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A Fire in the Basement

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The problem lies at the very infrastructure of our country, the basement. This is the point that Bob Herbert is trying to argue in his article, “A Fire in The Basement”. He talks about the many injustices that happen in America that often go ignored or excused. This piece was served as an introduction to his collections of editorials from 1995-2004. He is a columnist for the New York Times and they are dedicated to the issues of race and poverty in the United States. Bob Herbert suggests that the United States of America is in serious trouble even though currently it may be more powerful and prosperous than ever before. Herbert uses many examples that asks the question, “what has happened to the values that once made The United States special and different to other nations of the world: the core ideals of ‘freedom, justice, equality, and opportunity’?” (Herbert 398). He believes our society has stopped the chase of accomplishing and maintaining these values. This is the basis of his entire article. His view of the United States is that we have too much corruption, abuse of power, and waste of money. I strongly agree with this viewpoint. I think we need to uproot the powers and find honest people to run this country.

The mentality that the United States is represented as the land of freedom and opportunity is false despite the vast number of immigrants in the country. Today there is an increasing amount of men and women unable to find jobs, and as a result of this, these middle class families are winding up in incredible amounts of debt. In Bob Herbert’s travels to different cities in the United States, he found that there are staggering numbers of young adults of approximately 5.5 million across America who are out of school, unemployed, and do not receive any help from the government to find work or further their education (Herbert 400). This finding supports Herbert’s claim that America is moving in the wrong direction since teenagers will one day become the working class and the future of this nation. But what will become of America if these teenagers themselves have no future? These young adults are being ignored and thus will impact the nation greatly as the gap of the rich and poor will grow due to their differences in their ability.

Unlike the times when the people of this country were committed to protecting the rights of workers, today the people running this nation are selfish, full of greed, and care not for the middle class American, but only for fattening their own pockets. In my view, I agree with Herbert’s observations on the current standard of living where the wealthy are not affected by the poor state of economy meanwhile, there are increasing number of homeless citizens. I have witnessed many people around me lose their jobs and forced to foreclose on their houses and even file for bankruptcy all the while, the very rich CEO’s, who earns 400 – 500 times of the worker’s income, of major companies asking for bailouts and receiving just that (Herbert 400). Unfortunately, there isn’t the same option for the middle class worker. We have now let a small group of very rich and powerful people make economic decisions for us, which in turn has not been beneficial to people who are in need.

Despite all the effort Harry Truman did to restore the United States after the depression and World War II, we have not upheld all the effective work he did to this day. Herbert uses a quote from one of our former presidents Franklin Roosevelt, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have too much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” (Herbert 399). We have allowed the rich to become richer and the poor to become worse off. We have been set back, while our government has deceived us, withheld information, and abused power for personal gain. Herbert states the fact that many families are in debt, and the 9 million Americans who are out of work are struggling just to keep food on the table, as the wealthy ones in the nation can afford to spend $10 million on a diamond necklace or even more pathetically, “a fountain pen that costs $102,000.” (Herbert 400). This shows how America needs to promote equality and justice by finding solutions that will help the majority of people.

Herbert’s hope for America is someone to call attention to what he calls “injustice and deceit” and for someone to stand up and fight for anyone and everyone who needs a helping hand” (Herbert 402). At some point in the post-war run, “we took a wrong turn,” that causes all aspects of America to worsen, according to Herbert even though we made lots of advancements and became the strongest and greatest country in the world (Herbert 402). Now the whole building is starting to burn from the bottom and this can only lead to one thing if it not fixed, a collapse. “A Fire In The Basement,” even just basing the message from the title, suggests that America should wake up and start “smelling the smoke,” realizing there’s a problem here with the direction we’ve been going in, and wake up, and put out this fire by solving the problems.

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