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The President Providing Excuses for Me

From Issue: Volume XXI - Number 25

By Taylor Ramsey

On December 4, I heard bits and pieces of President Obama’s speech on “Economic Mobility” and it drove me nuts listening to those snippets. So I went home and printed it up to read it more carefully and I became more irritated. It reminded me of someone making excuses instead of tackling the problem head on and studying the facts to solve a problem. His speech was aimed at making sure Americans understand that those of us who are not rich are being held down and we have unequal opportunities to climb up the economic ladder.

During his speech telling us the government should be responsible for making sure life is equal, the president stated, “A new study shows that disparities in education, mental health, obesity, absent fathers, isolation from church, isolation from community groups – these gaps are now as much about growing up rich or poor as they are about anything else.

“The gap in test scores between poor kids and wealthy kids is now nearly twice what it is between white kids and black kids. Kids with working-class parents are 10 times likelier than kids with middle-or upper-class parents to go through a time when their parents have no income. So the fact is this: The opportunity gap in America is now as much about class as it is about race, and that gap is growing.”

Mr. President, you are completely wrong. The opportunity gap is not about class or race. The gap is a result of the breakdown of our families and personal choices. Families whose primary concern is to teach good values, stress the need to excel in school and demand good behavior and performance from their children are the ones who actually close the gap between the poor and the rich. To tell us the problem with low performance is because of someone’s race and the so-called class they were born into is irresponsible and reckless for any leader to spout, especially the President of the United States.

The president also indicated that, “if you work hard, you should make a decent living. If you work hard, you should be able to support a family.” In other words, it seems the President believes that the criteria for earning a living wage are simply to work hard. Should those who work hard, even in entry level jobs, be able to support a family on that job? Can you imagine a very hardworking 17-year-old kid who gets his first job as a busboy being able to support a family? How much would that kid’s employer charge for a meal?

Wrong again, Mr. President. No employer or government entity owes anyone a living wage. I owe it to myself and my family to earn the living wage needed to survive, no matter my personal situation. Many of those in need are those who make poor personal decisions that affect their ability to earn a decent wage or raise their children in above-poverty status.

In my opinion, the truth is this: We are the only ones to blame for personal situations … no one else. If a person decides to have children out of wedlock and raise them on their own, they are almost guaranteeing their children will be poor while in that home. If a person decides to drop out of school, they are assuring a life of poverty for themselves. Generally speaking, if a person decides to have children they cannot afford to raise, they are the only ones to blame for the condition of those children – no one else.

However, the good side is that there are some people who live in poverty who get married, stay married, work hard to earn a living and do all they can to raise their children with very good values and work ethic. The kids in those situations will greatly benefit no matter the color of their skin or their class. They are the lucky ones.

Investing more money in education, raising the minimum wage, etc. will not close the gap as history will show. Blaming some rich guy, a company or the government for not handing out more goodies will do absolutely nothing to help.

I was poor once and earning poverty wages. I am now considered a middle class citizen. My race or the class I was born into had nothing to do with me being in both those states. I did not earn a four-year college degree, but I got married, worked so very hard in low-paying jobs to earn experience and increase my marketability that led to better incomes and I believe I incorporated good values given to me by my family and the people I chose to associate with to “make it.”

Thankfully, my children have been able to avoid being poor and just maybe it was because we – along with those we associated with – demanded our children perform well and we instilled good values in them.

Mr. President, if you told me I was poor because of my race, my class or some rich guy was holding me down and I believed you … I would still be poor in so many ways.