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Opinion: Promise of the American Dream is broken
A boy sits in his uncle's home April 21 in Owsley County, Kentucky, where 44.5% of residents live below the poverty line.
April 27th, 2012
11:18 AM ET

Opinion: Promise of the American Dream is broken

Editor's note: Tavis Smiley is the host of the late-night television talk show "Tavis Smiley" on PBS and Cornel West is a professor at Princeton. They co-host "Smiley & West" on Public Radio International, and their new book is "The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto."

By Tavis Smiley and Cornel West, Special to CNN

(CNN) - The U.S. Department of Labor recently announced that the unemployment rate fell to 8.2%. That should have been a signal that jobs are coming back and that the economy is about to rebound. But, as many economists say, the numbers fell primarily because unemployed Americans have become so discouraged with trying to find a job that they've simply quit looking.

Because nearly one-third of the American middle class, mostly families with children, have fallen into poverty or are one paycheck away from poverty, it is paramount that we dissect the root causes of this mass disenfranchisement within the American workforce. This was the motivation behind "The Poverty Tour: A Call to Conscience," our 18-city bus tour that traveled across the country last year. It was designed to bring more attention to the plight of impoverished Americans.

These citizens do not fit the negative stereotypes and propaganda that we've heard during the Republican presidential primary contests. The candidates who have vowed to cut government subsidies speak of the poor as if their constituents had been exempted from the millions who, despite their middle-class identification and aspirations, now fall beneath the established poverty line.

Read Tavis Smiley and Cornel West's full column

soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Kulit

    Yeah, Tavis is cool ppeloe. I think it's ppeloe like him that Muslims should foster more dialog with because even though he's not Muslim, he's empathetic to Muslims.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:32 am | Report abuse |
  2. gung hoe

    @ mr stephens basic economics encourage rich to invest their wealth creates jobs and we have jobs.Tax the wealthy and the wealthy still are wealthy we have more money for politicians to spend on gov programs but work is non existent,As it is under obamanomics.Dont know about you but I prefer to have work so as to provide for my family.

    April 29, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Name* Steve Stephens Jr.

    It's the good 'ol 'Trickle Down Economics', get those who aren't the elect of God out, and truth shall 'rain down' onto & into the dryest areas. Still basic math.

    April 28, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  4. hamsta

    @87 couldnt have said it better myself.and that comes from a poor man.obama and company are just pandering the welfare crowd.maybe they should all just get a job.oh yeah thats right obama is the job destroyer.

    April 27, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
  5. 87

    What do you suggest we do mr. Smiley? Seriously. Raise minimum wage to $20 an hour? Force businesses and companies to hire? Or wait simply let the rich people spread their wealth, so those of us making under $250,000 a year can live on hand outs? That all may sound good to you but there's a problem, the money isn't there! You libs are so stupid always attacking "the man" always going after those who are better off than most. As if they should be punished for their success. Are you too dumb to realize our businesses and company owners are the American dream! The dream that coming here and working hard pays off. And one day you can a ccomplish your dreams. You and the Obama train can keep rolling down the tracks of class warfare. You can keep living in that envious state. But the tracks end in november, when the People decide to pass you by without a blink, ready to put are shoulder to the plow and do the hard work of bringing us back. Success is always on the side of those who fight for it, never on those who angiush in self pity.

    April 27, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |