Thura 1 Matt Thura Ms. O’ Connor English 11 AP 19 November 2015 Painting the Future of America America is arguably one of the greatest nations of all time. Ever since its creation, it has been a unique place built on the robust ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This pursuit of happiness is what created America in the first place, as the founding fathers and optimistic colonists fought for their beliefs in independence against the antagonistic British. The revolution allowed many great intellectuals to emerge from the crowds and share their views about the future of this prodigious nation. One of these intellectuals was Thomas Paine, a pamphleteer who influenced the thoughts of the entire nation solely by his literary skills. His book Rights of Man conveys his perspective on America, and how “people from different nations” can live in “cordial unison” by “the simple operation of constructing government on the principles of society and the rights of man.” It was the views of Thomas Paine and other revolutionaries that made people aspire for a country where this unison between diverse people can happen. However, times are changing and the idealistic outlooks from two centuries ago are not tangible today. Thomas Paine’s characterization of America stands true to the extent that America is still a melting pot of different cultures, but stands false in the current effects the government has on rich, poor, and different ethnic people . Thomas Paine’s characterization of America as a melting pot of diverse people still holds true today. In fact, America is much more diverse than it was in the 1790’s. Timothy Kane, an economist and research fellow with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, further validates the current diversity. In issue 1401 of his publication, he states that “even today, over
2 one million foreigners migrate to the US legally and permanently every year — a greater amount than any other country on Earth” (Kane). Immigration is an important source of America’s diversity, proving that immigrants want to be in this country. The fact that the number of immigrants is greater than any other country on Earth says a lot about how America maintains a government subject to the correct principles and the natural rights of man. The government still stands true to the level of standards that the founding fathers made. The incoming immigrants are not the only people to recognize and praise the new opportunities available in America. The Stanford publication further explores that “84% of our experts think immigration is a good thing for the United States, and 30 of 38 [79% of experts] think the level of legal immigration should be increased,” showing that the “results of the survey show a much deeper level of consensus on immigration [among experts] than one might expect” (Kane). Modern-day experts support immigration and diversity just like the founding fathers, because of the potential benefits they have on society in the U.S. Even though immigrants may have different religions or speak another language, they can stimulate the economy by being large sources of labor who spend money, which stimulates the economy even further. An instance of this is the Korean American population in Los Angeles, who are “associated with hopes, dreams, and aspirations” (Abelmann and Lie). Adding more ingredients into the melting pot can turn an ordinary stew into a five star dish. Unfortunately, the recipe does not always quite turn out as it was planned. Although America is made up of different ethnic groups like Thomas Paine stated, the current oppression of the poor is unlike anything he imagined for this nation. Paine viewed the unified government of his time capable of creating a place where “the poor are not oppressed, the rich are not privileged.” However, the results are the exact opposite of what he expected. Timothy Smeeding is a professor at Syracuse University who has done research about poverty rates in the United States. He states that the relative poverty rate of all persons is “17.0 percent in
3 the United States, with an average rate of 10.3 percent across the eleven countries,” while even “Canadian and British poverty are both about 12 percent and are, therefore, far below the U.S. levels” (Smeeding). Although these numbers were calculated about eight years ago, any number around seventeen percent is too large of a number. Canada and Britain’s lower poverty rates also show that America’s rate is not a case of being a large country. As the saying goes, with money comes power, and with power comes responsibility, but the wealthy men and women of America have not been very responsible in handling this case. Their response to the rate really exemplifies the oppression of the poor, because “of the countries listed, the United States devotes by far the smallest share of its resources to antipoverty income transfer programs” (Smeeding). The rich are acting privileged and insensitive to the poor, which was not how Paine and other revolutionaries characterized America. The rich are destroying the union for all types of people that the United States once stood for. In William Epstein’s book (from the University of Wisconsin Press) about American welfare, there is “an absolute decline in living standards among some socioeconomic groups, relative inequality… competition over scarce resources… and rising social tensions” (Epstein). There is nothing “cordial” about the poor’s situation, and the conditions that Epstein describes is a crutch in the development of the United States. If oppression was gone, then America would be one step closer to the great society that Thomas Paine once envisioned. Although varying ethnic groups currently exist, the separation between them is also distancing America away from Thomas Paine’s visions of the nation. William Epstein’s book also contains information about differences economically between ethnic groups. Epstein describes how “large economic disparities persist among blacks, Hispanics, and whites with poverty rates in 1993 of 33 percent, 31 percent, and 12 percent respectively” (Epstein). While the author acknowledges that official statistics may be exaggerated, this is still a very large gap between whites and other groups. This statistic also suggests that the “other” ethnic groups
4 mainly fall into the bottom of the social rankings, where all the oppression and inequalities for the poor exist. Falling to the bottom of the melting pot creates other problems to Paine’s view of the future. Paine suggested from the start that there will be “nothing to render them wretched, there is nothing to engender riots and tumults.” However, the separation of whites, blacks, and other ethnic groups often creates horrible riots and disorderly behavior. A famous case of conflicts to exhibit the struggle between rich and poor classes of different ethnicities was the L.A. riots of 1992. The authors Nancy Abelmann and John Lie wrote an entire book (published by the Harvard University press) about the three different groups in the 1992 incident: the whites, blacks, and Korean Americans. Abelmann and Lie state that an African American was afflicted by an “episode of police brutality,” which led to “civil disobedience, rioting, looting” that made Korean Americans in Los Angeles “riot victims” (Abelmann and Lie). This incident exemplifies a horrific situation where different ethnic groups violently attacked one other. Blacks were incredibly frustrated by the police brutality, making the poverty that so many of them faced even worse. Koreans were also frustrated by all the rioting caused by blacks, making them lose money that they desperately need. It was more than just a riot, but rather a rebellion, an “effort by many people to change the government of a country by the use of protest or violence” (Merriam-Webster). This was a controlled rebellion in which lower class ethnic groups were rebelling and rioting against the upper class whites. The melting pot needs to be stirred whenever different ingredients are added, in order to be uniform throughout. If the “cordial unison” of America is not equal throughout, it will never reach a state of unity. Thomas Paine’s characterization of America still stands true to a certain extent, but doesn’t hold to be entirely true today. While there are many different people from different nations immigrating into the United States, communities in the United States have not really unified. The prospect of growth and wellness of life that is so well sought out for is hard to find
5 when inequality exists. The equality throughout these different people must be addressed in order to preserve the peace and avoid rioting across America. Otherwise, incidents like the Los Angeles riots could become commonplace. If immigrants are continually put into the poor and lower class, America will only become more unpredictable and have more instability. In order to complete the nation that our founding fathers started, the separating ends between ethnicities need to be connected. Works Cited
6 Abelmann, Nancy, and John Lie. Blue Dreams: Korean Americans and the Los Angeles Riots. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1995. Web. <https://books.google.com/ books? hl=en&lr=&id=BawoT007lesC&oi=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=unity+riots+america&ots=WPZ9 gRF7af&sig=Oiblpqc5wYlBKxaNWebg0NHqzas#v=onepage&q&f=false>. Epstein, William. Welfare in America: How Social Science Fails the Poor. Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1997. Web. <https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr= &id=J1ZhPTFM-K4C&oi=fnd&pg=PP8&dq=poor+oppression+america&ots=09mNaaz- K2&sig=oCv2jCwudPQLdPiBBzusj87qHHU#v=onepage&q&f=false>. Kane, Timothy. “American Immigration in the 21st Century.” Peregrine! 1. 1401 (2014): n. pag. Hoover Institution. Web. 12 Nov. 2015. <http://www.hoover.org/research/peregrine- american-immigration-21st-century>. “Rebellion.” Merriam Webster. An Encyclopaedia Britannica Company, 2015. Web. 13 Nov. 2015. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/>. Smeeding, Timothy. “Poor People in Rich Nations: The United States in Comparative Perspective.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 20. 1 (2006): 75-78. Maxwell School, Syracuse University. Web. 13 Nov. 2015. <http://pubs.aeaweb.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1257/ 089533006776526094>.