Bootstraps and Rising Tides: Building Shared Prosperity in Sacramento

When I left home at the age of 16, I remember thinking that I would be back at some point – I was wrong. I found myself bouncing around from place to place (eventually moving to Sacramento), working two jobs at a time, and trying to put myself through school. Despite working more than full time, I struggled to keep myself out of a vicious cycle.


Each pay period, I knew to pull the last $20 out of my bank account so I would have enough to buy groceries until I was paid next. I also knew I would incur overdraft fees that would make it harder and harder to catch up. I watched my debt grow while I struggled to juggle work, keeping a roof over my head, and paying college expenses. And every time I got an unexpected parking ticket or bill, I knew what that meant: late penalties and a hole that kept getting deeper.


Sometimes it was hard to see a way out.


It was difficult to see then what is plain to me now: the system was designed this way. As they say, it’s expensive to be poor. Indeed, the term “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” has been so widely accepted as a false narrative that it is most commonly used sarcastically. It’s a phrase that suggests those without aren’t working hard enough, and fails to recognize that the real culprit is a system designed to benefit the wealthy and the few.


It’s the same hat trick that has people focusing on recipients of public assistance rather than corporate welfare and “white collar” crime. Meanwhile, food stamps have never collapsed the worldwide economy the way our financial sectors almost did.


This is why I am running in 2022 for Sacramento City Council in the fifth district. We need a change.


I wish to end the cycle of those in power keeping us pointing fingers at one another rather than the systemic issues that drive inequity. It turns out that a political system powered by money produces its desired effect: allowing those who have wealth to keep it and accrue more.


This is no more evident than during this global pandemic where millions face unemployment and evictions, and many have become homeless or are on the brink. In this same time period, billionaires have seen their wealth grow by $1.3 trillion – an unfathomable amount.


And we can’t talk about inequity if we don’t talk about racial disparities. Black families have been some of the hardest hit during the pandemic and are less likely to be caught up on rent, more worried about being evicted in the next two months, more likely to have lost work, and more likely to get sick and die from COVID-19. 


While these problems exist throughout the U.S., I believe that real change happens locally and builds from the ground up. Those suffering are not statistics, but our neighbors – and their suffering affects our communities and the city as a whole. I also believe that the government’s core tasks are maintaining our infrastructure, driving policy on our behalf, and ultimately being accountable to us, the people.


Despite what some elected officials may have you believe, budgeting is not a science only known to a select few. It turns out that people are incredibly adept at budgeting, because we do it every day. For example, many low-income families are paying a much greater percentage of their total income on housing every month than those in other socioeconomic classes. This means less money for food, utilities, transportation, and unplanned expenses. Who better to tell the city how to manage the people’s money than them?


I believe this city has more than enough resources to take care of everyone who needs it within our borders, we just need the will and a desire to stand up against the status quo. We need to focus our energy on the people and neighborhoods that need it most, introduce local policies that build up the wealth and well-being of the most vulnerable, and realize that helping people survive is not a hand out, but a hand up.


And the best part is the old adage that “rising tides lift all boats” is true. Helping our neighbors thrive will lead to shared prosperity for all.


That’s what I’m fighting for.


Caity Maple is a member of the Oak Park Neighborhood Association. Visit www.CaityMaple.com.