No Path out of Poverty
The United States is supposed to be the land of opportunity. Some citizens may have a harder time accumulating wealth if they are born poor, but the possibility is supposed to exist. This sense of upward mobility is now disappearing due to America’s free trade policies. More and more Americans are now living in poverty, and the path to prosperity has all but disappeared. The vast majority of Americans are willing to work hard to get ahead, but there are few jobs left where working hard gets you anything more than a meager paycheck.
Over 49 million Americans are now classified as living below the poverty line. Additionally, nearly half of all Americans are classified as low-income, which is defined as a household income of less than 200 percent of the poverty line. The poverty line for 2012 was defined at a yearly income of a mere $23,050 for a family of four. Often low-income individuals have nearly as difficult a time getting by as those living below the poverty line, because they do not qualify for many assistance programs.
The government rightfully provides programs to assist the poor with meeting their basic needs, but it is failing dramatically in assisting them in bettering their situation in the long run. Many families are forced to live on minimum wage incomes because minimum wage jobs are the only positions available to them.
Before our government took up free trade as gospel, there were many situations in which someone who was willing to work hard could make enough money to easily support a family. This is no longer the case. “Free trade” is uncontrolled, unrestricted access to our economy by foreign producers whose wage rates may be as low as $4 per hour, tariff-free, with which we can’t compete. Free trade is shipping out American jobs and wealth, leaving more families out of work, underemployed and unable to pay their bills. Many Americans now work two or three jobs just to pay their bills. This is not the sort of economy America is supposed to have.
Real wealth is built through productivity. Americans are now working in restaurants and hotels instead of factories and steel mills. Surely not every person needs to work in a production facility, but the production of tangible goods is central to a successful economy. We need drastic changes so that individuals can actually better their situations instead of merely surviving.