The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Los Angeles
– a capitalist model

Mar 15, 2004

In the year 2000, more than half of the Los Angeles area's population lived in neighborhoods where at least 20% of the population is under the official poverty level. This figure has more than tripled over the last 30 years. This data comes from a study conducted by UCLA and the Brookings Institution.

Thirty years ago, poverty in the L.A. area was concentrated in inner-city neighborhoods. Since then, many of these already poor neighborhoods have slipped into the category "very poor," with 40% or more of the population living under the poverty limit, while more and more suburban areas have become poor.

In other words, poverty, grinding poverty, is a fact of life for large parts of the working class in Los Angeles.

A separate study by the public policy research group, Economic Roundtable, found the rate of homelessness in the L.A. area to be very high. And, like poverty in general, homelessness affects entire layers of the working class. Of the more than 250,000 people who experience homelessness in L.A. County over the course of a year, only about five% are permanently homeless. The rest are people who go in and out of homelessness – with the number spiking at the beginning of the year, reflecting the usual end-of-the year layoffs and cutoffs in welfare programs. And two-thirds of the homeless people are homeless as a family – usually a mother and children.

This same survey found that, contrary to popular belief, L.A. County in recent years exported more homeless people to other counties and states than it imported – meaning that the rate at which the L.A. area produces poverty and homelessness is even higher than what these figures show.

All of this in Los Angeles – one of the centers of world capitalism and one of the wealthiest areas of the whole world. At the same time that capitalism creates enormous wealth for a few, it impoverishes millions upon millions of working people.