The Breadlines of America

Commentary by Jim Amos

Incoherence. Downright lunacy.

These are the words Shelby Steele uses to describe the recent flurry of marches, riots, protests, and rallies that have occurred across the country. Steele is no stranger to the subject of political uprisings. He studies race relations and multiculturalism at the Hoover Institution for a living.

So, who is to say he’s wrong?

Madonna said she “thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House.” Demonstrators glitter bombed members of Congress and anyone who seemed to hold a viewpoint different than their own. Rioters spray painted slogans and political statements around their hometowns, emblazoning graffiti-drawn expletives on police cars and businesses of hardworking Americans.

All of this begs the question, what is the state of our Nation? And the second logical question to ask is, how did we get here?

The state of the nation is not good, obviously. Even those sympathetic to the views of the protestors would have to agree that something is seriously wrong.

Steele suggests America has reached an ending, a finale. America lost something. What used to be peaceful protests over specific, significant issues like civil rights and suffrage degraded into a violent menagerie of causes and gripes, clear chaos and confusion – without purpose or direction. What changed?

One word: breadlines.

The word breadline conjures up Great Depression era pictures of long lines of men and women waiting hours on end for food – without hope, without opportunity, and without a future.

I could write a novel specifying why it’s so hard for Americans to find work – and why so many have given up. The short answer is that the privileged reaped the rewards of government to benefit themselves at the expense of the American people. Poor policy creates poor people.

Let me give an example. When politicians in Washington passed Obamacare, they received platinum plans, while millions of Americans lost their health insurance, their doctors, and were forced to sign up for pricey government plans or pay exorbitant fines. Businesses had to terminate employees. Even though it was wrapped in beautiful, promising language tied with a bow – you won’t lose your doctor and your plan. Millions of Americans lost both, including their jobs.

People who were less well-off had to pay for the coverage of those who were better-off. And Americans who lost their jobs because of this ruling were beholden to government health care – courtesy of American taxpayer dollars. The privileged receive more when they promise more.

We see this happen with nearly every policy issue: food stamps, minimum wage, taxes, immigration and regulations, to name a few. We have reached a point in America where there are many kinds of breadlines.

Today, the breadline isn’t necessarily a physical line of people waiting their turn for bread, a sore sight ubiquitous during the Great Depression. Today, breadlines are made up of people across America who receive benefits from the government – because they can’t find a job. Because the government has made it hard for them to find a job. Or, because the government discourages them from looking. Although we cannot visibly see people waiting in breadlines, they are there, and there are plenty. Too many. These are the “deplorables,” as candidate Clinton called them, who voted for Donald Trump.

These “deplorables” do not willingly choose to rely on a third-party for their paycheck. They are there because of the policies intellectual and political elites like Clinton created, just as those standing in line waiting for bread during the Great Depression were there because of the poor financial decisions created by the elites in America. Ask yourself: Who are the real deplorables in America?

The privileged – those who reaped the rewards of government – now face the consequences of the wealth lines they created for others because they hoarded the wealth for themselves. We have seen this repeated throughout history: the collapse of the Roman Empire, the French Revolution, the more recent series of anti-austerity movements in Greece. The word “breadline” is a euphemism for wealth line.

The late political theorist Eric Hoffer agreed. Decades ago, Hoffer predicted this moment would happen in America. In 1971, under the headline “Whose Country is America,” he wrote “Scratch an intellectual, and you find a would-be aristocrat who loathes the sight, the sound and the smell of common folk.”

This is true of today’s intellectual and political elites from bothparties. They have created policies that have hurt the “common folk.” The middle-class pays for the elites’ benefits and the lower-class’ benefits promised and provided by the elites. The middle-class is stretched in two directions, the lower-class cannot find work, and elites in politics do not feel the real consequences of this economic helplessness.

One of the consequences of this line of thinking was the election of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States of America. Historians will discuss the how of that event for many years. Clairvoyants, like Hoffer, already predicted the why. The why is the most important question.

No one was listening to those standing in the wealth line – or those funding the wealth line. No one has ever related to them. Until now. Until Trump.

Trump understands that everyone wants an opportunity to earn income and buy bread for themselves. Wealth without work – wealth lines – creates a climate of disintegrating values that results in anarchy, said Hoffer. We see this anarchy all the time in the news. The poor that cause crime on the streets and the affluent who influence college campuses, resulting in a new class of alienated intellectuals.

Although well-intentioned in focusing on the poor and vulnerable, progressives misdiagnosed the problem. Treating work as punishment and struggling people as liabilities to manage while focusing on unequal distribution of wealth – bread – has proven to be a total failure. Unequal and insufficient opportunity has caused the problems we see all the time on television and read about in the news. As a result, the most vulnerable – the destitute who truly do need help – get hurt.

The policies of the political and intellectual elite have lowered opportunity, reduced the ability for job creators to create meaningful work, and left more people dependent on the government. “Whose Country is America?”

We have been taught upside down and backwards by losers – political elites – how to win. The result is that they win – they grow and gain more benefits – while we lose. Real hope, pure hope, does not relegate people to the breadline with no chance of an escape route. Real hope returns power, agency and choice into the hands of everyday Americans who work hard for themselves and their families.

America’s gift to the world is the bread. In an ideal America, everyone would have the opportunity to have a slice – however many slices they wish – by living the kind of life they want. Without obstacles. Without hindrances. Without being discouraged.

The pursuit of wealth – bread – crushes dependency, creates a culture of hard work, and enables people to provide for their families – more than the government ever could. Government mandated breadlines created a resentment and learned helplessness in our society. They are a finish line, not a starting line.

The American Promise is the bread. Hope, hard work, opportunity to build a life of dignity. An open path to entrepreneurship. Not where you are but where you are going. That is why the American spirit is the spirit of entrepreneurship. It is embraced by every person who holds a job anywhere. It is the bread of life in America. It is the starting line filled with Promise.