Friday, December 08, 2006

Checking in on poverty

Forty years ago or so, the U. S. government created a poverty index related to household food costs--the measure originated with the Department of Agriculture. This index became the basis for the "federal poverty guidelines."

Indexing poverty to food costs resulted in the income levels being set artificially low as a standard measure of what constitutes poverty. Nevertheless, the index stuck and we continue to work with it as a benchmark.

The 2006 federal poverty guidelines define a family as living in poverty if. . .

. . .the family has 2 members and the annual household income is no more than $13,200 ($1,100 monthly) or $6.35 an hour.

. . .the family has 3 members and the annual household income is no more than $16,600 ($1,383 monthly) or $7.98 an hour.

. . .the family has 4 members and the annual household income is no more than $20,000 ($1,667 monthly) or $9.62 an hour.

In the United States today 35.9 million people (12.5% of the population) live in poverty--3.6 million reside in Texas (16.2% of the population).

Of these, 12.9 million are children between the ages of birth and 17 or 17.6% of this age grouping--in Texas it is 22.8% or 1.4 million children.

Among children from birth to five-years-old, 4 million live at or below the poverty line nationally (20.3% of this age group--in Texas it is 26.9%).

Texas is not a friendly place for the poor, especially the children. In 2003, the percentage of children living in poverty rose for the fourth consecutive year and the poverty rate among children outpaced the national average by 27%!

Nearly one in 4 children in Texas lives in poverty. Tragically, 1 in 10 children in Texas lives in extreme poverty (family income below 50% of the Federal Poverty Line). In one of the neighborhoods here in Dallas where we work every day, the average family income is something under $10,000 annually.

The impact of childhood poverty on little boys and little girls, just like my grandchildren, can be lifelong. Texans need to be awakened to the harsh reality facing millions of our neighbors and their families.

What should churches be doing?

What should we demand that our public, elected officials do now?

What will you do to make a difference?

It is far past time for waiting patiently. The questions and the pain behind them demand an answer. . .now!

[Source: "The State of Texas Children 2006: Texas KIDS COUNT Annual Data Book," published by the Center for Public Policy Priorities. Visit them at]


Anonymous said...

Larry, check out the letter to the editor in today's DMN from the student from Ovilla Christian. Maybe the kids get the problem more than the adults do but his point was why are we spending so much on projects while people around the world are hurting. His was more of a global perspective but it sure applies here in Dallas.

owldog said...


We have a change jar at my office and there are about 10 people out of 50 that contribute on a daily basis "to feed the hungry children of Dallas" We started it to try and help with the CDM budget deficit to the North Texas Food Bank. I was hoping we could buy one green house. The other 40 people say things like, "tell the parents to get up and work to feed their children” I know you see that attitude daily but how do you respond? I say the parents are working but not making enough. Their answer, tell them to get another job" UGH these are college educated people living in the suburbs attending church on a weekly basis.

I know what ever we bring will matter but oh goodness.

Anonymous said...

The cornerstone of liberal economic thought is "income redistribution," that is big government taking assets from the affluent through taxation and giving said assets to the less well off through entitlements like subsidized health care, housing, educational scholarships and the like. The left is also big on "economic justice," things like guaranteed wages and lifetime job security.

But a funny thing happened on the way to socialism. Americans who believe in "income restribution" gave 75% less to charity than Americans who do not, according to Syracuse University professor Dr.Arthur Brooks, author of a new book, "Who Really Cares."

The statistics say that religious Americans give four times as much money to charity each year than secular people and are 23 times more likely to volunteer to help than people who never attend church.

So in this season of giving, it might be worth pondering just who is really looking out for the have-nots. The leftist media often portrays conservatives as mean, cruel and insensitive to the plight of the downtrodden.

But as the tax returns of multi-millionaires Dick Cheney and Al Gore prove, the media image is false. The vice president gave millions to charity, Mr. Gore very little.

So the next time you hear a big government liberal bloviate about helping the poor, please trot out these statistics.

And then tell that person that in America today giving money to charity seems to be the RIGHT thing.

What's LEFT is not even close.

Op-Ed from Bill O'Reilly (12/6/06)

Anonymous said...

Chris -- nice to know that you think for yourself...

Anonymous said...

Chris, is the point how much the well off do or don't do? Or, is the point how much are the disadvantaged advanced and assisted to become whole. Your analysis is like so much extreme right-wing rhetoric--you focus on the people with money. The point here should be people who have very little and how the nation might rally to create opportunties for them. So, it seems to me that you just miss the point of this post altogether here.

Anonymous said...

My point is that the media usually portrays conservatives as insensitive to the needs of the poor and the liberals as always looking out for their needs when actually on a personal basis the opposite is true.

Perhaps the liberals look out for the poor when it's somebody elses money.

Anonymous said...

Chris, or maybe it is that they are open to it being their money paid in a fairer, more equitable tax policy???

Anonymous said...

The top 50% of wage earners pay 96.54% of taxes, the top 1% pays 34.27% of the taxes.

Anonymous said...

Again, Chris, you miss the obvious point! The % of taxes paid is not the point. . .but the amount and where those funds are directed.

Anonymous said...

Chris, what in the world do you comments have to do with this post??? Thankfully, it appears the nation is fed up with sort of foolish rhetoric!

Anonymous said...

I fail to see what is foolish or not pertinent about my comments. Larry is calling on both citizens and government to make a difference. I'm saying the liberals should put their money where their mouth is.

Anonymous said...

I wish we could show more respect through our comments. I wish we could share our ideas and differences through a spirit of love. Let's be humble in what we believe and "know", because we may be wrong. And even if we aren't wrong, we all have been at one point (or many)and shouldn't withhold love from others because of it. Let us work toward becoming one as the Father and Son are one.

Father, I pray that we as fellow human beings can treat one another with kindness and respect. Help us to have a common love that binds us through our differences. This is prayed through your Son, who has reconciled and redeemed us. Amen.

I remain anonymous because I fear my actions to be motivated by being "noticed by men." Nevertheless, as hypocritical as it appears, I would like to admonish everyone to not hide behind your anonymity. Would you say these same things to each other's faces? Or even if you included your name and phone number on your entry? Please, let's try to "speak the truth in love."

Larry James said...

Anonymous 6:35, thanks for your wisdom. I usually don't "touch" any comments posted, but I do agree that we will get further along in understanding if we remain as kind as possible. I realize that people have strong feelings around these matters. Grace extended and received will always be a plus. Thanks for the reminder.

Anonymous said...

One thing is clear: it is ok to criticize and hammer on the conservaties as being cold and uncaring; but when someone takes aim on the "liberals", these same folks come unglued. Politics of envy? The liberals want to penalize people for their hard work and success. The Gore example is an intersting one. I gladly pay my taxes, and I am sick and tired of others wanting me to pay more to help fund all of the federal programs. For once I would like to read this blog and not feel like I am being "dog piled" by a bunch of angry, self-rightous christians. My guess is I give more money to programs for the poor than most; yet when I read these comments it makes me want to stop giving money to anyone so I can fulfill the perception of hate that is spewed here every week by "anonymous" people wantng to take their anger out on everyone else. maybe you should try a different tactic if you are trying to attract more people to your cause. Now I will sit back and read what a jerk I am!

Larry James said...

Anonymous 3:51, thanks for your words. You are not a jerk in my book, no matter how we may or may not differ. I hate that this space sometimes makes people feel like you are feeling. That is not the intent. My purpose here is to raise issues of concern to urban folk who struggle to make life work for themselves and their families. We need everyone's perspective and engagement. Thanks for every dollar you give and every act you take to help move the process along for people who need and desire more opportunity. Stay with us.

Falantedios said...

Where on earth did we as Christians EVER get the idea that a really good way to care for the poor would be to allow what Winston Churchill called "the worst form of government on earth, except for all the other ones," take care of it?

Liberal pork-barrel politics wastes just as much money as conservative pork-barrel politics.

Conservative lobbyists pay off just as many elected officials as liberal lobbyists.

Liberal administrations ignore just as many poor people as conservative administrations.

Maybe, MAYBE it is the government's job to take care of the poor. You can make a fair argument that that might be the case, but that's all it would be, an argument.

I KNOW it is the church's responsibility to care for the poor. Why we should want to give any more of our money than is absolutely necessary to the least efficient financial-distribution system (ie the US gov't) in the history of humanity is beyond me.

in HIS love,

Larry James said...

Nick, thanks for your post. Several things come to mind here.

First, the scale of the problems associated with poverty and health care, housing, education, hunger, transportation, etc. out strip the church's ability to actually provide remedies.

Second, I am not so sure you are correct about the inefficiencies of public programs. I know that we have to account and account again for the funds we receive from public coffers. The graft and corruption your comments imply don't seem to be operational at anything like a huge scale when it comes to poverty programs. Then, there is the administration of such programs. Medicaid, MediCare and VA health programs operate at a much higher level of efficiency than do private insurance programs. That is a fact.

I think what we really resist about these public initiatives is the fact that we aren't in control. We are in control of our churches, aren't we? Ask yourself, "How do the poor get along when the church is in control?"

Again, thanks for your post.