The Spectacle Blog

Thoughts on Poverty in America

By on 9.13.11 | 5:10PM

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released a report stating the poverty rate in America had increased to 15.1 percent in 2010. It is the fourth straight year there has been an increase.

It just goes to show that all the government spending in the world isn't going to lift people out of poverty. With this in mind, President Obama's jobs plan will be no more successful than his Stimulus bill.

The report also notes a 0.2 percent increase in the number of people without health insurance. This was attributed to a decline in coverage provided by employers. So much for President Obama's oft repeated adage, "If you like your health care plan, you keep your health care plan."

There are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, there will always be poverty amongst us. This is true in bad economic times and in good economic times. To be certain, there are people who grow up in less than ideal circumstances. But one's fate is not preordained. Regardless of the circumstances in which one grows up, we are all responsible for finding our own way in the world. As my maternal grandfather, who worked in a coal mine for 43 years, would tell me, "The world doesn't owe you a living." Of course, that doesn't mean you have to find your way alone. There are good influences in every community. It's a question of finding those influences and having the wisdom to see their value and adopting those values as your own.

Second, poverty in America is relative. This isn't Zimbabwe where one does not have reliable sources of food and drinking water. AIDS and other diseases aren't as rampant over here. We do not have a life expectancy under the age of 50. It isn't to say that there aren't legitimate economic and social concerns here. There most certainly are. But even the poorest amongst us have access to food, clean drinking water, clothing, shelter and other amenities such as automobiles, cable or satellite TV, video game players, air conditioning computers, cell phones, MP3 players, etc.

Indeed, in January 2000, I had a job interview in New York with ACORN. Yes, that ACORN. It was a day long interview. At one point, the young woman who was conducting the interview took me to a housing project in Brooklyn. We visited a young mother in the hopes of trying to get this family to join ACORN. What I remember from that meeting is that we could hardly hear the woman because her big screen TV was turned up so loud.

Again, I don't want to trivialize poverty in America. There are many families who have displaced by the state of the economy and find themselves in a precarious situation. Yet as Ronald Reagan said, "The best social program is a productive job for anyone who's willing to work." But jobs can't made out of wholecloth. Jobs are created under the right set of economic circumstances. The fiasco at Solyndra proved that point. Government must tax and regulate but it has to be prudent as to how it does so. It also can't pick winners and losers. It has to be neutral. Otherwise, there is no room for individual initiative to take root and grow.

President Obama speaks of calming oceans when a rising tide is in order.

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