Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Poverty can't be ignored any longer

What follows was reported by The New York Times (September 13, 2011):

Soaring Poverty Casts Spotlight on ‘Lost Decade’

WASHINGTON — Another 2.6 million people slipped into poverty in the United States last year, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday, and the number of Americans living below the official poverty line, 46.2 million people, was the highest number in the 52 years the bureau has been publishing figures on it.

And in new signs of distress among the middle class, median household incomes fell last year to levels last seen in 1997.

Economists pointed to a telling statistic: It was the first time since the Great Depression that median household income, adjusted for inflation, had not risen over such a long period, said Lawrence Katz, an economics professor at Harvard.

“This is truly a lost decade,” Mr. Katz said. “We think of America as a place where every generation is doing better, but we’re looking at a period when the median family is in worse shape than it was in the late 1990s.”

The bureau’s findings were worse than many economists expected, and brought into sharp relief the toll the past decade — including the painful declines of the financial crisis and recession —had taken on Americans at the middle and lower parts of the income ladder. It is also fresh evidence that the disappointing economic recovery has done nothing for the country’s poorest citizens.

The report said the percentage of Americans living below the poverty line last year, 15.1 percent, was the highest level since 1993. (The poverty line in 2010 for a family of four was $22,314.)

To read the entire report click here.



Anonymous said...

My reaction? How can we as moral people accept the reality of poverty and not be moved to action? We are demeaned as a country when we ignore the fact that children go hungry, families work minimum wage jobs that can’t pay for housing, food, transportation, healthcare. Students who don’t get enough to eat and do not have a secure living environment do not do well in school. If we believe education is the “way out”, how can we not make sure that every child is fed; how can we not make sure that every child has a secure home by insuring living wage jobs for their parents? When two people, working minimum wage jobs can’t make enough to feed their family, provide housing, transportation, medical care, our country is weaker. How do we continue to reduce funding for students who want to go to college and can't afford to? There is no question that these are not easy issues to address. But, it seems to me, basic humanity demands that we at least make it possible for families to meet their most critical needs. Addressing the issues of poverty (education, income, housing, healthcare, transportation, food costs) will, in the long run, strengthen our country.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Anon 8:06:

I repeat: At least just START with a comment about how sad it is that all those people are poor. There's no hint of compassion. You just sound heartless and soul-less, and not a bit like Jesus, who I take it from many comments some of you profess to follow.

Then again, maybe you actually don't care.

If you don't care, please stop visiting this page. You're wasting your time and ours.

Larry James said...

Lord, have mercy.

Anonymous said...

ANON 915,

Thank you for outlining an appropriate response, and your advise on which pages I should visit. Let me just add- BITE ME

Warmest personal regards,
ANON 806

Anonymous said...

That's so ... articulate. I'm sure your mother is proud.

Anonymous said...

ANON 915- are you suffering from an oedipal complex?

Anonymous said...

Just an observation - It seems to me that Anon 8:06 has hijacked Larry's blog, - not just today but regularly. When Anon 8:06 is answered or challenged it changes the conversation. I, for one, would like to see the conversation stay on the subjects of the day - and not allow the kind of baiting that Anon 8:06 is engaging in.

Anonymous said...

Anon 851, aren't you off topic?

Anonymous said...

This is pretty much what happens in the mainstream media, liberal comedy/commentary (Colbert, Letterman, John Stewart, etc.) every day. Only the roles are reversed in this situation.

How do you like it?

belinda said...

Larry, thank you. And Ann, thank you. i don't get it. Anon 8:06: you obviously don't agree with the thoughts posted here, why do you keep reading?

Anonymous said...

Larry, to be highjacked I suppose you have to be considered valuable! Some come here because they know others are listening, possibly like no where else. And it is also good to provide a forum that displays the full range of both very good and very ugly, very loving and very hateful--that way all can choose. Don't stop.

Anonymous said...

Belinda, so only those that agree with Larry should read and comment on his blog? I dare say that's not going to fly After all, much of his philosophy is controversial, and its not apparent to some Christian groups that support his charitable causes and thereby unknowingly reinforce this twisted philosophical belief system through their contributions

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:04, tell us what you've done this week for the poor? Are you a Christian?

Anonymous said...

I am not Anon 9:04, but I am happy to tell you what I did for the poor this week.

1. Kept my home and belongings secure.

2. Got up early and made it to work on time.

3. Operated my car safely and courteously.

4. Spend my money wisely.

5. Maintained discipline in my home and taught my kids solid life lessons.

6. Made sure the kids did their homework well and followed up on their performance in school.

7. Paid taxes through my payroll and through retail purchases.

8. Paid all of my bills fully and on time to both market vendors and govt. utilities.

9. Attempted to improve my career by ensuring high performance at work and reading additional material at home, unrelated to my present position but useful to my career advancement.

10. Took the family out to dinner.

11. Viewed political debates and news broadcasts, and listened to several radio programs that presented differing view points on important current issues and events.

12. Went to church and met with my pastor for breakfast to discuss a new support program for leaders in church planting ministries.

I'm sure I did a few other things to help the poor in the last week. But I must get some yard work done.

If you are wondering how any of the above items on my list supports poor people, then you don't understand economics and you don't understand how a representative republic form of government works.

Anonymous said...

Anon: 7:11

Thank you for that!

Anonymous said...

Why don't they change the benchmarks so fewer are in poverty?

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:11:

Perhaps you understand economics (only perhaps), but you clearly know little or nothing about Biblical justice or mercy. Not onw of the things you listed count as helping the poor in a Biblical sense, and it's sad you could even consider that they do. Personal piety, good manners and self improvement do not count as helping the poor. You are helping ony yourself.

Anonymous said...

Could be the roots of responsibility, accountability, interdependence, industriousness, and self-respect are found in the very first two chapters. But it's helpful to read Psalm 104 and notice how God's blessing upon humanity is INDIRECT. That is, when the Psalmist notes God's blessings upon non human creatures, they seem to have a fairly direct line to resources. But when human blessings are referenced, WORK is a part of that blessing:

14 He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth:
15 wine that gladdens human hearts,
oil to make their faces shine,
and bread that sustains their hearts.


21 The lions roar for their prey
and seek their food from God.
22 The sun rises, and they steal away;
they return and lie down in their dens.
23 Then people go out to their work,
to their labor until evening.

So, when we turn to Genesis chapters 1 & 2, we are not surprised to find God provided resources for the first created humans (Yes, I really do believe they existed and were first) which turned into a (Gasp!) a JOB - a.k.a. WORK. Scarcity was built into their everyday experience (physical and cognitive limitations as well as a 24-hour day which limited ability to perform).

One of Adam's key tasks was to recognize his inadequacy to perform his duties and voila! the Eve creation was performed. We don't know what they were thinking, but we can deduce how they were thinking as they learned about their new home (concrete observations [rocks, animals, plants], abstract observations [gravity, speed], rule discovery [stay out of the marsh], novel problem-solving ["Honey,let's rearrange the hut. I've just originated the concept of feng shui.]" I made that last one up, but the rest of them are quite compatible with several recognized learning theories.

Here is what you liberals and socialists are missing: God created us and therefore we are priceless. Our salaries do not define us. However, to fully represent God we must be productive. He is productive and all that we see and experience is evidence of this fact. And following Scripture we were designed to represent Him most fully as co-managers of our world.

Each of us is gifted and can be nurtured to excel in many areas and as we contribute to one anothers' needs we will be appreciated and feel a valued part of many communities. But the economy doesn't allow for any individual to be irresponsible or unaccountable. Value and respect are never garnered by cheating. Further, none of us can survive totaly independent of others. We all have needs and shortcomings.

So when I observe people attempting to get by in life without contributing, and expect respect merely because they exist apart from the proposition that God created them for a reason other than to live off the productivity of others, I get a little cranky.

Who is more greedy, the rich man who works 65 hours a week for $250K per year? Or the guy holding a deceptive sign out on Addison Road at 4:00 PM daily? I truly wish I could be a socialist. That would allow me to have absolute faith in my fellow man. But the same sin nature that propels people to cheat on their taxes, even though they are highly wealthy, is the same sin nature that causes union bosses to manipulate contracts and laborers to shirk on the job.

Some, not all, of the "poor" have learned how to get free health care, free cell phones, free rent, free transportation, free food, free childcare, and free clothing. When you're poor you don't have to pay taxes. The first free thing they should have taken advantage of is free education, but many have not done this, having no intention of working in the first place. In an economy of limits, someone must pay and it's not fair when someone always pays the bills of others.

The Bible is a good starting point for spiritual and economic direction.

Anonymous said...

cablatThe very fact that all of your presuppositions and assumptions about the poor are negative simply confirms what I said: you know little or nothing about Biblical justice or mercy. All in all, they poor are pretty much like the rest of us: some good, some bad, most in between. Investment bankers on Wall Street peddling scam financial instruments can cause a lot more harm than the guy on Addison Road, however. And have you ever talked to the guy on Addison Road? His story may not be as easy to dismiss as you suppose. The real world may not be as black and white as you seem to think.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:46,

Which part of the 6:13 commentary do you classify as black and white?

And what about the commentary do you find objectionable? The existence of God? The scarcity of human power and resources? The image-bearing quality of human performance? That all should contribute and be appreciated or value for their contributions?

The commentary acknowledges that some, not all, of the poor are motivated by immoral or unfair goals. I don't think broad brush strokes were applied. What are your concerns?

Anonymous said...

You assume people are poor because they are lazy. You accuse Larry and others of distorting the Bible into "social justice," but you distort it far worse by trying to make it the original template for capitalism. It's no such thing. Try just letting it speak for itself. It doesn't say the words you're putting in its mouth.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon 2:00,

You accuse me of making "black and white" assertions about the world, then you make your own black and white assertions about my arguments. In fact, you have not really responded to my arguments at all.

Psalm 104 says this:

14 He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth:
15 wine that gladdens human hearts,
oil to make their faces shine,
and bread that sustains their hearts.

You and I agree that the poor are pretty much like everyone else. The difference is in how you and I respond to the plight of the poor. First, if you don't and won't work, then I say you pay the consequences. God created us to work and those who won't shouldn't expect the rest of us to pay for it.

Those who are unqualified to work should given a chance to get qualified by education and training. I am fully behind (with tax dollars and my heart) low cost/free training and support during training for those who want to work. It's a great investment for all of us.

For those who can't work, a range of support services should and must be offered. We're all in this together and those who physically or cognitively unable must be cared for. I fully support this, too.

But your claim that investment bankers do more damage than those scamming welfare programs is simply not true. Wall-street scam artists get caught eventually. However, the social welfare system goes on forever and the number of people taking money from it continuously grows.

Those children who grow up in the social welfare support system do not experience directly a working model of income earning - so they do not appreciate what it means to work. And this is one carte blanch statement I admit to. Why work for low wages when you can stay home? What these kids don't realize is that we all (98%)started out at minimum wage and it is through education and experience that we become better contributors and therefore earn more money.

Liberals think the answer to poverty is giving more dollars per hour worked. Not so. The answer is helping the individual become a more valuable contributor. It is wrong to give unskilled workers a raise for remaining unskilled. It is right to open opportunity to allow unskilled workers increase their skill level.

Your final statement that I assume people are poor b/c they are lazy reveals your ignorance: I was poor and now I'm not, because I am not lazy. I studied in high school, which was different than the cultural norm. I borrowed a lot of money to attend college (and paid it back). I was not educationally prepared to achieve in college, but I spent many nights awake all night studying and learning how to learn. I invested in a friendship with a librarian. We still talk today over 30 years later.