Sunday, 30 November 2014

Poverty in America

The Great Depression

<> accessed 29 November 2014.

The representation of the United States as a nation of wealth who became the leading industrial power in 1914, consequently resulted in the Great Depression in the 1930s after the stock market crash (Black Tuesday), otherwise referred to as the end of the economic boom. This image portrays the struggle for individuals, causing unemployment, debt and significant financial hardship as the US economy was in a state of decline. The tough reality of urban America sees children begging, pleading on behalf of their parents for work or at least food and shelter. In this hard-hitting time, parents went out looking for work, as well as older children, whilst the younger children had to look after themselves, yet they were still helping by making these signs in order to support the family as a whole. In this image, it conveys the reality of the struggle for families with one young boy’s sign stating ‘Why can’t you give my Dad a job?’ In particular, one young girl’s sign reads: ‘Rarig’s kid doesn’t starve, why should we?’ – This references Rarig Engineering Company*, who manufactured large steam engines and heavy steel structural products. This was an expanding industry due to the governments need for steam engines. Therefore, this successful company who most likely belonged to a successful businessman with children, could feed his family and support them.

*Barrett, Richard, Images of America: Columbus 1860-1910 (Illinois: Arcadia, 2005), p. 66.

Contemporary America

The image above is the representation and reality of El Paso, Texas in contemporary America. With the effects of the 2008 recession, the increased statistic of poverty in the United States is similar to the devastation in the early twentieth century. According to the Huffington Post, ‘the U.S. poverty rate was essentially unchanged at 15 percent in 2012, as roughly 46.5 million people were stuck living at or below the poverty line.’ Reiterating the title of America as a nation of wealth is a universal assumption on the basis of success, and innovation the country has had over the past century, yet, this image and article shows the reality of how real contemporary America is living in. The country’s national ideal of the American Dream, and ethos of social mobility only reaches the minority of individuals who have achieved success as discussed in a previous blog post (Zuckerberg), yet it is the majority who are suffering from such basic daily survival needs such as food and shelter as severely shown in the image. It begs the question as to why in the twenty-first century are there are millions of citizens who are in this position, where the country overall is seen as wealthy and prosperous due to the images of American culture that people around the world view through television and film, ignoring the harsh reality and conditions of the entire population.

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