administration’s crowing about fractional “rate changes.”


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