Blog Action Day: Poverty

So I’m going to focus. With all my heart I feel for those who experience poverty throughout the world but I do believe the strongest measure of a country is its ability to stand on its own two economic feet. Therefore, its only fitting that I write specifically about poverty within the U.S. How can we ever expect to help anyone else if we cant even help ourselves? If we have a country that is the land of opportunity and is funneling ridiculous amounts of other countries to increase their standard of living when we have children dying everyday on our streets? We need to mend ourselves before we can stand a chance of changing the world.

Here are some facts:

– The most common measure of poverty in the United States is the “poverty line” set by the U.S. government. This measure recognizes poverty as a lack of those goods and services commonly taken for granted by members of mainstream society.
– Poverty in the United States is cyclical in nature with roughly 12% to 16% living below the federal poverty line at any given point in time, and roughly 40% falling below the poverty line at some time within a 10 year time span.
– Most Americans (58.5%) will spend at least one year below the poverty line at some point between ages 25 and 75
– Overall, the U.S. ranks 12th on the Human Development Index.
– 21% of all children in the United States live in poverty, but 46% of African American children and 40% of Latino children live in poverty.
– The Heritage Foundation speculates that illegal immigration increases job competition among low wage earners, both native and foreign born. Additionally many first generation immigrants, namely those without a high school diploma, are also living in poverty themselves.
– One in eight Americans live in poverty.

There is lots to be done to fight this epidemic of need. I found a really well written report by the Center for American Progress entitled, “From Poverty to Prosperity: A National Strategy to Cut Poverty in Half.”  It gives 12 steps that could significantly reduce the amount of poverty stricken individuals by 2017.

The top 5 Ideas on their list (in my humble opinion):

1. Raise and index the minimum wage to half the average hourly wage. At $5.15, the federal minimum wage is at its lowest level in real terms since 1956. The federal minimum wage was once 50 percent of the average wage but is now 30 percent of that wage. Congress should restore the minimum wage to 50 percent of the average wage, about $8.40 an hour in 2006. Doing so would help nearly 5 million poor workers and nearly 10 million other low-income workers.

4.  Guarantee child care assistance to low-income families and promote early education for all. We propose that the federal and state governments guarantee child care help to families with incomes below about $40,000 a year, with expanded tax help to higher-earning families. At the same time, states should be encouraged to improve the quality of early education and broaden access for all children. Our child care expansion would raise employment among low-income parents and help nearly 3 million parents and children escape poverty.

7. Simplify and expand Pell Grants and make higher education accessible to residents of each state. Low-income youth are much less likely to attend college than their higher income peers, even among those of comparable abilities. Pell Grants play a crucial role for lower-income students. We propose to simplify the Pell grant application process, gradually raise Pell Grants to reach 70 percent of the average costs of attending a four-year public institution, and encourage institutions to do more to raise student completion rates. As the federal government does its part, states should develop strategies to make postsecondary education affordable for all residents, following promising models already underway in a number of states.

9. Ensure equity for low-wage workers in the Unemployment Insurance system. Only about 35 percent of the unemployed, and a smaller share of unemployed low-wage workers, receive unemployment insurance benefits. We recommend that states (with federal help) reform “monetary eligibility” rules that screen out low-wage workers, broaden eligibility for part-time workers and workers who have lost employment as a result of compelling family circumstances, and allow unemployed workers to use periods of unemployment as a time to upgrade their skills and qualifications.

10. Modernize means-tested benefits programs to develop a coordinated system that helps workers and families. A well-functioning safety net should help people get into or return to work and ensure a decent level of living for those who cannot work or are temporarily between jobs. Our current system fails to do so. We recommend that governments at all levels simplify and improve benefits access for working families and improve services to individuals with disabilities. The Food Stamp Program should be strengthened to improve benefits, eligibility, and access. And the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program should be reformed to shift its focus from cutting caseloads to helping needy families find sustainable employment.

Source – for full article

Most importantly we need to stress EDUCATION, EDUCATION, EDUCATION, and EQUAL EDUCATION FOR ALL. Truthfully, I believe that not providing children with proper education because of parental income/means is a CRIME. Every child should have the chance to be whatever they want to be no matter what – what is the beauty of life if it isn’t watching a child bloom into a capable, successful, self sustaining adult? Do not let the young suffer for the mistakes or disadvantages of the old.
Also, with our intense need as a society for everyone to lookout for themselves only, it is very easy to get left behind. I’ve known friends who cant find work; I’ve seen people fall into what seems to be a never ending pit of “owing.” The most important thing for each of us to do as individuals is extend a hand. I know what some people are thinking: “They’re poor because they did something to be that way.” “They cant find work because they had a drug problem in the past.” No one is asking anyone to let people ride on your back, you don’t have to bail other people out but there are families out there who cant eat tonight because the bread-winning father was injured on the job but didn’t have proper coverage. There are some young adults out there on the street because they came from broken homes and fled abuse only to never land on their feet. There are elderly people out there who cant get anyone to hire them because of their age so they eventually lose their house and end up homeless…we’ve all had horrible things happen to us, why wouldn’t we try to help those we can? Even just supporting causes like increasing minimum wage can significantly help change the lives of millions of Americans. You can be part of that. I know I want to be.

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~ by Mathy Shoots People on October 16, 2008.

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