Charles Blow in the New York Times recently discussed President Obama's remarks on the poor, and media reaction to them. The President said,
“Over the last 40 years, sadly, I think there’s been an effort to either make folks mad at folks at the top, or to be mad at folks at the bottom. And I think the effort to suggest that the poor are sponges, leeches, don’t want to work, are lazy, are undeserving, got traction.”
The response of his critics, particularly those on the right, have echoed some common fallacies about poverty. Read the whole article.
This article from the New York Times describes a report that exposes the extent of poverty in American public schools.
"According to the report, which analyzed data from the National Center for Education Statistics, a majority of students in 21 states are poor. Close to two-thirds of those states are in the South, which has long had a high concentration of poor students. In Mississippi, for example, close to three-fourths of all public school students come from low-income families.
But the West also has a large and growing proportion of low-income students. Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada have high rates of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches."
This is the report by the Southern Education Foundation on which the NYT article is based.
This article in Time Magazine by a researcher at UC Davis says that the War on Poverty has not been lost. Any such claim depends on how one defines "winning" and "losing," however. Nonetheless, the basic finding that some anti-poverty programs do work is important.
"It is actually remarkable that poverty rates have not substantially grown, considering economic and social trends over the past three decades. Since the 1980s, rising demand for skilled workers and falling demand for their less-skilled counterparts have meant that real wages have increased substantially for workers earning above the median, but not for most of those who earn below it. This fact is at the heart of growing inequality. It explains how strong GDP growth can co-exist with no improvement for low-wage workers. Our own research suggests that the wider gap in earnings between workers at the median and those earning in the lowest 20 percent during the 1980s should alone have increased poverty rates by roughly 2.5 percentage points."
More and more evidence portrays not only the high levels of inequality in the United States, but how inequality is getting worse. A recent article in the New York Times claims:
"Before the impact of tax and spending policies is taken into account, income inequality in the United States is no worse than in most developed countries and is even a bit below levels in Britain and, by some measures, Germany. However, once the effect of government programs is included in the calculations, the United States emerges on top of the inequality heap."
The article includes some excellent graphs comparing things such as the tax burden, vacation days, and government social transfers in the US to other high-income countries. Few of the comparisons show the US in a favorable light. Read the whole article.
Poverty in America is not just a problem for urban areas, or people of color. Getting past those tired stereotypes, it's clear that poverty afflicts many many people in rural America, even in predominantly white areas. In the Pacific Northwest--famed for its dynamic tech economy--a closer look reveals communities struggling to survive as older livelihoods such as logging no longer employ many people.
One such community is Sweet Home, Oregon:
"Here in east Linn County, two hours south of Portland, one in five families earns less than the federal poverty threshold. In 2012, even as the economy in Portland, the state’s biggest city, began booming again as a center of high-tech and hipster life, Oregon had the nation’s highest percentage of residents receiving federal food stamp assistance, according to the census. And from 2011 to 2013, more than 15 percent of Oregon families were sometimes uncertain about getting enough to eat, a federal study in September said."
Read the whole article from the New York Times about how the decline of the timber industry has hollowed out parts of the rural Pacific Northwest.
An article in the Seattle Times reports that Seattle--a city where many people have relatively high incomes--nonetheless has a surprisingly poor black population. In fact, incomes for black people (which can include African-Americans or African immigrants) have been declining in recent years.
"It may feel like boom times in Seattle, but at least one group is being left out: the city’s black residents.
While Seattle’s median household income soared to an all-time high of $70,200 last year, wages for blacks nose-dived to $25,700 — a 13.5 percent drop from 2012. Among the 50 largest U.S. cities, Seattle now has the ninth lowest income for black households."
Read the whole article to learn more about pockets of poverty in a generally wealthy city, which is perhaps not such a surprising phenomenon in America.
Mark Bittman in the New York Times proposes that the reason people go hungry in the world isn't because of food shortage. The world produces more than enough food. The reason people go hungry is because they are poor, and so are deprived of food for a number of reasons.
"There’s plenty of food. Too much of it is going to feed animals, too much of it is being converted to fuel and too much of it is being wasted. We don’t have to increase yield to address any of those issues; we just have to grow food more smartly than with the brute force of industrial methods, and we need to address the circumstances of the poor.
Our slogan should not be “let’s feed the world,” but “let’s end poverty.”"
Read the whole article.
On May 11th, the Poverty Education Center hosted "Jesuit Universities Engaging Poverty: Perspectives from Seattle and Managua." The event brought together students, faculty, staff, and community members to hear from Seattle University and la Universidad Centroamericana about how they were engaging poverty in their communities.
Poverty Education Center