I have been reading a rather lengthy report on poverty in America...The authors use substantial data from the Census Bureau and the Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) of the Department of Energy to paint a portrait of poverty in America.The comment section is especially riveting:
We have obligations to the needy, the poor and the destitute, but it also helps to see that there is a range to the problem. Further, we actually have made some progress, if we look deeper into the data. The graph at the top of this page shows the steep decline in the Black poverty rate from 1966 to now. The strong emergence of the Black Middle Class is a hidden secret of this land.
Progress HAS been made – There is work to do, but simply saying that the poverty rate in this land has never budged from 30% may not be an accurate picture, for how the poor live and what it really means to be poor in America are poorly understood by most Americans. Progress has been made.
Mark Webre says:
August 10, 2011 at 6:26 am
I appreciate you sharing this data. I had a sense that something along these lines was occurring. One other convenience that is not reflected in this data is the matter of travel. In this post I am only able to identify a problem in hopes viewers can contribute possible solutions to it. Speaking intuitively, there seems to be a small percentage of poor who don’t own a car. So travel to pick up groceries, seek medical help and other support requirements is difficult. I have heard of food deserts which I understand are areas that are fifteen minutes or further away from grocery stores. With one in four children going to bed hungry here in America, we need to be strategic in making these conveniences accessible.
ReplyMsgr. Charles Pope says:
August 10, 2011 at 8:19 am
Thanks for this reminder about stores. One of the things we did when I was living in a poorer neighborhood was to work with the grocery Chains to place stores in Southeast Washington. Both Giant and Safeway have done so in the past decade.
I must say though that I doubt 1 in 4 children go to bed hungry in this Land. Even among the poor obesity is a much more visible problem among the young. I’d like to know what is meant by hungry. It is true that in our school cafeteria we often fed children, but the point there was more wholesome food rather than the junk food they often had a steady diet of.
August 10, 2011 at 6:54 am
Thank you for this post. When I hear statistics like these, it makes me wonder how much of an obligation we really do have to help the “poor” in our country. Do they have more of a right to our resources simply because they live in the same country than do those on other countries who are much much poorer? As a family, we have to decided that we will no longer donate to domestic charities (except pro life causes) and only to international charities.
Msgr. Charles Pope says:
August 10, 2011 at 8:13 am
Well OK, but be careful with the data. Many of the poor in this country, though not destitute, remain in a fragile situation. Hence, there is some obligation we have to help them become less so. That said, it is clear that many in other parts of the world are clearly in critical condition. I only wish I could be more sure that what I give actually gets to them. Catholic Relief Services is pretty reputable in ensuring that.
August 10, 2011 at 10:27 am
I always thought poverty in american was a relative term compared to true realities of poverty in countries like modern day Sudan and Somolia, I don’t think I have ever seen someone in these countries on TV with a cell phone or a pair of expensive Nike sneakers, much less a roof over their head or a freezer stuff with steaks (thanks to food stamps).
I think for the most part our welfare system is a racket…while I do think in some cases it helps people who really need the assistance and are willing to use it to improve their disposition, but I think it mainly keeps people stuck in a cycle of poverty that’s difficult break due to human nature, ie., why work when the government (tax payers) will subsidized you, have more kids since you get more money, etc.
I think we definitely need a restructure of the welfare system, one that places the burden on recipents to look for work, re-education, a cut off of benefits after a certain time frame, maybe a garnish of parents wages to help subsidized the payments to young girls having babies while in high school, etc., the bottom line this is not substainable.
Msgr. Charles Pope says:
August 10, 2011 at 1:15 pm
I certainly understand your frustrations with the welfare system. But one thing worth recalling is that, as I try to point out in the article, we have pushed back poverty in many ways. While the welfare system needs lots of changes it is not wrong to suggest that it has helped in the past to turn back the tide. That said, there are some terrible features of it, esp. the fact that it rewards single motherhood.
August 10, 2011 at 4:12 pm
I lived in Canada for 8 years and had universal coverage as all developed countries except the US do. However, I would rather die for lack of health care than have care that included abortion on demand.
August 10, 2011 at 11:52 am
I agree with what MG said. We need to not only give to the poor, but people of every socioeconomic background need to learn the skills to budget and manage the money they have. I remember volunteering a to help with our youth group’s workcamps each summer in High School. We worked among the poor in West VA and North Carolina weatherizing their houses and other projects. It always struck me that the families we were helping had empty refrigerators and worn clothing, but almost every house had a nice color TV and/or a stereo system as well as a nice car. The TV’s, stereos and cars were status symbols to them.
ReplyMsgr. Charles Pope says:
August 10, 2011 at 1:18 pm
Agreed, though to be fair, overspending and terrible spending priorities is an American problem overall. Every economic class manifests it.