Posts tagged poor
Posts tagged poor
Minimum-wage jobs are physically demanding, have unpredictable schedules, and pay so meagerly that workers can’t save up enough to move on.
The nation’s poverty rate was cut in half, from 22.2 percent in 1960 to an all time low of 11.1 percent by 1973. Most dramatic was the decline of poverty among the elderly, from 35.2 percent in 1959 to 14.6 percent in 1974, thanks to enactment of Medicare in 1965 and cost-of-living increases for Social Security. The poverty rate among African Americans fell from 55.1 percent in 1959 (when most blacks still lived in the rural South) to 41.8 percent in 1966 (when blacks were an increasingly urban group) to 30.3 percent by 1974.
The nation’s poverty rate has never returned to the level Harrington described in The Other America. But progress was stalled in the 1970s. Today, almost 50 million Americans — over 15 percent of the population — live below the nation’s official poverty threshold. Almost as many poor people live in the suburbs as in cities — a phenomenon that was unthinkable 50 years ago. About one-quarter (22 percent) of America’s children now live in poverty. The poverty rate is much higher for Blacks (27 percent) and Latinos (26 percent) than for whites (10 percent). A significant proportion of America’s poverty population are the working poor, who earn poverty-level wages.
Even more startling is the fact that 100 million people comprise what the U.S. Census calls the poor and the “near poor,” based on a new definition of poverty that measures living standards, not just income. Almost one-third of the nation, in other words, can barely make ends meet.
Although America’s poverty rate has fluctuated over the years, it has persistently been two or three times higher than poverty rates in most European societies, which have much more generous social welfare policies and stronger labor unions. Even Canada — which has a similar economy and distribution of wealth as the United States — has a much lower poverty rate and does not permit the level of sheer destitution and misery found in the United States, including hunger, slums, and the growing army of homeless people sleeping on park benches and in vacant buildings.
Barry M. Popkin’s work as a nutritionist has spanned from Taiwan to South Africa to Mexico and the U.S. He’s the originator of the “nutrition transition” concept, a model for understanding how globalization has led to widespread changes in people’s diets around the world. A professor at the Univestity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Popkin has become well known for his 2009 book, The World Is Fat: The Fads, Trends, Policies, and Products That Are Fattening the Human Race, in which he argues how the global food industry has altered the way we eat, drink and move.
Here, Popkin talks about the complex reasons for why developing nations are adopting America-like food systems, and why reverting back to more traditional, nutritional diets en masse is going to be difficult, to say the least.
Despite being well-known as the home to millionaires, many poor call cages home.
Anger over housing prices is a common theme in increasingly frequent antigovernmet protests. Legislator Frederick Fung warns there will be more if the problem can’t be solved. He compared the effect o the poor to a lab experiment.
"When we were in secondary school, we had some sort of experiment where we put many rats in a small box. They would bite each other," said Fung. "When living spaces are so congested, they would make people feel uneasy, desperate,"and angry at the government, he said.
I live in a city of about 21,000 people in Alabama. There are, easily, 60 or more evangelical churches in my city. We have one of the highest churches per capita ratios in the country. Of those churches, only our church and one other will give money towards helping those in need. I know because I have looked into it for myself! There used to be a couple of others, but when I contacted them for help, most churches had quit doing this type of benevolence because of “budget issues,” or because it was too “time consuming.” Unfortunately, many of my inquiries as to why they had stopped giving boiled down to the fact that people took advantage of the church’s kindness. But I couldn’t help but wonder: Isn’t the very nature of a gracious act to give anyway?
Our church is rather small, and we can only afford to help out $50 per family; they have to decide if they want us to put it towards groceries, power, or rent. What’s readily apparent to me is that if the government didn’t get involved in welfare, we’d have far, far more people out on the streets, and many more children in desperate situations without proper food, shelter, and clothing. I thank God for WIC (“Women, Infants, and Children”); I would be an emotional wreck if it didn’t exist. During the time of my writing this article, I’ve helped a grandmother who is taking care of three children, one of whom is severely handicapped. I don’t know what would become of this woman and her grandchildren if it weren’t for food stamps. I’d have trouble sleeping.
Sometimes, I hear the objection that the government ought to stay out of the “welfare business.” The worry is that government welfare creates dependence and causes citizens to be lazy, and it is true that the apostle Paul taught that if a person does not work, then neither should he eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10). I agree with the Apostle Paul; the problem is that he is not addressing destitute widows, abandoned mothers, or men and women with severe injuries who cannot work. He is talking about lazy church members who were busy bodies. It is folly to take the apostle’s admonition and apply it across the board to every person on welfare. Furthermore, it underestimates the difficulty of living as a single parent with three children in a small repurposed FEMA trailer without reliable transportation, money for rent, and childcare even if one could get a job. When someone gets a job here, the best he or she could do would be about $8 an hour, and maybe after three months of employment, he or she would qualify for health benefits. What would people in this situation do with their children in the meantime? How will they pay rent until the check comes? (Sometimes employers take up to a month to get the first check out.)
The objection to the government being in the welfare business is often followed by the thought that such benevolence ought to be the jurisdiction of the church. But is that plausible? Could the church do it alone?
Food for thought.
An editorial in The New York Times looks at the dramatic growth of poverty in America’s suburbs over the last decade, and asks if the government safety net is up to the challenge.
Focusing on the problems that deepening suburban poverty is creating for government agencies in Suffolk and Nassau Counties on Long Island, and reflecting a national trend as “the number of people living below the poverty line in the suburbs grew by 66 percent” in the last decade, the editors of The New York Times look at the associated social service problems and possible strategies for solving them.
“The suburbs were not designed for the poor. And even now, local governments are not equipped to see, much less answer, a lot of their needs,” states The Times. However, “there are things to be done — smarter use of social-service resources, more economic development, a stronger public commitment to mass transit, housing and job training. But those are long-term challenges atop an immediate crisis, which must be addressed by more spending and more staffing to fix the safety net. Solving these problems must begin with an admission that suburban officials and residents have been reluctant to make: Poverty is growing, and it is not going away.”