I’m an old[er] white male living in Australia, and about to go to Boston next week. It’s my second time in the US. But my take on the US the last time was not unlike yours, but without the crying. In Australia, we still have unemployment benefits [and I was receiving them less than five years ago]. People in work are usually paid enough to live on. We have legislated minimum wage rates, and it’s a matter of public outrage when companies like 7–11 pay below them. But in the US, people can work full-time at WalMart and still need food stamps and welfare. Australians don’t feel the need to tip service staff, because here they are properly compensated, but wait staff in the US are not only dependent on tips to survive, the IRS taxes them as though they received those tips, so the whole sick process is utterly entrenched. And this is just the observables on a brief trip; the entrenched poverty and lack of agency that you talk about are the direct consequences of a Thatcherite mentality that blames it on the afflicted, and a blinkered belief that ‘market forces’ are the way to bring midde-class prosperity t the poor. The fact that it’s never worked anywhere else is no comfort to those who still believe there is an American Dream.