American Culture

End poverty. Attack it. Now.

You know someone who lives in poverty. You may not realize it, but you do. Given that one of every six Americans lives in poverty, someone you know suffers from one of the most punishing and oppressing of all human conditions.

Too many of us blithely consider poverty to be limited to certain geographical locations such as the “inner city.” Too many of us believe poverty is limited to, perhaps, mostly a certain skin color. Too many of us attribute poverty to the lack of an “appropriate” work ethic, a lack of ambition, or a desire to “cheat the system.” The poor live in cities, they’re not white, they’re lazy, and they’re sucking up my tax dollars unfairly.

Discard that attitude. It’s disgusting. Poverty privileges no race, no gender, no occupation, no geography.

Last year, the ranks of those reduced to the federally defined poverty line grew by 2.6 million Americans. News reports show 46.2 million Americans live in poverty, the highest number in the 52 years the federal government has tracked that number.

Forget, for the moment, who or what is responsible for leaving tens of millions of Americans economically disadvantaged while mere dozens of Americans forge financially so far ahead of 99.9 percent of us.

Forget, for the moment, those who callously led many Americans into a bankrupted poverty with foolish, deceitful decisions about lending money for home mortgages a few years ago, amplifying the ranks of those in poverty.

Forget, for the moment, the decisions to be “globally competitive” by corporations at the expense of those American jobs they’re all suddenly saying they want to create.

Forget, for the moment, the social, political, and economic decisions taken by so many that have created a permanent underclass with no significant voice in Congress. Forget, for the moment, that too many of us have chosen not to listen to the voice of those in poverty. They may be unheard, but they are not invisible.

Forget, for the moment, the folly of members of Congress and the president in fighting each other while claiming to “love America” — and forgetting to love Americans one by one, especially those whose American dream has been yanked from underneath them — or was never there in the first place.

Focus on someone you know. You’ll realize you know someone who lives in poverty — and probably more than one.

Now begin remembering. Find a way to speak for those people you know who live in poverty. Don’t waver because of self-assumed guilt. Act. Demand better from your member of Congress. Demand that a living wage become a reality. Demand creation of meaningful jobs.

And be selfish — the American economy will not recover with one-sixth of Americans unable to be the avid consumers and irritated taxpayers the rest of us have become. If you want your economic circumstance to improve, attack the root causes that place your neighbor in poverty.

1 reply »

  1. I am coincidentally studying the history of poverty in two of my master’s classes right now. One quote that struck me from a reading: “Being born in the elite in the U.S. gives you a constellation of privileges that very few people in the world have ever experienced. Being born poor in the U.S. gives you disadvantages unlike anything in Western Europe and Japan and Canada.” -David Levine (economist at the University of California, Berkeley)