Media Clueless on Income Disparity

by Tommi Avicolli-Mecca on August 28, 2007

The Chronicle and other mainstream media never make the connection between poverty and the way we do business in America. When it comes down to it, what they really seem to care about is the lack of opportunity for the middle-class, not the working-class or the poor, though they give lip service to the latter.

Consider the latest story in the Chronicle about the growing disparity between the haves and the have-nots here in California. The article (“Surprise: The rich get richer and the poor get more numerous,” August 23) takes what seems to be a concerned look at a report recently issued by the California Budget Project, a research/advocacy organization. It ends with a lame attempt to examine “solutions” to the problem. What a shame that the paper couldn’t spare any real space to make a genuine effort and contribute something worthwhile to the discussion.

What the report says is nothing new: The divide between the well paid and poorly compensated is widening at an alarming rate, despite a growing California economy. What makes it worse, the article suggests, is that the middle class is now getting the short end of the stick.

If the middle class or middle-income folks are being taken care of, if they can buy houses, have fancy cars, and raise children in modest comfort, as they did in the 50s and 60s, everything is generally considered normal. After all, there are always going to be poor people, right?

At the time of his murder, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was on the verge of launching a national war on poverty. He realized that poverty was probably one of the most pressing problems facing this nation. Sadly, it’s still one of the most serious concerns in America today. There hasn’t been a war on it, and unfortunately what efforts have been made have not been successful.

We don’t have a mainstream media that gets it, even here in San Francisco. If it did, newspaper and TV editorials would be pushing basic reforms that don’t end the disparity but would certainly close the gap a bit and give us all a better chance at a decent life: a living wage instead of a minimum wage (starting at $12 an hour and increasing each year to meet the cost of living), free universal healthcare for all, and truly affordable housing for everyone (at levels that minimum wage earners or persons on SSI could easily afford). They’d also advocate for a progressive tax that makes the rich finally pay their fair share without any of the loopholes and breaks they now enjoy.

Obviously, it’s not in their best interests.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca is a radical, southern Italian, working-class, atheist queer performer and writer with a webpage:

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