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February 05, 2008

Super Tuesday Not So Super for the Working Poor

Homeless I don't live in a Super Tuesday state, so I'm getting a bit of a pass on making my electoral decision.  I get to put it off for another week.

I was really hoping that John Edwards would hang in there long enough for me to cast my ballot for him, even though things weren't looking good for his campaign for a while.  Turns out I'm not the only one who feels that way.

Edwards had a vision of America that was consistent with my own -- that we are a country divided, particularly in terms of the haves and have-nots, and that isn't OK for many of us, especially if you grew up poor and now have a little something in the bank account.

While Oprah may proclaim at Barack Obama rallies that our nation has arrived in terms of gender and race because we have a woman and an African-American on the ballot as true contenders for the White House, we clearly are still traveling on the poverty issue.

As Barbara Ehrenreich of Nickel and Dimed fame pointed out in her Washington Post opinion column entitled The Boom Was a Bust For Ordinary People, we hear a lot of talk about how good the economy was in the 1990s and, even though things have slowed down, that for many of the George W. Bush years, the economy was growing and people were prospering.

For the millions of people who work at hourly jobs that don't have health care or benefits, it just didn't matter what the economists said.  Their reality was one of a $5.85 minumum wage and Ramen noodles.

As good as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are on the issues of health care, the war, and the economy, John Edwards was the only who realized that unless we can get millions out of poverty in our country, making the economy better only for the middle and upper class won't really do much good for those who keep trying to climb up the ladder, but keep slipping off the bottom rungs.

Many of us turn our heads and pretend that we don't see the people sleeping under overpasses, pretend that there aren't hungry and undernourished children in this country and pretend that those we euphemistically call "the working poor" aren't right in front of us every day.

If Oprah and others like her really want an "America that's about unity," then we need to ask the remaining candidates what they're really going to do about small family farmers struggling to put food on the table, workers who get laid off and can't get back into the job market, and older professionals with graduate degrees who can't find a job anyplace other than Home Depot.

Clinton and Obama pledged to Edwards that they would continue his fight.  If either of them really want my vote, they have to convince me they're not going to leave my parents, small family farmers on the brink of retirement, to scrape by while benefits from a new administration get funneled to businesses and the already well-off.

Make me believe you're not going to forget about the Americans who struggle to make ends meet every single day, and you will have my vote.

Cross-posted from Joanne's blog, PunditMom.  You can also find her at PunditMom's Spin Cycle and working on her Contributing Editor duties BlogHer.

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