rediff.com

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News 
Rediff.com  » Business » The story of an American beggar

The story of an American beggar

Last updated on: November 2, 2010 08:24 IST

The story of an American beggar

     Next

Next
Prasanna Zore in Miami

Disclaimer: This report would not have been possible without this correspondent bribing a 72-year-old American who was begging at a busy junction in downtown Miami. The name of the person used in this report is author's imagination.

This old man agreed to talk to this correspondent only when he was assured he would be given a princely sum of one dollar. He, however, refused to reveal either his face or name for publication.

When US President Barack Obama lands in Mumbai on November 5 he would have carefully thought through his strategy if he were to bid for 2012 Presidential re-elections.

The results of the US mid-term elections would have, by then, been announced, and if the script goes as per what poll pundits here are predicting then the President's party would have received a drubbing in the race for the Congress and continue to rule the Senate with a wafer-thin majority.

By the time he visits Mumbai there are all the chances that he would not rethink of changing his stance of not giving tax breaks to US companies that generate jobs in foreign shores that prominently include countries like China, India, the Philippines and many others in Asia.

Click on NEXT to read more...


Image: US President Barack Obama.
Photographs: Reuters
     Next

The story of an American beggar

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

By the time President Obama leaves India by November 8 there are all the chances that the huge army of multinational executives and darlings of Wall Street accompanying him on this leg would have cut multi-billion dollars deals possibly expecting these deals to help pump-prime the US economy that is, as many economists believe, still recovering sluggishly.

That, though, will not bring any hope for 72-year-old Alex Smith.

An African-American by birth like his country's President, Alex, a class XII grader, has been living off the streets of Miami ever since he migrated to the Sunshine state from Masachussets 10 years back.

Click on NEXT to read more...


Image: Alex Smith hiding his face behind his placard.
Photographs: Prasanna Zore
Prev     Next

The story of an American beggar

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

One spring afternoon in 2000 Alex's manager walked down to him in his steel factory and told him he was laid off.

His steel manufacturing company, his manager told Alex, was unable to pay him and other welders like him eight dollars an hour and yet make profits faced as it was by an onslaught by Chinese competitors who produced steel at half the cost.

"All the jobs were gone, man," Alex recalls as he paces up and down the walkway on 13th Street, Brickell Avenue, in downtown Miami, with tired feet, with a placard in his hand scribbled in his own handwriting that reads: Need food or work. Can you help?

Alex says he would not beg if he were to get a job. "I'm a good gardener but nobody's employing me."

Click on NEXT to read more...


Image: A worker in a steel factory.
Photographs: Reuters
Prev     Next

The story of an American beggar

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Whenever vehicles grind to a halt at this busy junction as the signal turns red Alex raises the placard and walks in front of the rich who rev their gas guzzlers waiting for the light to turn green.

Two small bags on a trolley, all of Alex's worldly belongings, mutely witness Alex's hopelessness as he begs at the signal with his placard in hand.

"For all I know the metal used in these cars could have come from China as well," he says looking at the snazzy vehicles that speed past him when signal's green.

He strongly feels that whoever wins the mid-term elections November 2 nobody will be able to ameliorate his condition.

"Politicians fight each other (the Democrats and the Republicans) and we are still on the streets," says Alex who divorced his wife in 2000 because he couldn't manage his financials.

"I have been sleeping on the streets of Miami ever since I came here," says he.

Click on NEXT to read more...


Image: Alex Smith with his belongings at a street corner in Miami.
Photographs: Prasanna Zore
Prev     Next

The story of an American beggar

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

He says he voted for Bill Clinton in the presidential election - which was also the last time he voted - and does not intend to cast his ballot on November 2.

"Our country is in ruins... all the jobs have shifted to cheap destinations like China, India, Vietnam and the Philippines," he says wanly.

Not surprisingly, one of the most important factors that is likely to cost the Democrats dear this year is the growing unemployment rate.

While the national unemployment rate has inched close to 10 per cent, in Florida it has touched a high of 11.9 per cent according to Dr Sean D Foreman assistant professor of political science at Barry University in Miami.

Click on NEXT to read more...


Image: Former US President Bill Clinton.

Prev     Next

The story of an American beggar

Prev     More
Prev

More

Interestingly, this official unemployment figure, which the Obama administration is trying to contain to politically comfortable levels, may not have place for people like Alex and many others like him.

In this context the next two years of President Obama's term will prove to be clincher if he bids for re-election in 2012.

Whatever happens to Barack Obama's presidential fate in 2012 Alex would still be where he is today with his small mobile unit.

"The rich sold America; Americans sold America," he says getting ready to raise his placard again as the lights at the junction turn red.


Image: People queueing up at an employment agency.
Photographs: Reuters
Prev     More