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War Against Working People: War Against the World

Screenshot from the documentary The Working Poor: The Price of the American Dream | ENDEVR
In “The Working Poor: The Price of the American Dream” (Endevr, 2024), three main characters and their families explore what it means to be lost financially in t…

Screenshot from the documentary The Working Poor: The Price of the American Dream | ENDEVR

In “The Working Poor: The Price of the American Dream” (Endevr, 2024), three main characters and their families explore what it means to be lost financially in the US while hanging on to the remnants of the so-called American Dream. The documentary conducts in-depth interviews with a fast food worker with children who has relocated to Orlando, Florida from an unspecified location somewhere in the north, a carpenter, who has moved to Seattle, Washington to seek employment in the building trades and his wife and children, and a member of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, whose middle-class job in Erie, Pennsylvania at a General Electric locomotive plant is lost when the plant relocated to a non-unionized Southern plant.

The interviews are riveting! The mother-in-law of the struggling fast-food worker in Orlando, who moves sometimes as if in a trance from shift to shift at different jobs with an abysmally low minimum wage, admits that, and I paraphrase here, that the American Dream is not part of her daughter’s reality. Viewers witness the worker’s children living out of bags in one of a host of motels along a strip in Orlando that includes countless fast-food restaurants. The beauty and irony of these interviews is that the protagonists, all proud people and hard workers, talk in terms of the American Dream, and despite giving lip service to its obvious unreality, their surroundings in tent encampments with children, temporary homeless shelters, and eventually an apartment for the fast-food worker and her children, tell the real story of people and their families struggling in an economy that allows those with enormous wealth to consume and party as they have done since the stock market (and other investments) line their pockets and the tax debacle initiated by Ronald Reagan reaches into the pockets of the working poor. It is the class or robber barons waging war on the working poor to enhance the former’s astronomical wealth.

The documentary is the genre at its best and not the pablum of PBS and NPR and others with nothing besides shock with which to come away. Taking on the myth of the American Dream is unmasked in “The Working Poor” in the full disinfecting power of sunlight.

Germania, Joe and Chelsie, and Scott do everything that is required of workers and end up with their dignity within the labyrinths of reality and the war waged against honest hard-working people. They persevere in spite of dreams shattered! They are heroes of their own lives and their families despite daunting odds and the race to the bottom of the US system of how wealth and poverty are structured.

The war on working people is reflected in the war on the world by the US. The US far outstrips any other nation or combination of most nations in its trillions of dollars for military outlays. The exact dollar amount can be found at Brown University’s Costs of War Project of its Watson Institute. Choose a day and the US and its myriad wars are highlighted in headlines. The Middle East is now a burning tinderbox thanks to the US, its ally Israel, and other sycophants. The US now takes a direct part in supporting genocide in the Gaza Strip by Israel against the Palestinian people and the International Court of Justice has documented the latter. The US has between 700 and 800 military installations around the globe, with no nation even remotely close in bases. The US sells war much like it sells automobiles, appliances, and clothing. Here’s Bloomberg Government’s list of those weapons’ contractors and the money they rake in. My search for the latter was changed by way of Google’s laundering from “war contractors” to “defense contractors.” Even a bad comedian could discern what’s going on here.

Mass starvation is taking place in the Gaza Strip, yet another war crime in addition to the International Court of Justice finding of genocide in the Gaza Strip, perpetrated by Israel with the complicity of US.

The guns v. butter equation of the Vietnam War era comes to mind with Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” falling by the wayside in the billions of dollars pissed away killing millions of people in Vietnam and across Southeast Asia. Anti-communism was the rage then, now it’s one form of terrorism or another, but a casual observer might take a broader look at all of the terrorists, and how some evolved in answer to the wars of the US and its allies. The projection of power and the maintenance of US global economic hegemony are not far behind in motives for world domination.

Here in the US, from the desk at which I write these words in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts, the bluest of blue states, differences are not welcomed. As long as a person keeps his or her mouth shut all is well here. I am surrounded by wealth, not of the kind the robber barons of the 19th and early 20th centuries possessed, but wealth that is no less part of the ethos of greed.  Conspicuous consumption is also apparent. Here, there is the occasional property manager acting in the interests of those of moderate wealth who employ them, and in a bizarre twist of reality, some of those who work the land or on home maintenance identify with the wealth of their employers more than they do with their own interests, besides monetary.

I heard the words from the mouth of a property manager on one piece of land bordering my own that reflect antisemitism. The 20th century growth of fascism had part of its roots in rural areas connected to what Nazi thought considered the authentic people of Germany, or the ordinary folk. Nowhere is this better represented in literature than in Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America (2004), where families from Newark, New Jersey (and elsewhere) are encouraged to relocate to rural parts of the US Midwest, where in this fictional account, they could live and work on the land with “real people.” Roth’s fictional account of the relocation program is called “Just Folks.” Here, outside my window, heavy construction has gone on for years in homes that border my property with no one living in multiple dwellings except during summers and weekends on one property consisting of an expansive tract of land. The endless conspicuous consumption is remarkable. That property has two houses, one house-like structure, and a new pool.

As I walk up this neighbor’s driveway to work out an agreement to remove borderline stumps on our adjoining properties, the property manager blocks my way on the driveway and comments that he’s “Working on the land,” in answer to my greeting. He then verbally attacks me for being a “near s%#t,” a distinction he makes with a “total s%#t,” a person who he relates to has been driven off of the affordable housing committee in the town in which we both live. The property manager’s major complaint against me is that my wife and I complained to his employers that the work on this land went on for 9 months, beginning at 6:30 AM and ending at 6:30 PM, including some Saturdays and Sundays involving heavy construction trucks and the ceaseless noise of heavy construction machinery. The property manager says that I’m “known to the police,” an allegation for which I don’t get a return call from the town’s police chief. From a left perspective in an increasingly right-wing society, being “known to the police” is not heartening news. The property manager is also a town official and a cop once remarked to me that he is an American hero, although I don’t know the basis on which that assertion was made.

A fellow town resident reports that the property manager was beaten as a child by a former police chief here. I have no corroborating testimony of the latter, but my work in domestic violence as a counselor informs me that his behavior has many likenesses to bullies.

Affordable housing and reasonable rents are somewhat of a bad joke here, with skyrocketing housing prices and rental costs, as out-of-state residents buy up much of the local housing stock for second homes.

The property manager’s verbal attack is not all that unusual in this town governed by an authoritarian select board. A select board member verbally attacked a fellow citizen and her husband in print not long after my interaction with the property manager for not knowing how to  register  a complaint here, in regard to a failed effort to combine local towns in a larger school district than now exists.

This content originally appeared on and was authored by Howard Lisnoff.

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