After four years of President Barack Obama’s economic policies, the Census Bureau reports 49.7 million people are living in poverty with another 30 million Americans living only one paycheck away from the poverty line.
In total, nearly 80 million people are enduring lifestyles of painful austerity and hunger in a difficult struggle to survive in America during the Obama era.
President Barack Obama signed a massive $787 billion economic stimulus bill only one month after his first inauguration in 2009. The entire stimulus was funded through deficit spending, meaning that with interest payments included, the final bill will cost American taxpayers more than $1 trillion.
After the American Recovery Act of 2009 passed the Democrat-controlled Congress, the president flew the bill with him on Air Force One to Denver, Colorado to sign the legislation into law in front of a crowd of alternative energy activists and business executives from green energy companies, hailing so-called “green jobs” and alternative energy as the foundation for his economic recovery by saying:
“I have every confidence that if we are willing to continue doing the critical work that must be done – by each of us, by all of us – then we will leave this struggling economy behind us, and come out on the other side, more prosperous as a people.”
At his Georgetown University speech in April 2009, President Barack Obama again detailed his strategy for reviving the U.S. economy by creating millions of “green jobs” through the subsidies contained in the stimulus bill, saying:
“Now, the third pillar of this new foundation is to harness the renewable energy that can create millions of new jobs and new industries. We all know that the country that harnesses this new energy source will lead the 21st century…. So the investments we made in the Recovery Act will double this nation's supply of renewable energy in the next three years. And we are putting Americans to work making our homes and buildings more efficient so that we can save billions on our energy bills and grow our economy at the same time.”
If the $787 billion in the 2009 stimulus was meant to revive the economy and create “millions of new ‘green’ jobs,” the results in 2013 can only be described as an abysmal failure. Like awakening from a sugar-coated fantasy to the cold realization of concrete reality, the Denver Post reported in October 2012 that a combination of failed investments in green energy projects, layoffs, and bankruptcies were decimating the alternative energy market in the very state in which President Obama signed the bill into law.
The Face of Cold Reality in the Obama Era
On the streets of downtown Los Angeles, the first four years of the Obama presidency provide evidence of a much more dire and urgent picture of America in crisis. For those facing daily struggles to survive, the notion of being saved by President Barack Obama’s “green jobs” seems like an insult compounded by delusion.
The 50-square block section of downtown Los Angeles known as Skid Row had seen its population of homeless sleeping on city sidewalks drop to below 800, but during Obama’s presidency that number has more than doubled to 1,693 in March 2012, according to the L.A. Times.
Times reporter Alexandra Zavis writes in her account of the desperation in downtown Los Angeles:
“As evening falls, a dazed woman with a gangrenous thumb spreads a blanket over a row of plastic crates to make a bed on the urine-soaked sidewalk. As many as 10 people are camping along this stretch of pavement on 6th Street in downtown Los Angeles. Their belongings — tents, sleeping bags, shopping carts, a leather chair, at least two microwaves and piles of clothing — nearly cover the concrete. Rats scuttle in the gutter. A bony man lights up a crack pipe.”
Union Rescue Mission’s Rev. Andrew Bales is quoted as saying, “We nearly had demolished the skid row of old. It's right back to what it was.”
The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce estimates that Skid Row’s actual population is somewhere between 8,000 and 11,000. The Chamber of Commerce describes the population as mostly African-American males, with 20 percent of the residents on Skid Row being military veterans.
Of those, the L.A. Chamber estimates approximately 2,000 to 2,500 sleep in missions and rescue shelters, while roughly 6,000 occupy run-down residential hotels, and around 2,000 remain homeless on the streets.
The King of the American Economy
President Barack Obama has visited other, more affluent parts of the Los Angeles metropolitan area during his first term. Obama went everywhere from the set of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno to George Clooney’s house for a $15 million fundraising dinner to the View Point neighborhood, which is known in L.A. as the “Black Beverly Hills.”
Despite the ebullient hopes of its struggling residents on the day of his first inauguration in 2009, President Obama has yet to visit Skid Row and tour the economic devastation that persists throughout his presidency.
The royal couple spent an afternoon with an inner-city arts school for poor children in Skid Row. Prince William and his wife Catherine wore aprons and made ceramics with the children.
According to the L.A. Times, the children were overjoyed by the attention and approval from the royal couple, with one child saying, “I was thinking, Oh my gosh, what if they don't like me? They are just like regular people; regular people in these really important positions.”
Seeing the surreal level of desperation and human suffering among the homeless population of Skid Row with their own eyes, the president of the Inner-City Arts non-profit told the L.A. Times that Prince William and Catherine seemed “astonished” by the vast number of homeless people living on the streets of Los Angeles.
There is a tragic irony in the fact that a blueblood European groomed for monarchy - the future King of England - has witnessed true poverty and economic desperation in America’s second-largest city, but the first African-American President of the United States has only spent time in the corridors of tony mansions and dining rooms of the elite during his Los Angeles visits.
Catastrophic Economic Epidemic
Sadly, poverty and homelessness of Skid Row has spread well beyond the confines of downtown L.A. and is a citywide epidemic of nightmare proportions all throughout Los Angeles County.
The L.A. Chamber of Commerce estimates there are 83,347 homeless in Los Angeles, with nearly 35,000 that qualify as chronically homeless. Of those, 39 percent are African-American, 29 percent are Caucasian, and 25 percent are Latino.
Nearly every shopping center, store parking lot, or major intersection in Los Angeles now has beggars pleading for food and assistance in January 2013.
Former Princeton professor and anti-poverty crusader Dr. Cornel West summed up Obama’s first four years by saying:
“We end up with a Republican, a Rockefeller Republican in blackface, with Barack Obama, so that our struggle with regard to poverty intensifies.”
The suffering has become so widespread and commonplace that in the past four years poverty has become a citywide epidemic in Los Angeles during the Obama era.