If there is one and only one positive outcome from Katrina, I hope it is this: Americans wake up to the reality of poverty in this country.
And it may be happening.
In the aftermath of this disaster, everywhere I turn, people are talking about poverty. On the news, in the paper, in the op/ed columns, and of course on the blogs.
As Atrios so rightfully noted this morning, it is no laughing matter if the poor or the retired felt compelled to stay since their welfare and SS checks would not go out until the beginning of the month – that is, even assuming they would have had the means to leave otherwise. People simply don’t understand the reality that the poor face everyday.
What we need right now is a national discussion about poverty, about homelessness, and about joblessness (and by that I include those not considered on the job market). And by “national discussion” I don’t just mean a discussion about why Katrina disproportionately affected the poor, African-American community, although that should be part of the conversation as well.
Progressives in this country should seize the opportunity to highlight how current economic and social policies adversely affect the poor, how our education system is unequal, and how our healthcare system leaves so many out. Katrina is giving us a chance to put poverty back on the agenda as an issue in the 2006 elections, and to help those our country too often ignores.