The Thirty Minute Blogger

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Friday, July 25, 2014

INJUSTICE: Poverty Crushes in These United States

Of the 46.5 million Americans living in poverty ($19,090 for a family of 3), women were 32% more likely to live in poverty than men, 16.4 million of the impoverished are children, and over one million of those children are homeless. One of the most pernicious lies about poverty is that any individual wishing to rise out of poverty need only "pull themselves up by their own bootstraps" and "be a self-made man and woman." It does not work that way. Living in poverty means living without support in many different spheres of life at once. It means you do not have social safety nets in place, your education may have been less-than-beneficial given your environment (perhaps you learned as some children do that when gun shots ring out in your neighborhood while you're walking to school that you hide in a trash can until things are quiet again, all the while praying some stray round will not find you among the garbage), you have little support from family, cannot easily access social services because you cannot get to and from appointments in various offices quickly or frequently, and the list goes on. Let's explore how fragile the hope of rising out of poverty is for those who struggle with one simple example.

For the rest of us, losing a license or a photo ID is a mere nuisance. We head down to the DMV, order and pay for a new copy (roughly $30), chide ourselves for our carelessness and the lost couple of hours and move on with our lives. Now, if you are poor and lose that ID, you have a problem. Without it, you can't get a job and get paid. Without pay, you cannot replace the ID. What do you do? You don't have social safety nets, family and friends easily capable of helping out, and you are in a bind. Now, suppose you do get the cash together. You still have to get to and from the DMV, most likely on public transport. Where do you keep your kids while you do all this? Take them with you and pay the extra fares you may or may not have?

Suppose you get the ID, secure the job, and start getting paid. Most likely, you won't be making a huge income, probably something still below the poverty line. After all, half of all the jobs in the US pay less than $34,000 a year ... which really makes the proposition that anyone can succeed who tries look like the crock it is. You are still going to be living one setback away from jobless disaster again. There are states after all where employers have the right to fire employees for no reason at all. Have the bus run late too often, have children get sick and keep you out of work too much, lose your apartment through misfortune, and there you go. You're out of work again and foundering once more.

And our myths of riches for all who work hard for them leave us so ashamed when we struggle that we won't seek help or admit we have trouble. And yet, the statistics say that half of all Americans will experience poverty at some point by age 65.

I know a local food bank for families who suffer from regular food insecurity (that means they go hungry regularly) in an inner suburb of a major city--a place where you would not imagine poverty to be from the looks of the community--that cannot keep the shelves stocked for long. The demand from working folks who can't make ends meet is just too high ... and that's with strict limitations on how many times a month one family can receive assistance from that food bank. I read a story of a small town police chief who is humiliated to admit he has to use his local church's food pantry regularly because on his salary he can't make ends meet. We need to stop feeling humiliated and stop being silent. The injustice of poverty is simply too great to sweep under the increasingly frayed rug (and the U.S. has it good compared to those places around the globe, forgotten struggling places, where roughly 22,000 individuals starve to death daily)!

Poverty is crushing many in these United States (and far more around the world). It is time we put our collective heads together and worked much harder to stem the high and rising tide of suffering in what is supposed to be one of the wealthiest nations in the world. It is long past time we stopped quibbling over everything under the sun that the talking heads on the opinion shows tell us are the new hot issues of our time, that we demand our politicians actually work together to solve problems rather than earning larger paychecks than many in this nation will EVER receive for doing nothing and make the hard compromises needed to push back against poverty and support people who suffer. It is long past time we stop blaming teachers for a system stacked against them based largely on the economics of local neighborhoods and found new ways to distribute funds and resources evenly so all are well educated.  It is time to stop blaming the poor for being poor and time to start rolling up our collective sleeves and ending poverty for the benefit of all of us.

For more depressing and angering statistics about poverty in these United States, see this Bill Moyers post:

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