Thursday, April 24, 2014

America's Poor: A Growth Industry

Economic Inequalities



Make Room for Progress: The location is on Malcolm X Blvd between 124th and 125th St. The buildings were razed in 2006, shortly after the photo was taken, to make room for new commercial development. They appeared derelict because the tenants were removed. The area is actually the wealthiest area of Harlem; typical row houses nearby sell for $1-2M.
Photo Credit: Brendel Signature, 2006.
Source: Wikipedia

An article, by Joseph M. Schwartz in Dissent, says that the United States could eradicate poverty within its borders, if it made the necessary structural changes to its economic and social programs, but given the way the nation has tilted so far right politically, this is unlikely to happen.

Schwartz, a professor of political science at Temple University, writes what has been the central reason why poverty persists:
Politicians of both parties talk about ameliorating poverty. Yet few “opinion makers” argue that poverty could be radically curtailed, perhaps eliminated, if we had the political will to transform the American economy. Absent social movements militantly protesting growing inequality, our political elites are unlikely to shift budget and tax priorities so as to fund federal job creation programs and expand social rights such as truly universal health care, publicly funded child care, and parental leave.
 [...]
The United States Census reported in September 2012 that 47.1 million people, or 15.1 percent of the population, now live in poverty—the highest number in fifty-two years, up from 11.7 percent of the population in 2000. Half of these individuals are children and nearly 60 percent of poor adults are women. Almost half of this group has family incomes below 50 percent of the official poverty level, or $22,113 for a family of four. That is only 30 percent of the average family income, while the 1962 poverty line was 50 percent of the average income. If we returned the poverty line to that 50 percent measure, or about $32,000, over 22 percent of families would today fall below the official poverty line—the same percentage of U.S. families who were poor when Michael Harrington wrote The Other America in 1962.
Well, the Other America has returned. That almost one in four persons residing in America lives in poverty ought to shock other more wealthy Americans, and deflate the idea, or at least give it more scrutiny, that "America is the greatest nation on earth." Really?  There are reams of numbers that show that there is not only continued rising inequalities, but that more and more Americans are poorer today than a decade ago.

The politicians and policy-makers have and know all this information, and respond according to their views, which is to generally blame the poor for their predicament. It is a simple and an amoral way of looking at and understanding a highly complex issue, which helps explain why the men and women in Washington are making things worse, chipping away at social programs and social cohesion, which gives great weight to the idea that there is a "war on the poor."

Well, like all wars, this one will only make matters worse.

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You can read the rest of the article at [Dissent]

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