Friday, January 27, 2012

Why America Is Losing the War On Poverty

Here's a snippet from my latest article, "Why America Is Losing the War on Poverty," at The

Recent figures about poverty in America paint a grim picture about the living conditions of a large majority of Americans. Not only is poverty spreading rapidly, but the chances of escaping it are becoming more difficult, if not impossible. For instance, Timothy Smeeding wrote a recent New York Times article entitled, “Living the American Dream (in Canada),” in which he stated, “Of all the consequences of rising economic inequality, none is more worrisome than the possibility that a growing gap will make it harder for children of low-income and middle-class families to climb the economic ladder.” Smeeding’s argument about children is especially troubling. In 2010 the U. S. Census reported that one  in five  children now live in poverty in the U.S. Overall, the increased number of Americans living in poverty is at an all-time high.
 Click here to read the entire article.

On a final note, I visit Linh Dinh's State of the Union on a regular basis. The photography on this site is sobering, and paints a devastating picture of how poverty is rapidly spreading across the U.S. The most recent batch of photographs were of a city I know very well: Washington, D.C. The poverty and homelessness there should make each and every politician on the Hill, and in the White House, ashamed and embarrassed. And yet, they can all so easily turn a blind eye, can't they? Perhaps that is why I am not there, because I am outraged and won't compromise when I see and know that millions of Americans are suffering, homeless, and lack proper medical care. Even worse, more Americans are slipping into poverty.

Dinh's pictures also made me recall a trip I took home from Howard University (when I worked for a publishing company, I spent quite a bit of time at Howard). It was a bright, crisp day in winter a few years ago. I had just finished up a lively conversation with an amazing professor of political science. He was an older gentleman who wore a French beret, and we discussed all kinds of things. He was particularly fond of dancing, so as we wrapped up our talk, he told me about his moves. We then said our good-byes, and I got in my car to head back to Northern Virginia where I lived at the time.

As I approached the U.S. Capitol, I was awestruck and angry. I was struck by the size and sheer beauty of the building - in my view, the Capitol is most exquisite looking on cold, sunny days. Its white marble glistened under a large, winter sun. But my admiration for such fine architectural design quickly faded, as my gaze turned away from the sparkling, mammoth structure to the street I was driving down. Poverty was everywhere. Several people were pushing grocery carts. Many of the buildings were condemned, blackened, falling apart. I recall thinking, "How dare these leaders of the 'free world' claim they are doing good things in that hallowed space! Why don't they take a closer look at the streets right outside their offices?" Oh, who am I kidding? I'm forgetting that, save for Bernie Sanders, politicians never use the 'p' word. Poor? Huh? What are you talking about? And they wouldn't dare talk about the working-poor, that army of laborers who have increased dramatically over the last decade.

If things aren't changed and bold policies aren't implemented, Detroit will soon be your backyard. That is, if it isn't already. I urge you to share Dinh's pictures with your friends and family. Actively seek out opportunities to discuss poverty, the working poor, the dreadful and ever-growing gap between the rich and the poor, and other related issues. Once we all begin to acknowledge the crisis, we can begin to discuss ways in which to solve the problem.

Photo courtesy of Messay Photography

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