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Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Where did all the poor people go? We didn’t hear about them during the great election show?!

Where'd all the good people go?
I've been changing channels
I don't see them on the TV shows
Where'd all the good people go?
We got heaps and heaps of what we sow

This morning, after the result of the US presidential elections was final, I listened to the victory speech of ‘POTUS’ Barack Obama.  In spite of the fact that I am quite realistic (however, not cynical) on politics and I don’t  believe most ‘fairytales’ and empty promises that are expressed by politicians, I was impressed by Obama’s speech.

The speech of president Obama was typically American with many displays of affection to his family, his home country and the strenght and courage of the American people. These are phrases that sound a little bit over-the-top in European ears; especially for the Dutch, whose national phrase is: ‘please act normal, than you act sufficiently crazy’.  I am a child of the Calvinistic Dutch culture which prevents me and many other Dutch people from being too exuberant, except when a football match (soccer) of the national team is broadcasted on TV.

Further, it was a very positive and powerful speech, with a hand reached out to the Republican party in order to end the polarisation between both parties and to solve the challenges that the United States are confronted with (“the fiscal cliff”). The speech was also full of affection for the American middle-class that kept the United States running, like the oil in a machine. Summarized: although it was not my style, I liked it!

I was also quite pleased that Obama had won again; although his presidency has been disappointing in some aspects, he has done an adequate job during the last four years, guiding the USA through the crisis. The introduction of Obamacare was his most important achievement  in these eyes and further he didn’t do more things wrong or less things right than any other president would have done. I was convinced that Obama did the best he could and that he had been a fine president in a very difficult economic and social situation. Afterwards I went to my work, just like any other day…

This afternoon, however, I listened to an interview on the American elections (interview in Dutch) between the distinguished Paul van Liempt of Dutch Business News Radio BNR ( and former United States correspondent for Dutch national television, the savvy Charles Groenhuijsen.

The interview was an eye-opener to me. It really made me think about the following question: Where did all the poor people go?!

What happened to the millions of people in the United States that are currently beneath the poverty line and who are living from their last cents, without any chance on improvement of their financial and economical situation. The poor people that seemed to be left to their lot during this presidential campaign, in which they were almost totally ignored in spite of their large and growing numbers, due to the credit crunch.

Here are the most important statements from the interview of BNR Business Radio with Charles Groenhuijsen, translated to English by me:

Charles Groenhuijsen: “These elections (like almost any other elections) were about the middle-class, the backbone of America. People with annual wages between $30,000 and $70,000. What these elections were not about was the underclass. The poor people, living from much a lower income than $30,000 annually, who sometimes even live from foodstamp to foodstamp. What about them during this presidential campaign?!

I’ve witnessed what happened when handed out foodstamps f.i. became valid on August 1. Then you saw people queuing up at Walmart on the 31st of July, waiting for the moment the shop would open again. That is real poverty.

The republicans are completely ignoring the problem. Romney became the talk of the town in September 2012, when he talked about the poorest 47% of the Americans: ‘those are people who have been holding out their hand, while bathing in victimship. People that think that the government should take care of them and think they are entitled to healthcare,  food, housing etc. To everything…’

When Barack Obama would have talked about the underclass and would have started a ‘war on poverty’ in America, he would have been slaughtered by the Republicans. There are many people that already look at Obama as the American son-in-law of Karl Marx, a crypto-communist.

 The United States are the richest country in the world, but it has many, many poor people. These people are in a lot of trouble these days.”

Paul van Liempt: “Will this group of poor people become bigger? Will the number of handed out foodstamps grow in the coming years?”

Groenhuijsen: “Hopefully not. Due to the Democrat majority in the US senate, this group will hopefully not grow. I hope that the senate and the president will develop a master against poverty, so this group can become stable or even shrink in the coming years.

When you drive in the United States, you see the poverty. When Romney would have become president, nothing would have happened. Everybody knows about this poverty. The US is partially a third world country. When you leave the roads in the Mid-West or the Southern states and you turn one or two corners, you see ‘Uncle Tom’s cabin’. Pure poverty.

This is not a pretty image. The American mentality is often: ‘those people should try harder and get their life under control, instead of asking for help from the government. Everybody has their chance to live the American Dream, but if you fail to do so, don’t blame the government.’

Poverty is a no-no during the presidential campaign. All kinds of pundits and focus groups have decided that talking about poverty would imediately lead to loss of voters. That is why both presidential candidates stayed far from this topic.”

I am a Dutch person and therefore a European. Europeans are used to having a social safety-net for people that can’t take care of their own life anymore, for any reason whatsoever. This safety-net was developed after the first part of the 20th century, when there were times of great poverty among Europeans.

People could call this communism, but that is how it works in Europe. It is something that I’m very proud of, personally.

However, I understand that the USA are a different country with a different history and a different mindset.  I am not the person to judge upon that, as I know too little from the American history yet.

Still, I hope that the millions of poor Americans will not stay ‘the elephant in the room’ for president Obama. That he will find a way to fight poverty and to create new jobs in the creative, strong and dynamic economy that the United States still is. The latter is something that all Europeans are very jealous about and that has been the true spirit of America.


  1. I must say that he has done an adequate job during the last four years, guiding the USA through the crisis..I like to read this blog..

  2. It’s important to realize, that of a population of 300 million, only 100 million took the trouble to vote. It’s obvious that poor people are under represented in the US government. It’s a real shame because they could have a real influence on policy. Of the poorest 20%, only 36.4% vote, as opposed to 57% in India. In reality the beacon of democracy in the world is hardly democratic.