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How To Be Poor in America

When people ask my 35-year-old son how he is doing, his sarcastic reply is “Livin’ the dream.” Sarcasm aside, what, really does the American Dream mean these days?


Maybe, given the history of the last 40 or so years, the true American Dream means learning how to live with continued crisis and brinksmanship that affects the personal standard of living of most of us.


I grew up in a small farming community in southern Minnesota in the 1950s and 60s.


I did not realize that I had been living in poverty until I discovered the Paul Welstone (former U.S. Senator from Minnesota; died in a plane crash in 2002) book “How the Rural Poor Got Power” (1978). The book, a sort of grassroots how-to, was largely about my Minnesota home, Rice County, Minnesota.


1978 publication of this book coincided with the oil crisis that plummeted the Carter administration in the late 1970s and the savings and loan crash of the early 1980s, not to mention the BUST in Wyoming.


In the 1980s these economic woes merged into the AIDS crisis, Chernobyl, the Exxon Valdez oil spill the Iran-Contra Affair and ultimately in the Iran Iraq war wherein the USA entered the war on the side of Saddam Hussein.


One thing I realized amidst the chaos in the country, was that no matter how hard I worked, my life was often controlled by things that I not only could not control, but I couldn’t predict.


Not a lot different from now. Coming off a two-year pandemic, inflation is soaring, people are joking about re-financing their homes to buy gas. Our congress and legislature seem powerless (I would argue unwilling) to pass legislation that may help the American citizens while they argue about bull shit like naming outer drive after Trump and continue to pass legislation that enhances the 1% to the detriment of us poor working stiffs. And Putin sent his forces into Ukraine.


Millions of Americans are re-thinking their lives and the idea of work. They are quitting their low wage, unfulfilling jobs. Whether on the right or the left of the ideological divide, Americans are increasingly suspicious that their government is owned by the rich. I am one of those suspicious Americans, and have been for 40 years.


So what to do and how to cope? How have you, the reader, developed strategies to foster your own independence and well-being? I am hoping to hear from you. PM me on my face book page, or email me at mbucenske@aol.com Mary Ann Budenske.





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