The economic crisis normalizes poverty

With the term normalize I wish to suggest that the current economic crisis is now transforming an enduring but largely disavowed phenomenon (homelessness) into something people can rightly anticipate, accept as inevitable and even fear as a possible fate they may suffer. The media have a role to play in this transformation, according to Rose Aguilar:

Over the past few months, reporters from around the world have flocked to the now-famous tent city in Sacramento, Calif. When they find out that 55-year-old John Kraintz has been living in a tent for almost seven years, they turn around and walk away.

"They don't want to talk to me," he says. "They're searching for people who just lost their homes. It's kinda tough to lose a home when you've never owned one. Sorry, but most of the people here have been homeless for a long time."

Kraintz and so many other homeless people like him have been living in scattered Sacramento encampments for years, but they've been largely ignored and hidden from public view. That is, until Lisa Ling, a reporter with the Oprah show, came to town in late February to focus on what Oprah Winfrey called the "new faces" of homelessness.

Myopia such as can be seen here is just one consequence that issues from the common distinction drawn between the "deserving" and "undeserving poor." Poverty — and thus homelessness — is but one of the essential features which characterize the American political economy. It was never acceptable because it was never unavoidable.

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