The Lost Rung
Does class really matter? It does when you are middle class or the working poor. In today's society when you look around do you see the poor? Probably not, because they have almost become invisible to the human eye. Many people believe that the gap between the rich and poor has lessened. So why is it that we cannot see the poor or why does it appear that the social ladder has come closer together? It has laot to do with our perception and reality of the economic ladder and how things fit together.
In the books "Class Matters" by Bill Keller and "Nickel and Dimed" by Barbara Ehrehreich they both discuss some major issues we face today with poverty. Bill Keller found that we believe our perception of of class is easier to move up in the social brackets. Although in rality there is a bigger gap in our social economic ladder today and runs deeper the ever. The big question is can people still move up in the social economic ladder and will things change for the better.
The middle and working class appear more invisible today then they did thirty years ago. According to Keller "Social diversity has erased many of the old markers. It has become harder to read people's status in the clothes they wear, the cars they drive, the votes they cast, the god they worship, the color of their skin. The contours of class have blurred: some say they have disappeared" (2).
The middle and working classes are able to receive credit or loans to buy luxury items that they want, new cars, houses, cell phones, big screen TV's. The lower classes vote any way they wish, were as in the past they voted democrat. Keller says "Skilled labor has gone from being heavily democratic to almost evenly split" (15). They also belong to any religious affiliation they want, in the past the poor and the rich belong to a religion that would show their social status. It doesn't matter what ethnicity you are you can be any race and run for president if you wanted. A quote from Barbara Ehrehreich who says "Joan, who has fooled me with her numerous and tasteful out fits... the clothes are from (the) thrift shops" (26). These are the reason lower class people are viewed as invisible because our perceptions of mobility are so meshed together it's hard to tell which people fit into what class. You can look at anyone and you wouldn't know where they belonged in society.
Peoples perceptions marked by keller says "A resent New York Times poll on class found that 40 percent of americans believed that the chance of moving up from one class to another had risen over the last thirty years a period in which the new research shows that in has not" (5). People perceive that they can move up the social ladder because of the american dream, though hard work, ambition, becoming a self made millionaire. You can buy almost anything you want, go on fancy trips. People see others with material things and believe that they are doing good and making it in life. Anything is possible in the land of opportunity.
Are we really in the land of opportunity? Truth maybe told when our perceptions are shattered, and reality sets in. As Keller points out there is "New research on mobility the movement of families up and down the economic ladder, shows there is far less of it then economists once thought and less then most people believe" (2). This is partly do to the way economists took polls, they would ask participants questions that could not be narrowed down to correct figures. Keller brings up the fact that "Initial mobility studies were flawed, economists now say" (11). We are now finding out that past research was incorrect to our economic studies, and we have to find better ways of doing our research. In reality there is a bigger gap in our social economic ladder today and it runs deeper then ever. Having credit cards, bank loans, only puts the lower class into further debit. Reported by Pat Muir and Ross Courtney with the Yakima Hearld Repubic interviewed a young woman named Syas "I was just paying my bills when the credit and getting thing I couldn't afford (now in) $40,000 of credit card debit" (10A). If we look further we can see that the living poor have health care issues, need money for education, paying for bills, food, globalization taking over jobs, rich isolating themselves, voting in the wrong direction, housing costs, wages are to low to survive, language barriers, and no help from the government. As recent study has shown peoples perception is change and their starting to think more realistically. According to Social and Demographic Trends, Pew Research Center "Nearly eight in 10 of all people, or 79 percent, said they believe it has become more difficult compared with five years ago for the middle class to maintain their standard of living up from 65 percent in 1986" (6).
Now that more people are thinking critically about the middle and working classes. Can people still move up in the social economic ladder and will things change for the better. There are may things working against these people. That is' hard for me to see the people work there way out of these problems without major assistance. One issue their facing is health care, most people including myself, avoid the doctor because they don't have enough money to take proper care of themselves. Ehrenreich is working for a maid service when one of the maids, Holly, sprains or breaks her ankle while walking "Holly just keeps crying and talking about how she's already missed so may days of work in the last few weeks" (10). Even though our health need to be taken care of it takes time and money to care for ourselves. Which is a luxury the working/middle classes don't have. Most middle wage jobs don't have benefit programs for their employee's; so most workers are left to hand out to dry. Keller brings up a good point he says "One way to think of a person's position in society is to imagine a hand of cards. Everyone is dealt four cards, one from each suit: education, income, occupation, and wealth, the four commonly used criteria for gauging class"(9). We are dealt these four cards when we were born, it's then up to us to acquire the skills to use the cards. First you need education, but if your on the bottom rung how are you suppose to educate yourself if you don't have the means to do it. Everything that that falls after education really depends on what you've achieved thorough college. If your uneducated your either find a job that is "unskilled" or go work in a factory were you might be able ti move up. But wait their a problem with that... what about globalization. Keller explains how this fits into the puzzle "Globalization and technological change have shuttered factories, killing jobs that were once stepping stones to the middle class... Skills and education have become more essential then ever." (19). How are we suppose to move up in class when we don;t have health care, we are illy educated, and our jobs are moving to 3rd world countries?
Well Maybe there is a way we can move up the social brackets, we can get college scholarships, or take part in the no child left behind act, we can raise up and say NO WERE NOT TAKING THIS ANYMORE AND DEMAND THAT WE GET PAID AND TREATED BETTER. It's up to us the working poor to bring poverty to our government and fellow americans attention. If we don't then we will remain where we are, nowhere but stuck.
Is the government doing everything they can? According to Ehrenreich "Official poverty level still calculated by archaic method of taking the bare-bones cost of food for a family of a given size and multiplying this number by three" (200). How is this helping us statistically? Well if you look at it as far as housing costs, food, money spent on health care, and how much a low wage worker makes they you might be able to actually show how may americans are in poverty. What if the government did go though and do these reports; we would notice a big problem. One, why hasn't the government done something sooner. Two, how will it effect the rich and three what are we going to do to solve the problem. It seems to me that if we want something done about our living situations we have to be the people to bring it out in the open. The american dram may not be everything it's cracked up to be. But if we don't have it then what is going to carry us though our lives We have ti believe in it, its the only thing that might give us the strength is hold on and take control of our lives. Showing the government and the rich that we are not invisible. We need to work together to succeed as a country. We need unity prosperity, and guts.