"Just as Hurricane Katrina destroyed lives and communities, it also demolished the illusion that the challenges facing poor families and neighborhoods are “somebody else’s” problems. ... many Americans may recognize a new reality: poverty must be our entire nation’s concern. Some may even understand in a new way that their own hometowns face similar challenges ..." -- F Barton Harvey of the Enterprise Foundation
We're too used to being able to ignore poverty because it was only something that occurred in other countries. We see people starving in Africa, but only in the abstract. It doesn't affect our daily lives. But when Katrina came, the scenes we saw on our television looked like they could have been Somalia.
Poverty isn't something that's happened over night. So, you can't blame it on one administration. But some administrations are better than others at addressing it. The media largely ignores the problem. When they do say something, it's misleading. For example, famous tool Bill O'Reilly said, "... halfway through President Clinton's tenure in office in 1996, the poverty rate was 13.7 percent. Halfway through President Bush's tenure, the rate is 12.7 percent, a full point lower". Technically correct but misleading. As David Brock of Media Matters shows, "During the Clinton presidency, the poverty rate fell from 15.1 percent in 1993 to a low of 11.3 percent in 2000; it has risen every year that Bush has been in office, from 11.7 percent in 2001 to 12.7 percent in 2004." So, while the mid-term averages would lead you to believe that Bush was doing more than Clinton did, the truth is exactly the opposite. Clinton took office with a high rate given to him by the elder Bush and successfully lowered by almost 4 percentage points. Bush, given a lower poverty rate, does the exact opposite. For more info: Media Matters
"Unfortunately, many Americans live on the outskirts of hope, some because of their poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both. This administration declares unconditional war on poverty in America." -- Lyndon Johnson
You wonder why Kanye West says that the President doesn't care about black people and then you hear him say, ,"I was disappointed, frankly, in the vote I got in the African-American community. I was. I’ve done my best to elevate people to positions of authority and responsibility — not just positions, but positions where they can actually make a difference in the lives of people. I put people in my Cabinet. I put people in my sub-Cabinet.". He sounds more concerned with getting votes than with helping anyone.
US poverty: chronic ill, little hope for cure
Here are the facts:
- Since 2000, the ranks of the poor have increased year by year by almost 5.5 million in total
- Today, 33% of black children live in families under the poverty level.
- Last year, African American households had the lowest median income of any racial group ($30134), down a full percentage point from the year before.
- The unemployment rate for African-Americans is double the rate for white Americans. Over the past six months, the average unemployment rate for white Americans was 4.39 percent; for black Americans, it was 10.06 percent.
- Poverty is a universal problem, as is inequality. The world's 500 richest people, according to U.N. statistics, have as much income as the world's poorest 416 million.
Statistics and quote from: Think Progress
"The federal government declared war on poverty, and poverty won." -- Ronald Reagan in 1988
What can we do?
Raise the minimum wage -- From Think Progress:
- 4.3 million: Number of Americans who have fallen into poverty since President Bush took office
- $5.15: Federal minimum wage
- $5,000: Amount below the poverty level working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year at minimum wage will leave a family of three
- 7,300,000: Number of workers who would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage
- 72%: Percentage of adult workers who would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage
- 1,800,000: Number of parents with kids under the age of 18 who would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage
- 11 million: Number of jobs added to the economy in the four years after the last minimum wage hike
- 2.5 years: Amount of health care for two children which could be bought by raising the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25
- 86%: Percentage of Americans who support raising the federal minimum wage
Mr. Harvey of the Enterprise Foundation in his paper, Ending Concentrated Poverty, goes into some of the causes of US poverty:
What has caused concentrated poverty:
- suburban development that does not included poor and minority families
The above have all eroded the job base in the heart of cities. But he has several workable, proven solutions:
- enhance access to opportunity for low-income families
- housing choice vouchers to help with rent in communities they choose or to help with mortgages
- rebuild and reinvest in a smart, sustainable way
- "private-public partnerships to turn dysfunctional environments into healthier communities"
- ensure meaningful decision-making roles for low-income people
We cannot be considered a civilized society if we continue to leave a larger and larger segment of our population behind. We talk about being proud to be an American because fight wars in foreign lands. We need to be proud to be an American because we're fighting a war here ... against racism and poverty.