The “it” she refers to is her new book, “Living On The Edge.” There, Pascale, a sociology professor at American University, deconstructs myths about what it means to be poor in America. Perhaps the most damaging is that poverty is a choice, that anyone who wants to rise can do it, provided they work hard enough.
As if anybody works harder than the poor. “Perhaps as a kid,” Pascale explained, “you played musical chairs where you had 10 children and nine chairs. Well, the child that is the slowest or least able is going to be the one left out. But from the beginning that game is rigged so there’s not enough for everyone. We haven’t really come to terms with that as a country, to recognize that our system depends upon people not having enough, produces poverty in order to create tremendous wealth for others.”
To read Pascale’s book, to tour the lives of those she calls “the struggling class” — a hotel deskman in Appalachia, a factory worker in Tennessee, a nonprofit employee in Oakland — is to come away convinced we live in a rigged game where corporations buy politicians who subsidize those corporations with public money. But let someone suggest subsidizing the public with that same money, and there is a hue and cry about “socialism,” a word that somehow maintains its power to shock and repel, nine decades after it was used to attack a new program called Social Security.
The rich get richer, the poor get poorer and the middle class shrinks to nothingness.
Giving is good, and every person who is able to do so, should. But it would be even better to restructure the edifice that produces a need for giving — to realize, as Pascale puts it, that what America really needs is not a “seasonal moment of generosity” but “a reckoning for justice.”
Meaning, not a nation where a child feeds hungry people, but one where hungry people can feed themselves.