Article Two: Poverty and wages



In his book, “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” Neil Postman argues that media has had more negative impacts in our society than positive ones. We have always been influenced by different mediums but “we are now a culture whose information, ideas and epistemology are given form by television, not by the printed word.” (Postman, 1985, p. 28)

Media technology has transformed public life into entertainment, “television has gradually become our culture…we rarely talk about television, only about what is on television,” (Postman, 1985, p. 79) and what is on television is nothing but perfect bodies and luxurious lifestyles that for most common people would be impossible to achieve. The message that the television is given us is that we should be like them.

The media can play a positive role in a Democracy if used positively. On page 126 of “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” Postman mentions that media’s “main business is to please the crowd,” so we have the power to control mass media. We are given entertainment because that is what we are asking for, they (different forms of mass communication) keep telling us what to buy because we listen to them but if we start perhaps diffusing a video on social media demanding that we want to be shown accurate information that constructs our society not the type that destroys it, we will get it. As Postman mentions, it is true that television is “a source of comfort and pleasure,” (p. 28) but we also have to see the importance of being educated and that it is not all about entertainment. We could balance our needs and wants.



In her essay, “This Is What Happened When I Drove My Mercedes to Pick up Food Stamps,” Darlena Cunha mentions how her successful middle class life changed drastically to being poor, “even then I couldn’t quite believe it. This wasn’t supposed to happen to people like me.” Cunha came from an affluent family and was well educated, from her frame of reference, how we see and understand events influenced by prior knowledge and assumptions (Ortiz), white educated people were not supposed to be poor. Media influences our frame of reference, unfortunately we take what media gives us as an absolute true forgetting that most of the time we are not shown the whole story.

When I searched on google and Bing for images on poverty, most of the images that came up where pictures of black poor people in Africa. The television shows us videos of people in other countries who are poor and then in the United States we mostly hear about minorities being poor, not white people. Interestingly, many of the images that came up also showed very skinny children with little clothes. This is the idea that we have about the poor, we associate



malnutrition, not having clothes to being poor because is what we normally see in the media.


Darlena Cunha is giving us valuable information that can help us shift our frame of reference. She explains how she was stared at and criticized for receiving government help and still buying root beer, “the funny thing about being poor,” she says, is that “everyone has an opinion on it, and everyone feels entitled to share.” We expect poor people to have nothing and to not be able to afford luxuries, like in her case, soda.  Cunha and her husband managed to keep their Mercedes which they had already paid off and didn’t want to sell it because they knew that that car was reliable and selling it to buy a “crappier car” will be more expensive in the long term. When she had to drive  her husband’s Mercedes to get food, she felt embarrassed because she “had so internalized the message of what poor people should or should not have that I felt ashamed to be there, with that car, getting food. As if I were not allowed the food because of the car. As if I were a bad person.” As Ronald Takaki mentions in “A Different Mirror,” poor people “want to get off welfare but find themselves forced by low wages to remain dependent on government subsidy.” (p. 398)

cres 3


In a democracy, we need mass communication to be informed. Through mass communication, the poor can be informed of the different laws, their rights and the different programs that are available for them. As citizens they have the right to participate in our society, to let their voices be heard by telling the government what works and doesn’t work for them. To do this, they need to be educated and mass media can help with that.


“Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.”

Nelson Mandela














  1. Living Wage. [Cartoon]. Retrieved from

Cunha, D. (2014, July 8). This is what happened when I drove my Mercedes to pick up food stamps. Washington Post. Retrieved July 20, 2014, from

Frame of Reference. [Cartoon]. Retrieved from

Keefe, M. (2009, March 27). Evolution of Communication. Retrieved from

Ortiz, D. (2014, July 3). Frame of Reference. Humanities 150. Lecture conducted from Cascadia Community College.

Postman, N. (1985). Amusing ourselves to death: Public discourse in the age of show business. New York: Viking.

  1. [Photograph]. Retrieved from

Takaki, R. T. (1993). A different mirror: A history of multicultural America. Boston: Little, Brown & Co.




Zahra’a Al-Mayyahi

For being outside college I had no clue about the issues that we are dealing with everyday. There are a lot of issues we don’t realize we are dealing with. Unless we see it or hear it. Which media play a big chance of showing that?  Of me looking around and looking out from the top cover from everything I start asking people questions everywhere I have time. I realize it’s not only me who is not deep in those problems. Poverty and wages problem is huge and deep.

I had an interview with Justin Kraemer he used to be my supervision in 2012 at the Mukilteo YMCA, they laid him off because of the Puget cut.

My questions

1) What do you think of Seattle raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour? Whats your frame of reference about it?

“I think My frame of reference about the $15 minimum wage thing is a bad idea, because it arbitrarily raises the wages for only the lowest level earners, while not addressing any of the issues related to those making above the minimum wage. There are thousands and thousands of people making between $10-15/hour already that have put in time or have experience above those making minimum wage and from what I can tell there won’t be anything done to address that disparity in talent/knowledge/skills. “

2) How Media helped you to find your new job?

“I know that I used social media and my network to help find a lot of the jobs I applied for, and used all of the major job boards in my searches to find related and available positions to apply for.”

Going far of the point list talk about Gender and the gap between men and women.

What is the Gender Gap?

The gender pay gap (also known as gender wage gap, male–female income difference, gender gap in earnings, gender earnings gap, gender income difference) is the difference between male and female earnings expressed as a percentage of male earnings, according to the OECD.[1]


Do you know? 

Full-time working women earn 77% of what their male counterpart earn.

 Fact: This means that women have to work approximately 60 extra days, or about three months, to earn what men did by the end of the previous year.

Media makes the gap between women and men normal, they’re talking about women does not work much as men. Let’s talk about it; Women are still the primary caretakers of children.  So when our children get sick, as the little darlings often do, we are the ones that have to call in to work to take care of them.  Or, if you are a single parent, it is even worse.  You don’t have that partner’s paycheck to back you up when you have to take that sick time (FMLA is kind of hassle, for most employers you have a minimum of days you have to miss before you can use it. In Pay is able to compare the wages of males and females with the same jobs (and experience, education, responsibilities and more). Our analysis shows that while a pay gap does exist, it’s much smaller than the numbers you usually hear about. The real problem is that more women work in jobs that pay less. Join Pay Scale as we run the numbers and explore what really affects gender and pay gap.

I’m not only talking about women in general but according to different color. I think the really important and disgusting issue with equal pay is the 77 cent figure is for a white woman.  It goes down, down a lot if you are a woman of color. When a black woman makes on average 64 cents on the dollar and a Latina woman makes 54 cents on the dollar compared to a white man…something is not right. All that happened in free Conroy. Where is the freedom according to that???   Takaki said “Ireland, the struggle for economic survival had a particular impact on women” pg 14. My opinion of healthy community by make in it equal. What happened if they did that? Actually who control it?  Also Tikaki Share In Irish “Maids” and Factory Girls” “for these women, America represented not only jobs and wages but also economic self-sufficiency-freedom from dependency on fathers or husbands”  pg151


Every racial/ethnic category, women’s median income is lower than men’s and every other group earns significantly less than Asian and White men. However, there’s a clear racial earnings hierarchy visible in the chart as well.


My frame of reference migrants come to live better as a U.S citizens in freedom country . But unfortunately how country can call by world freedom country if does not make it equal to live in community, No matter what ethnicity or color. Its huge problem and big numbers.



The National Women’s Law Center found that African-American men make 73 percent of what white men make, on average, and African-American women make 64 percent. The numbers are even lower for Hispanics: men make 61 percent of white men’s earnings and women make just 54 percent. Men of color even make less than white women.




Ronald Takaki : A different Mirror

U.S Bureau of labor Statistics



Article one: Poverty Wages Concerning Gender and Ethnicity

Loan Nguyen

Poverty and Wages

The on-going rumor of the “American Dream” has more likely fooled more than a dozen people in this world today. Believed by many to be a meritocracy, the American narrative emphasizes personal effort to achieve wealth, status and power.  That being said, the reality of many immigrants falls short to this non existing fantasy. As of today, poverty and the wealth gap in American continues to increase. As the saying goes, the rich is becoming richer and the poor is becoming poorer.

Gender and Wages

Gender describes the characteristics that a society or culture classifies as masculine or feminine (Nobelius, 2004). Due to external influences from their home countries and culture, stories of higher wages in America drove the Japanese immigration population to seek opportunity elsewhere. Ronald Takaki in his A Different Mirror, observes that a farmer in Hawaii has the potential to earn 6 times more than a farmer working in Japan. That means that if it all adds up, someone saving up in the states of Hawaii would be able to make much more than they would in Japan. (Takaki, 1993). Not too long after the Japanese came to Hawaii, the women that came from Japan represented a much larger percentage than the women that came from China. This was driven by the Japanese government promoting their women as “pictured brides,” something that the Chinese authorities were not able to do. Historically, the feminine gender has had less social and financial value than its masculine counterpart. The emigration of women was also influenced by Japanese views on gender. This case of Japanese culture in the form of picture brides was no different. Takaki also mentioned that though women were given the exact same assignments as men, if not more work like waking up earlier to take care of the kids, women were paid less than their male counterparts. The difference in how much the women were making compared to the men was the difference of 23 cents (Takaki, 1993). In addition, they were expected to do double the work (Takaki, 1993). This historical precedent has not progressed much in closing the wage gap between the masculine and feminine gender. With this being said, the emigration of women was also influenced by Japanese views on gender (Takaki 2014). Even in 2014 the problem needs to be addressed. Strides are being made, however.  The Lillybetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, for example, hopes of “making progress in a decades-long struggle to ensure women have the tools they need to fight for equal pay at work” (Obama, 2014).

Poverty and Ethnicity


Ethnicity has been defined as not often times classifying in a group based on what makes up their physical appearance. It is often referenced as a “loose group identity”. For many years the Japanese lived in poverty. The reason behind coming to America was to earn money, and thus wealth, quicker than they would have in their home country. The Japanese noticed that they weren’t receiving equal pay compared to some people from other countries, so they went on a strike. Due to their ethnic backgrounds, however, they still had to overcome many barriers to find that opportunity. “A strike based on ethnicity seemed to make sense to Japanese plantation laborers in 1909, for they constituted about 70 percent of the workforce, while Filipinos represented less than 1 percent” (Takaki, 1993). Because Ethnicity plays a huge role in whether someone will have to work hard or harder than others in life, it links up to poverty because someone could have the potential to end of making more than others based on their ethnicity. The foundation of believing that fair wages would encourage people to work as productively as other workers in the field is something that everyone should take account on. Wage is a powerful way of letting someone know their value.

Community Interview
















References (2014, July 21). Keeping His Word: Equal Pay [Video file]. Retrieved from

Nobelius, A. M. (2004, June 23). What is the difference between sex and

gender?Retrieved July 23, 2014, from

O’Neil, D. (2006, July 5). Ethnicity and Race: Overview. Retrieved July 23, 2014, from

Takaki, R. T. (1993). A different mirror: A history of multicultural America. Boston:

Little, Brown & Co.


Article One: Poverty and Wages Concerning Perception and Social Class

JULY 24TH, 2014




Poverty and wages reflect a growing concern for social inequality. Inequality produces many detrimental effects including higher rates of crime, lower rates of happiness and more health problems (The Equality Trust, 2012). The United States is believed by many to be a meritocracy, a system that rewards people on their ability to preform hard work and rise through society based on their virtues. If you believe, the saying goes, you will achieve. That narrative is taking a historical u-turn, undermining a core belief in the imagination of the American dream. Globally, inequality is rising dramatically and nowhere more dramatically than in the United States (Vieira, 2012). Poverty is increasing while it retains its 30 year old out of date definition. Wages are stagnant for the 80% of Americans who constitute middle and working class. In short, people are slowly but surely people are losing the ability to live individual lives without being indebted to their economic conditions.

Perception plays a large part in identifying the reality of things. Perception can be divided into three stages: selection, organization and interpretation (Ortiz,2014). Through this process, assumptions about knowledge, behavior, expectations, culture and the human experience at large are formed (Ortiz, 2014).   Perception can be altered to either undermine or exaggerate an issue. Changing one’s perception can uncover new truths as well. In terms of poverty, the perception of poverty is undermined to its reality. Greogry Mantsios in his Media Magic: Making Class Invisible argues that perception of the poor is faceless. The way that mainstream selection, organization and interpretation of poverty is handled makes it seem a trivial matter. The poor, he argues, are faceless. They have no distinct identification about them. Even when we think of the poor, we often, in the selection, organization and interpretation of the mainstream, attribute internal reasons for their poverty (Mantsios, 2009). Mantois argues the mainstream perception pushes narratives such as the poor do not exist, the poor are down on their luck, the poor are undeserving. Indeed, looking back historically to this country’s inception, those who challenged the economic elite were suppressed and dealt with as a nuisance. As mentioned by Ronald Takaki in his A Different Mirror, the people who followed the settlers to the colonies came as indentured servants hoping to pay off their term of servitude and become independent landowners themselves. As the landowning elite horded their power to themselves and elongated the terms of servitude, less of the new immigrants could escape their shackles and become independent. This culmination of continuous repression manifested itself most famously in Bacon’s Rebellion when disgruntled servants took up arms against their masters. To the landowning elite, they interpreted these economically disadvantaged workers as a “rabble crew, only the rascality and meanest of people.” In the perception of the settlers in the beginning up to now, the poor were either neglected or only had themselves to blame.

Of course, if that is the plight of the poor, then who are “we?” Mantois argues that the media perception makes “us” the middle class and wealthy. The news, for example, caters to information regarding markets for wealthy investors, despite the vast majority of Americans not owning a single piece of stock. We are the wealthy, we are the middle class, we are the ones with the ability to raise our wealth and social prestige by our own merits.   Thus, “we” have been made into a different, distinct social class than the poor. The idea of social class can be measured by wealth, power and prestige, among other things. Wealth is distinct from income, as wealth indicates possessing resources and monetary value and income indicates earning money and monetary value through wages. A wage earner then, even during ancient times, will be placed on the lower social level than one possessing true wealth. After crushing Bacon’s Rebellion, Takaki shows us the decision of the wealthy elite to consolidate and protect their social and financial standing: slavery. Slaves were now exclusively black, did not even have the possibility of owing any wealth or income and existed mainly to protect and grow the wealth of their masters. The settlers had made a stagnant social order to serve themselves, a distinction that would echo its tone for many centuries to come. One figure estimates that if wages had risen as fast as salaries, bonuses and stock options for CEOs in the 1990s, the average worker today would be making $114,000 per year with a minimum wage of $24 (Custer, 2014).

Interview with Gospel Mission:

Q: What is your name, title, and experience?

A: Sharon Thomas, Public relations manager, 13 years’ experience, went to school for journalism

Q: What is the goal of your group?

A: Are goal is to serve, rescue, transform those who are greatest in need through Jesus Christ. We reach out to those greatest in need through social services regardless of their personal faith. Five areas we work in are youth, homeless shelters, addiction recovery, and poverty is the umbrella that covers it all.

Q: Do you guys work with the media?

A: Yes in regards to media coverage and contacting outlets.

Q: Do you believe that the (mainstream) media gives an accurate perception of Poverty?

A: I don’t believe the (mainstream) media gives us an accurate perception of anything. They have a short amount of time to tell a story. Editors do not want to cover the real issues that are hitting society. All of the reporter’s information is mainly based on press releases and there are time and space restraints when it comes to stories.”

Q: How would you describe the homeless individuals you work with?

A: Many homeless are at the bottom. They have gone through personal networks and ran out of money. The Union Gospel mission is there last resort.

Q: What are some misconceptions about the poor/poverty?

A: “Some of the misconceptions about the poor are that most are addicts, uneducated, that they are someone to be ignored. The truth is that most have fallen on hard times, lost family, some struggle with addictions, some are in their current situation due to job loss, and some have suffered some type of abuse in their lives”.

Q: What are the demographics of homeless people you work with?

A: All around the board go to “” and look at the one night count in King County for more details.

Interview with Paul Larose “Youth Program director at Union Gospel Mission”.

Q:  Would you say race is a factor in poverty? If so how?

A: Yes I would say it is. Race is a factor in poverty statistically hitting minority groups higher than the majority. For example take a 24 year old white male from a Suburban environment. Let’s say his Family unit is compromised and he finds himself homeless or isolated. Let’s say he goes and relies on program that provides him with $2000 monthly worth of support. It is more than likely that based on his environment and knowledge from a decent education he will use his money on education and somewhere in the future finds himself in a stable livelihood. Now let’s take a 24 year old African American from an impoverished area, who’s family unit has been compromised, he goes to a program that gives him $2000 monthly worth of support based on his poor resources and education in his environment it is very likely that he will not have the skills to lift himself out of his impoverished situation. I don’t believe that the $15 a month or redistribution of wealth will help alleviate poverty. The problem is that people in poverty do to have the access to training that will teach them how to be smart with their money. So the change is based on resources that help people use their income wisely.


Custer, L.  “Class.”  Cascaida Community College.  PowerPoint slides. 2014. Retrieved from

The Equality Trust. (2012). Impacts | The Equality Trust. Retrieved July 18, 2014, from

Mantsios, G. (2009). Media Magic: Making Class invisible as quoted in The social construction of difference and inequality: Race, class, gender, and sexuality. Boston [Mass.: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

Marks, C. (2006). What is social class. Retrieved July 18, 2014, from

Ore, T. E. (2009). The social construction of difference and inequality: Race, class, gender, and sexuality. Boston [Mass.: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

Ortiz, D.Retrieved July 20, 2014, from

Takaki, R. T. (1993). A different mirror: A history of multicultural America. Boston: Little, Brown & Co.

Vieira, S. (2012). Inequality on the rise? An assessment of current available data on income inequality, at global, international and national levels. Retrieved from

Article II: What is the role of media in a Democracy?: Race and power/Poverty and Wages

Media’s role in democracy: Poverty and Wages
Scott McDonald
July 24th, 2014

Grehan, A. (2012). Onboard a Slave Ship [Illustration]. Retrieved from
Grehan, A. (2012). Onboard a Slave Ship [Illustration]. Retrieved from
Poverty is a complex social issue that many academics, politicians and other members of society have tried to address, dismiss, or solve. Poverty is deeply rooted in issues of Power and Race, two concepts that have been wrought and reinforced by media throughout history. Media can be defined as written, oral, or image based (television) “knowledge” about a wide variety of issues (Postman, 1985). One cultural group that truly exemplified the use of media to consolidate Power would undeniably be the English colonizers of the 1600’s. Their use of oral and written communication gave birth to terms and ideas that allowed them to enslave, manipulate, and demonize several different ethnic groups for societal and economic gain.
In Takaki’s “A Different Mirror” he gives several examples of how the Irish, Native American, and African people were assigned demeaning labels based on their differences from the English colonizers. Some discriminatory terms prescribed to the Irish were that they lacked “knowledge of God or good manners”, and that they were “Lazy, naturally given to idleness and unwilling to work for their own bread…Dominated by innate sloth, loose barbarous and most wicked living like beasts” (Takaki, 1993, p. 26) . Native Americans were thought to have been “cruel, barbarous, and most treacherous” (Takaki, 1993, p.33) . Their physical attributes were described as “of tall stature, broad, grim visage, of a black swart complexion”. (Takaki, 1993 p.33). Lacking any self-control and believed to “be driven by their passions especially their sexuality” (Takaki, 1993, pg.33). The English were filled with horror when their eyes fell upon Africans. Because this form of prejudice existed over a long period of time generations began to shift their values, prior knowledge, and beliefs to the point this new frame of reference ran rampant in the English society. Through this narrow sighted lens they unjustly assigned negative images to the color black, some as horrifying as deeply stained with dirt, foul, dark or deadly, malignant, Sinister, and wicked. On the other hand “white” represented all that was just and holy (Takaki, 1993). This type of demeaning rhetoric was used to justify the genocide and slavery of Africans, the mass murder of Native Americans and the theft of their land, and to reinforce the social separation and destruction of Irish People.
The social construct of Race facilitated through Media allowed the English to gain Power by owning Native lands, having a slave labor force, and establishing themselves as the apex of society. Today the effects of these heinous acts can be seen in the African-American, Native-American, Hispanic who Post Civil Rights act have “only been significantly accumulating wealth from 1964 to 2014” (Ortiz). Another area that has been a gauge for the current state of poverty has been our citizen’s wages. As of 2012 with corporate profits soaring “high wage jobs accounted for only 14 percent of new jobs”, while low wage work made up for 50 percent of job growth” The average high-wage pays between $17.43 to $31 an hour, on the other hand, low-to mid-wage jobs pay between $8.92 to $15 an hour, which is well below the national average hourly wage $22.60” (Smiley & West, 2012, pg.65). Our country is in the midst of a time where “The wealthiest 1 percent of U.S citizens controls nearly 42 percent of the wealth” (Smiley & West, 2012, p. 44). With the rich getting richer it doesn’t take an expert to see that they would like to keep the trend this way. One way to protect power is to influence the media that we consume and “he who has the gold makes the rules”.
Currently Television and electronic media is the main source of knowledge, which leads me to agree with Postman when he states that we have reached “a critical mass, in that electronic media have decisively and irreversibly changed the character of our symbolic environment” (Postman, 1985, p.28) It can easily be argued that television and mainstream media create our perceptions of what reality is. Due to its inherent stimulating nature, television reaches society in a much different way than speech or writing ever did. Sharon Thomas, Journalism student and public relation manager for Union Gospel Mission in Seattle, Washington responded eloquently when I asked “Do you believe the (mainstream) media gives an accurate perception of poverty?” “I don’t believe the (mainstream) media gives an accurate perception of anything. They have a short amount of time to cover a story, editors do not want to cover real issues, and they look for “drama”. All of the reporter’s information is mainly based on press releases and there are time and space restraints when it comes to stories.” If we have this fast food version of supposed knowledge our frames of reference can quickly end up being latched to someone elses narrowly focused agenda. Representative of major media outlets such as Fox news have fueled negative stereotypes when it comes to this nations homeless, poor, and disgruntled.
When Bill’ O’reilly was interviewed by Dr. Cornel West and Tavis Smiley about Poverty in the United States he responded with “Most impoverished cannot and will not earn a decent living due to substance dependency. O’reilly then claimed that Wall Street bankers violated no laws when it came to the financial meltdown” (Smiley & West, 2012, p. 92) Sharon Thomas of the Union Gospel mission in Seattle addressed some misconceptions about poverty, “Some of the misconceptions about the poor are that most are addicts, uneducated, that they are someone to be ignored. The truth is that most have fallen on hard times, lost family, some struggle with addictions, some are in their current situation due to job loss, and some have suffered some type of abuse in their lives”. Just these two examples provided show the contrast between a major media figure and a person on the street level dealing with the poverty problem. Which view point is more accessible? Today’s media has just become another extension of Power to crush the marginalized, voiceless, or any opposing media outlet that may be trying to give balanced coverage. “Well, today’s media is big business many of them are owned by huge multinational corporations. And if you think they don’t control what comes over the air, you’re in for a surprise. If I control your pay check, I tell you what to say and what not to say” (Abu-Jamal, 1997, p. 96) Through mainstream media Power is established along with racist, sexist, and other inaccurate labels that our society then consumes.
Media in a democracy should have its foundation built upon objectivity not fueled by big business, political agenda, and entertainment value especially when addressing societal woes such as poverty. In order to change the current subjective coverage that most media outlets give us as consumers we must choose wisely on what we watch for information, while also demanding more accountablility from media outlets.


Abu-Jamal, M. (1997). Death blossoms: Reflections from a prisoner of conscience. Farmington, PA: Plough Pub. House.

Postman, N. (1985). Amusing ourselves to death: Public discourse in the age of show business. New York: Viking.

Smiley, T., & West, C. (2012). The rich and the rest of us: A poverty manifesto. New York: SmileyBooks.

Takaki, R. T. (1993). A different mirror: A history of multicultural America. Boston: Little, Brown & Co.

Values and Beliefs: Income Inequality

I found this graph established a better comprehension of the income inequality in the United States. This carries proof against the idea that all persons are free from their circumstance.

Mulbrandon, C. (2013). 2010 Distribution of income by number of income earners [graph]. Retrieved from

Values and Beliefs: Sylvia Allegreto on Meritocracy


Sylvia Allegreto: The Myth of American Meritocracy

Quick snippet from Allegreto’s lecture on meritocracy in the US.  She is deputy chair of the Center of Wage and Employment Dynamics, situated at UC Berkeley’s Institute for Research on Labour and Employment.

Allegreto, S. (2012, June 15). Sylvia allegretto: The myth of american meritocracy [Video file]. Retrieved from

Article One: The History of the United States Concerning Values and Beliefs

JULY 24TH, 2014

Quoted from Steve Greenberg, he drew this because "Many Americans, including those who are 'working poor' as well as those below the poverty line, long for the typical 'American Dream' lifestyle but have no hopes of ever being able to afford it."
Quoted from Steve Greenberg, he drew this because “Many Americans, including those who are ‘working poor’ as well as those below the poverty line, long for the typical ‘American Dream’ lifestyle but have no hopes of ever being able to afford it.”
Goldberg, S.(2001). American Dream Helper [Political Cartoon]. Retrieved from,%20favorites/DreamHelper.html 


Milton Rokeach defines beliefs as “opinions that all individuals hold about their environment and their place in their environment,” such as believing that one’s success is based on their effort; to support a belief, there must exist a value, which Rokeach defines as a “strong conviction of what is right or wrong” which are “deeply held and closely tied to personal identity” (1968). In this sense, values and beliefs work as a system to achieve objectives by those who engage in the management of this system. It is important to note, however, that the method in which this system is executed can be used to obtain either corroborative or contradicting objectives.

The United States struggles with its own relative poverty, with millions of people unable to sustain the average level of life quality that the nation upholds. The US Census Bureau found that, in 2012, roughly 48.8 million Americans lived below the poverty line. Solutions for this vast issue have time and time again been proposed, yet the withstanding cultural beliefs-and-values system more often than not distort the reality of the issue of poverty in the US.  By analyzing the American beliefs-and-values system, it can be seen that there exists a belief that suggests poverty is a deserved condition, and/or it that can be eradicated only through the individual’s merit alone. This belief is called The American Dream is compromised by a complex collection of both historical values and beliefs that exist to justify and support it.

Its fundamental justification is the belief in meritocracy. Meritocracy argues that an individual’s single obstacle of prosperity – prosperity measured by wealth – lies only in one’s merit. This single obstacle suggests that American society simultaneously values the inherent equality that exists in all persons – or, as the famous words of American forefathers, “all men are created equal.” Alternatively, this signifies that all persons are not discriminated by non-characteristic qualities such as race, gender, or social class; otherwise, if these qualities are discriminated against in a person’s ability to achieve prosperity, then The American Dream would by nature face an unrealistic expectation.

Herein lies the contradiction. If American culture values merit, than merit can be measured by the extent of one’s hard work; and if hard work can ensure one’s realization of the American Dream because Americans value that all persons are created equal, then such must be reflected within society. But it is not.

To make light of this contradiction, let us know that if poverty is the lack thereof wealth, then understanding that the accumulation of wealth in order to escape the shackles of poverty is crucial. Only with this realization can one notice the stark inequality of highly disproportional wage distribution in the US, which essentially places persons and their dependents in stark long-term disadvantages as opposed to more affluent persons.

To explain, wealth is the possession of resource and money.  In order to accumulate wealth in our current day and age, one must accumulate income, which is the gathering of money. Accumulating income is achieved through wage-earning, a wage being a regular payment of money.

Placing into perspective of depth of this issue, understand that someone who is in poverty already has a very limited access to resource. Resources guarantee access to education and health which then guarantee higher paying jobs.

Now, low wages for the low-industry sector wouldn’t be as grave of a concern if the job market offered a significantly larger availability of higher paying jobs, yet the opposite is true. Authors of the book The Rich and The Rest of Us, Tavis Smiley and Cornel West, remarked that “as corporate profits soared, middle class jobs vanished. High-wage industries accounted for only 14 percent of new jobs, while low-wage work made up almost 50 percent of the job growth. The high-wage job pays between #17.43 to $31 and hour. On the other hand, low- to mid-wage jobs pay between $8.92 to $15 an hour, which is well below the national average hourly wage of $22.60” (2012, 65).

So, if a low wage signifies a prolonged and possibly inadequate accumulation of wealth for a person and his or her dependents, then the access this person and his or her dependents have to resources that could enable the ability to achieve a higher quality of life (like higher education or health) is severely limited in comparison. In other words, a vicious cycle of poverty is retained, with neither individual nor dependents like children capable of paving their own path towards prosperity.

Knowing that millions of Americans suffer poverty, one can finally see that their suffering is beyond what the definition of poverty can express – millions are trapped in low wages, ergo incapable of accessing resources that enable the skill, knowledge, safety, or health to escape poverty. What then does The American Dream capture if it fails to uphold the belief that all men are created equal by clearly refusing to acknowledge the detrimental dispositions that millions of Americans struggle with poverty by birth or circumstance?

Yet, The American Dream has failed to truly uphold inherent equality of peoples for centuries. To where their inalienable rights? To where their merit to be considered? By 1850, Ronald Takaki, professor of Ethnic Studies in at the University of California, reports that nearly 350 thousands Africans were enslaved in Alabama’s cotton industry alone, completely devoid of their immense profits that were a national total of a whopping 71 million dollars the same year (1993). This clear example of the disenfranchisement of hard-working peoples in the US demonstrates as early as the origins of slavery in the United States, American society contradicted its very foundations.

And it continued. Even after World War II, African Americans that have since then been at disposition to poverty by birth, struggled immensely with prosperity. Takaki points out that of the 2 thousand or so firms closed in Illinois in the late 1970s, that even though “blacks constituted only 14 percent of the state’s workforce, they totaled 20 percent of the laid-off labourers” and only “42 percent were able to secure new employment” (1993, 399). Under these conditions, African Americans represent a disproportionate disposition to poverty and a clear inability to escape its grasp with their merits failing to translate into their wages – or, in many cases, lack thereof wages.

When Ronald Reagan “chastised blacks for their dependency on ‘the spider’s web of welfare’ and their failure to recognize that the ‘only barrier’ to success was ‘within’ them,” he, like millions of other Americans throughout the history of the US, failed to realize the unrealistic fabrication that The American Dream perpetuated (Takaki,1993, 402). Neither then nor now has the collective regarded the merit of millions of exploited peoples in history, more or less today, about their dispositions that have disabled them from prosperity both before and today. For The American Dream, apparently not all men are truly created equal.


  1.  Bishaw, A. (2013). Poverty: 2000 to 2012 (12-01). Retrieved from U.S. Census Bureau website:
  2. Rokeach, M. (1968). Beliefs, attitudes, and values. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  3. Smiley, T., & West, C. (2012). The rich and the rest of us: A poverty manifesto. New York: SmileyBooks.
  4. Takaki, Ronald. (1993). A different mirror: A history of multicultural america. New York: Back Bay Books.



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