How angry do people have to be to start a riot? Is being too poor to shop reason enough?
Walmart has a problem these days, and it is resulting in plummeting revenues. People are too poor to shop there anymore. They have to live from paycheck to paycheck, or unemployment check to unemployment check, and tend to go to the dollar store rather than blow big money at the mega store. Target’s earnings are up because they focus on the affluent, meaning $60,000 to $80,000 wage earners. They also have continued to add food items to their stores, competing on price with regular super markets. Dollar stores are even undercutting Walmart when it comes to food items.
There have been huge riots in England, disturbances in Italy and France, and most recently arsonists have started blowing up cars in Germany. So far, flash mob riots in the United States have been limited to outbreaks in Philadelphia and Cleveland.
The question is this: If in the heart of America people can’t even afford Walmart anymore, are we headed for the anger that boils over into violence as it’s begun to happen around the world? Egypt and the United States might look different in many respects, including the form of government, but the inequity of wealth is the same. So, too, is total absence of social mobility caused by the lack of a quality public education system to level the playing field.
If the average blue-collar worker in America is permanently unemployed, damn worried about slipping into that category, doesn’t have a college education and has no realistic way to get one, and is struggling mightily to feed their family at the dollar store, it seems plausible that the Tea Party is a mild reaction to an unfair and humiliating situation.
Let’s all try to find constructive ways to work toward greater equality and opportunity. Men, the hardest hit by the recession, need particular, specific help getting back into the workforce. And in the meantime, the one thing that is sure to fuel greater resentment is the utter lack of acknowledgment by those in Boston, Wall Street. and Silicon Valley of just how bad the situation is for a giant swath of our citizens.
—Photo by KevinDooley on Flickr