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My Point of View: Do we really have poverty and oppression in America?

My Point of View by Brad Kramer

Americans have much to be thankful for. Never before in history have we enjoyed the prosperity, security and ease that we have today. However, Democrats want to keep us in a constant state of distrust between each other. We’re constantly harped to about the growing divide between the rich and the rest of us. They yell about the shrinking middle class and less opportunities for the poor to move up to middle class. We never cease hearing about oppression based on people’s skin color or sexual orientation. Are things really that bad?

Brad Kramer

In America, your level of wealth is not controlled by your last name, skin color or any other characteristic. We’ve come a long way from the aristocratic system we broke away from where your lot in life was determined solely by family lineage. Rather, it is now what you know and how hard and smart you are willing to work to accomplish your goals.

A few years ago, I took my oldest son to Haiti and we saw what real poverty looked like. We distributed water to people who lived in the roughest conditions imaginable — literally living in tin huts. While my family’s comfortably in the middle economic class, we’ve been (by American standards) poor. At earlier points in life, I’ve been homeless, needed welfare, and remember well what ramen noodles taste like. After seeing what real poverty looks like, where there’s literally no food or drinkable water available, you recognize that in America, poverty means something different.

In the U.S., a large segment of the population that we consider impoverished has at least one nice big-screen television and video-game system, most have cars and only a very small percentage of our society does not have a roof over their head. Looking at the population overall, go to the high school and you will find the lot filled with very nice vehicles. Anybody who wants to get into college, can. The executive boards and management teams of most businesses are long past being predominantly white males, as are Congress and other governing bodies.

Life in America is pretty good, no matter what skin color you are, how much wealth you’re born into or any other way we try to label ourselves. That does not mean that those issues don’t exist, or we shouldn’t continue to make progress as a society, but is there really a shrinking middle-class and widespread oppression? Or is that a way to keep us agitated and blaming others when we could find more common ground and keep moving forward together?

As a society, we’ve made it big business to be a victim, and that victim-mentality is killing the spirit that made America a beacon of freedom and opportunity for generations. I remember how easily collecting a welfare check made it to be comfortable that my family’s needs would be met and can take that drive to be independent and successful away. Human nature makes it very easy to get used to that and lose your drive that propels you to better. While I never want to see a child go hungry or a family be homeless, I also don’t want people to lose their sense of innate ability and the spirit that anything is possible that made Americans achieve things that no other nation on Earth ever had, because for a time, I had.

If I were to sum up the theme I hear from Democrats over the past few years, what I hear is a never-ending reminder that you are a victim of some kind of oppression or offense. I hear them tell us that the middle-class is dead and wealthy Republicans killed it. The message is about what society owes you (college, health care, etc.), not what you owe society. Such a far-cry from the message of President Kennedy to “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

If we want to lift Americans out of “poverty,” our mission should not be to tell people that rich or white people are the enemy but give them access to information and tools that business owners have. Very, very few people I talk to realize the resources there are available to start a business. As a SCORE mentor, my goal is to empower as many people to start a successful business as I can, regardless of where they live, skin-color, or where they come from in life. I’m astounded how little people hear about those resources that could really lift them out of poverty or conditions that feel oppressing.

America truly is the land of opportunity. If all people are to realize what we have at our fingertips before it’s too late, it’s time to quit telling everybody they’re victims of something.

Brad Kramer is a member of the Freeborn County Republican Party.

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