Impoverished Politics: You gotta fight for your right (to be a human being)

Senior Virginia Johnson writes about the current state of politics in Impoverished Politics. Photo by Tobi Scott.
Senior Virginia Johnson writes about the current state of politics in Impoverished Politics. Photo by Tobi Scott.

There is one thing I know for sure: Our country does not care about poor people. In fact, it goes out of its way to make things harder for poor people to survive. Due to factors like the price of health care, food deserts and gentrification, the war on poverty has only one casualty: the lower classes.

The capitalist values that drive our nation beg a single question: Why does anyone have to earn the right to live?

We supposedly work for what we have, yet most of the wealth in our country is inherited and hoarded. Somehow that means if you don’t work hard enough, you don’t deserve things like food, shelter or clean water. We have enough resources to feed the entire nation, so why don’t we?

There is this amazing cognitive dissonance in which we don’t connect that limited access to resources is actually costing lives. We stigmatize government services like food stamps and welfare because we can’t conceptualize that there are people and families that could easily die without them.

The Affordable Care Act was by no means perfect, but it gave health coverage to millions who, through private companies, couldn’t have dreamed of getting insurane. As we look towards the indefinite repeal of the ACA, we’re faced with the conversation being posed around what poor people have done wrong.

How can you complain about not affording health insurance when you have an iPhone? How dare you use your SNAP funds to buy things like soda? How dare you use your section 8 housing vouchers to find housing for you and your children?

We commodify so much in our culture that we’ve commodified life. We’ve conflated safety and survival with luxury and excess. Our compulsion for more has caused us to forget what are basic human rights and what aren’t.

Just because there are cases of people advantageously using class mobility, not all can. In fact, because of the inherently exploitive nature of our economic system, an individual rising above their station almost necessarily means someone else must fall behind. One person’s success rests on the back of another.

As we face losing the meager social services and stigmatize the ones we have now, what we must realize is that we need a complete shift in our values. The system we live in is not sustainable for the poorest and most vulnerable in our community. It sounds silly because it seems so simple, but we need to value human life over profit. Regardless of wealth, all need to be able to access necessities.

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