Americans work hard for their wealth, and they enjoy it. They respect people who have become millionaires. They enjoy watching TV programs and reading about the super-rich, the ‘big spenders’. They admire women who can buy dresses for over $20,000, and rich businesspeople who can travel in their own private airplanes.
People like to feel that they, too, could be rich if they worked hard enough. They feel good about the future. To be free to do well, to be rewarded properly for honest, hard work— this, they say, is the real meaning of America. It was to this country, after all, that the poor of the world came to find a new life and a fair chance for their children, and many of them found it.
But not all. In recent years, more and more people have become trapped in an ‘underclass’. Many, but not all of them, are black. Many, but not all, live in the old ‘inner’ cities. These people seem to be unable to escape from bad housing, unemployment, and a life of crime and hopelessness. For them, drugs and alcohol are especially serious problems.
Politicians cannot decide on how to improve the situation. Some ask for more payments for the poor, for better housing, more free food, better medical help. Others feel that the poor will only learn to help themselves if they receive no help at all from others.
Americans have always loved stories about poor people who worked hard and reached the top. They find it much harder to accept the idea of poor people who have no hope, no work to do, and who have to stay at the bottom.