The American workforce is changing rapidly at a speed that is very difficult to define and keep pace with. We are in the midst of a new age driven by new technologies. The world of education and training is going through a revolutionary re-adjustment. The common jobs of yesterday that provided more than adequate sustenance are gone forever, and today’s average citizen is unable to come up with a solid game plan to pull out and excel.
The millions of unemployed and under-employed are facing unprecedented challenges. Jobs that pay enough to cover basic necessities have decreased dramatically in number. People who grew accustomed to earning a livable wage at jobs that they tolerated or sometimes actually enjoyed are being forced into low-paying jobs that they loathe.
The minimum wage has stagnated and fallen way behind inflation. The middle class is shrinking as the vast gap between the haves and have-nots grows wider. It is commonly noted today that more than 100 million people in the U.S. are either poor or classified as low-income workers.
For a good many eye-opening points of view on American poverty, read “The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto” co-authored by Tavis Smiley, popular PBS talk show host and liberal commentator, and Cornell West, notable activist and Princeton University Professor. In an interview on Democracy Now!, a national, daily, independent, award-winning news program hosted by journalists Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, Smiley and West explain how we are experiencing a societal crisis as one percent of our population now have 42 percent of the wealth, amounting to a greed-at-the-top phenomenon that West referred to as “an ethical abomination.”
In Chrystia Freeland’s book “Plutocrats,” we are introduced to a rapidly growing modern repeat of the Gilded Age that is producing people of unprecedented wealth. “In the 1970s, the top one percent of earners captured about 10 percent of the national income. Thirty-five years later, their share had risen to nearly a third of the national income,” Freeland writes.
“Meanwhile, the vast majority of American workers, who may be superbly skilled at their jobs and work at them doggedly, have not only missed these windfalls — many have found their professions, companies, and life savings destroyed by the same forces that have enriched and empowered the plutocrats. Both globalization and technology have led to the rapid obsolescence of many jobs in the West; they’ve put Western workers in direct competition with low-paid workers in poorer countries; and they have generally had a punishing impact on those without the intellect, education, luck, or chutzpah to profit from them: median wages have stagnated, as machines and developing world workers have pushed down the value of middle-class labor in the West.” 
Adding fuel to the fire, the U.S. is no longer what it used to be and is going through an unsuccessful restructuring of itself, at least for now. New York Times journalist Thomas Friedman and foreign policy professor Michael Mandelbaum explain in their book “That Used to be Us” how the U.S. has fallen into a complacency and that over the past two decades “we as a country have failed to address our biggest problems —particularly education, deficits and debt, and energy and climate change — and now they have all worsened to a point where they cannot be ignored but they cannot be effectively addressed without collective action and collective sacrifice.” 
- Democracy Now. (April 12, 2012). Tavis Smiley & Cornel West on The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto.http://www.democracynow.org/2012/4/19/tavis_smiley_cornel_west_on_the.
- Chrysta Freeland. (2012). Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else. The Penguin Press.
- Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum. (2011). That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back. Picador.