Is Change Really Coming?

Recently Cenk Uygur noted that when President Obama inspired the nation with the notion of “change,” none of us thought about what did that “change” really mean.

While it’s true that change might mean a lot of things to a lot of people, I think it’s probably safe to say that change, in its most simplest form, would mean that things would be different than from what they were at the time of the election.

So what might we want “changed” today? What “change” are we still waiting for?

Perhaps it’s increasing the Median household income, improving its freefall of  6.7% in the last two years, thus making it harder for families to prosper.

Or maybe we’re looking for a change in more economic security. As an example, the non-profit organization, Wider Opportunities for Women has found that 45% of Americans live with economic insecurity – as defined as the “ability to pay for basic needs such as food, transportation, and medical care while setting aside a small amount for retirement and emergency funds.”

That might be a nice change.

A worthy change could be rectifying the plight of the long term unemployed. As an example, NPR and the Kaiser Family Foundation has found that 47% of long-term unemployed /under employed are finding it increasingly difficult to pay for housing.

As a nation we could realize that addressing our poverty rate is in the best interest of everyone. As an example, in 1935 roughly 48% of families lived in poverty. That figure dropped to 21% by 1960, but then crept back up until now 1 out of 2 Americans are living in poverty. And this population is more diverse, and more suburban or rural than previous stereotypes have implied.

But regardless of the specific numbers… which seem to change daily depending on who’s doing the reporting, who did the research, and how information was calculated…. Most would agree that it’s too many Americans living in poverty now.

This most definitely needs to change.

But it’s easy for the 1% to take potshots at those who haven’t fared as well in this current economic climate. From being called “lazy” to “Welfare Queens; ”  “unmotivated” to simply “whiners,” critics continue to cling to stereotypes that simply don’t apply in this new economy.

These certainly aren’t new criticisms of the poor, or even the activists who speak up for them. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds us:

Whenever the government provides opportunities and privileges for White people and rich people, they call it ‘subsidies.’ When the do it for Negros and poor people, they call it ‘welfare.’ The fact is that everyone in this country lives on welfare. Suburbia was built with federally subsidized credit. And highways that take our White bothers to the suburbs were built with federally subsidized money to the tune of 90%. Everybody is on welfare in this country.

Dr. King reminds us that we all benefit from investing in the public interest. When we invest in public schools, even though we may not have school age children, we are preparing tomorrow’s workforce. When we invest in keeping our population healthy, we are ensuring tomorrow’s elderly can live a healthy life and contain our medical costs for the retired. When we provide a helping hand to those kicked to the curb during the Recession and languishing in long term unemployment, we are reclaiming our civic pride and working our way back to prosperity and productivity.

But this means we have to get real, and ask ourselves – who do we want to be as a country? As Teddy Roosevelt, and more recently President Barack Obama has pointed out, as a nation we are truly at a defining moment in history. How shall we shape our future? As a nation where we all can once again make a living wage? A wage that truly allows us to raise kids, pays for the essentials of life, and actually put money away for retirement and an emergency fund? Where the nation employs and educates to create a workforce that’s the envy of the world? Is it possible to create a country again where a family can buy a home, could raise kids on one income, and eventually retire in dignity?

Will we commit to engaging in our civic responsibilities and ensuring that our leaders know we no longer are willing to “Wait for Change?” Or will we continue to slide into a nation that provides liberty and justice … for all of the 1%?