The BBC’s ‘Panorama’ documentary: “Poor America”

We recommend a viewing of this 30 minute documentary on poverty in the USA by the BBC’s Panorama team. Millions unemployed. Millions hungry. Millions homeless. Millions without access to health care. These are the facts of life in America at a time when corporate profits, worker productivity, and income inequality are at record highs.

However, the constant flood of facts and figures can obscure the grim reality of what these numbers really mean. What does it really mean to be hungry, homeless, and hopeless in America? Panorama’s “Poor America” shows the real face of the crisis for millions of Americans.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a film is worth many times more. These images and interviews are not from Russia in 1917, Venezuela in 1989, or Egypt in 2011. This is America, the “land of milk and honey.” Not the America of “The Grapes of Wrath,” but the America of Barack Obama, the Democrats, and the Republicans.

The Statue of Liberty once welcomed the refugees of the world with the following inspiring words by Emma Lazarus:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

We need not look far for the poor, homeless, wretched un-free refuse of capitalism. There are millions of us right here in the “land of opportunity.”

At the moment, the poor and unemployed are desperate and just hoping to survive. A bellyful of food and a few scraps of dignity are all millions of people can think about. They hope and pray that things will get better. But they will not get better. This is not an anomaly. This is not a hiccup in the system and in our lives. This will not soon pass. This is the “new normality” of life under capitalism. The Golden Age, such as it was, is dead and buried. With it are buried the hopes and dreams of millions who “played by the rules” in a game that was rigged from the start.

But we should add: this is not our fault. This is the inevitable result of a system based on the exploitation of the many for the profits of the few. No people can escape capitalism’s cold and calculating laws of development, not even the mighty colossus of the U.S. working class. But there is a way out. That way is socialism, a rational and truly democratic system in which the government is truly of, by, and for the people, and the economy is planned in the interests of the majority.

Americans are not ones to lie down and give up without a fight. In time, despair will turn into anger; and anger into action. Millions of people are coming to the conclusion that things will not get better on their own; that they will have to take matters into their own hands; that there must be something better than this. In society as in nature, similar conditions lead to similar results. What is being prepared in America, beneath the apparently calm surface of society, is a revolution. Watch this space: Wisconsin and the Occupy movement were only the beginning.

The documentary is available here:


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