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Poverty in America

Poverty in America - PovertyinAmerica ByChuckBallingall...

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Poverty in America By Chuck Ballingall “There is a familiar America. It is celebrated in speeches and advertised on television and in the magazines. It has the highest mass standard of living the world has ever known. In the 1950’s this America worried about itself, yet even its anxieties were products of abundance. …While this discussion was carried on, there existed another America. In it dwelt somewhere between 40,000,000 and 50,000,000 citizens of this land. They were poor. They still are. To be sure, the other America is not impoverished in the same sense as those poor nations where millions cling to hunger as a defense against starvation. This country has escaped such extremes. That does not change the fact that tens of millions of Americans are, at this very moment, maimed in body and spirit, existing as levels beneath those necessary for human decency. If these people are not starving, they are hungry…(and) without adequate housing and education and medical care. The Government has documented what this means to the bodies of the poor… but even more basic, this poverty twists and deforms the spirit. The American poor are pessimistic and defeated, and they are victimized by mental suffering to a degree unknown in Suburbia.” (Michael Harrington, The Other America, 1962) Unfortunately, more than four decades after Michael Harrington wrote these words, poverty is still an endemic problem in the United States. This is the case even though in 1964 President Lyndon Johnson committed the resources of this nation to a War on Poverty, and even after substantial economic growth in the decades of the Eighties and Nineties. The Problem While the incidence of poverty has fallen since the 1960’s, the sheer number of people living at or near the poverty line is staggering, as journalist Katrina vanden Heuvel indicated in March 2008: “One in eight Americans -- approximately 37 million people -- now live below the federal poverty line of $19,971 for a family of four. (A woefully inadequate measure that is 42 years old and fails to account for basic necessities.) That's 4.9 million more people than in 2000 and the poverty rate for children is the highest of all age groups. Nearly 60 million people live just above the poverty line. Using the British standard of measurement, approximately 30 percent of Americans -- and 40 percent of American children -- are living in poverty.” While the existence of the Social Security program has caused poverty among the elderly to fall to its lowest recorded level, poverty rates continue to be high among
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children and minorities, as a recent GAO Report indicated: “In 2005, close to 13 percent of the total U.S. population—about 37 million people—were counted as living below the poverty line, a number that essentially remained unchanged from 2004. Poverty rates differ, however, by age, gender, race, and ethnicity and other factors. For example, • Children: In 2005, 12.3 million children, or 17.1 percent of children
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Poverty in America - PovertyinAmerica ByChuckBallingall...

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