Poverty conveys the impression of individuals and families struggling to afford basic sustenance, shelter and education. Nothing that we should be concerned about then, since our status as the richest country in the world precludes the possibility of this phenomena existing in our society. Right? Sadly, no.
A 2008 U.S. Census Bureau/American Community Survey revealed that over 39 million Americans are currently living in poverty. 13.2% of our fellow citizens are living below the poverty threshold. One in ten of us are struggling to feed, clothe, educate and shelter ourselves. It gets worse.
A September 2011 study (Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010) commissioned by the U.S. Census Bureau revealed that the national poverty rate has risen to an astounding 15.1% (43.6 million), the highest since poverty rates were published in 1959.
More alarmingly, 22% of our children (18 and below) are now living in poverty! These numbers have been steadily increasing for years, and make no mistake; it WILL affect our future as a nation. The malnutrition, lack of education and psychological issues will follow these children into adulthood, and increase the likelihood of social alienation and generational poverty.
Excerpts from Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010
... 46.2 million people were in poverty, up from 43.6 million in 2009 - the fourth consecutive annual increase...
... poverty rate increased for non-Hispanic Whites (from 9.4 percent to 9.9 percent), for Blacks (from 25.8 percent to 27.4 percent), and for Hispanics (from 25.3 percent to 26.6 percent). For Asians, the 2010 poverty rate (12.1 percent) was not statistically different from the 2009 poverty rate
... Since unrelated individuals under 15 are excluded from the poverty universe, there are 422,000 fewer children in the poverty universe than in the total civilian noninstitutionalized population...
2012 Democratic Presidential Nominee
Current President of the United States
“Our economy plunged into recession almost three years ago on the heels of a financial meltdown and a rapid decline in housing prices. Last year we saw the depths of the recession, including historic losses in employment not witnessed since the Great Depression. Today, the Census Bureau released data that illustrates just how tough 2009 was: along with rising unemployment, incomes failed to rise for the typical household, the percentage of Americans without health insurance rose to 16.7 percent, and the percentage of Americans living in poverty increased to 14.3 percent.
But the data released today also remind us that a historic recession does not have to translate into historic increases in family economic insecurity. Because of the Recovery Act and many other programs providing tax relief and income support to a majority of working families – and especially those most in need – millions of Americans were kept out of poverty last year.
The substantial expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) helped inoculate our children from the economic distress experienced by their parents, as there was little change in the percentage of children without health insurance. The Affordable Care Act will build on that success by expanding health insurance coverage to more families.
Even before the recession hit, middle class incomes had been stagnant and the number of people living in poverty in America was unacceptably high, and today’s numbers make it clear that our work is just beginning. Our task now is to continue working together to improve our schools, build the skills of our workers, and invest in our nation’s critical infrastructure.
For all of our challenges, I continue to be inspired by the dedication and optimism of America’s workers, and I am confident that we will emerge from this storm with a stronger economy.”
September 16, 2010: Statement by President Obama on Income, Poverty, and Health Coverage Data
"... Finally, the last thing I just want to -- want to point out is on the issue of work and poverty. One of the things that happened after welfare reform was that we made sure that everybody had to work at some point. Unfortunately, we didn't lift them out of poverty. We have got a lot of people who work and are still impoverished. And so we've got to make work pay. That means that we've got to increase the minimum wage. "
June 4, 2007: Sojourners Presidential Forum on Faith, Values, and Poverty, for Democratic presidential candidates (Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama), George Washington University.
“Today’s steps build on the successes of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed by President Obama last February. The ARRA:
• Modernized and Expanded Unemployment Insurance: The recovery act included an unprecedented investment in unemployment benefits, including up to 79 weeks of benefits in the hardest-hit areas, a $25-a-week supplement to benefits, and incentives for states to expand coverage to part-time workers and take other steps to modernize their unemployment systems. The law also cut taxes on up to $2,400 in unemployment benefits and created a tax credit that pays 65 percent of health insurance premiums for unemployed workers. These provisions helped keep 800,000 people out of poverty, according to estimates developed by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.”
November 6, 2009; White House Press Release: Fact Sheet: The Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009
“And today, I’m announcing our new U.S. Global Development Policy -- the first of its kind by an American administration. It’s rooted in America’s enduring commitment to the dignity and potential of every human being. And it outlines our new approach and the new thinking that will guide our overall development efforts, including the plan that I promised last year and that my administration has delivered to pursue the Millennium Development Goals. Put simply, the United States is changing the way we do business.
First, we’re changing how we define development. For too long, we’ve measured our efforts by the dollars we spent and the food and medicines that we delivered. But aid alone is not development. Development is helping nations to actually develop -- moving from poverty to prosperity. And we need more than just aid to unleash that change. We need to harness all the tools at our disposal -- from our diplomacy to our trade policies to our investment policies.
Second, we are changing how we view the ultimate goal of development. Our focus on assistance has saved lives in the short term, but it hasn’t always improved those societies over the long term. Consider the millions of people who have relied on food assistance for decades. That’s not development, that’s dependence, and it’s a cycle we need to break. Instead of just managing poverty, we have to offer nations and peoples a path out of poverty.
Now, let me be clear, the United States of America has been, and will remain, the global leader in providing assistance. We will not abandon those who depend on us for life-saving help, whether it’s food or medicine. We will keep our promises and honor our commitments.”
September 22, 2010: Remarks at the Millennium Development Goals Summit, United Nations Headquarters, New York
“What is it about American culture that has led us to become the most powerful nation in the history of the world? We believe in hard work and education. We love opportunity: almost all of us are immigrants or descendants of immigrants who came here for opportunity—opportunity is in our DNA. Americans love God, and those who don’t have faith, typically believe in something greater than themselves—a “Purpose Driven Life.” And we sacrifice everything we have, even our lives, for our families, our freedoms and our country. The values and beliefs of the free American people are the source of our nation’s strength and they always will be!
The threat to our culture comes from within. The 1960’s welfare programs created a culture of poverty. Some think we won that battle when we reformed welfare, but the liberals haven’t given up. At every turn, they try to substitute government largesse for individual responsibility. They fight to strip work requirements from welfare, to put more people on Medicaid, and to remove more and more people from having to pay any income tax whatsoever. Dependency is death to initiative, risk-taking and opportunity. Dependency is a culture-killing drug—we have got to fight it like the poison it is!”
January 7, 2008: Romney speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in New Hampshire
“Well, my system is primarily based on trying to create jobs, not handing out cash to individuals. I do lower the lowest income tax bracket from 10 percent to 7.5 percent. And that helps, of course, people at the low economic level.
But also for individuals 65 and older, the fact that they're not going to be paying any Social Security or Medicare taxes anymore, no more payroll taxes, means that that's going to be a break for them.
But the heart of what I'm doing is trying to get businesses to become more active, buying capital equipment, trying to get businesses to grow in this country and to create more jobs, because the best, obviously, the best antidote to having an economic slowdown is growth in the business sector, creating jobs, putting more people at work and, of course, that generates more income for everybody…
Well, it's jobs. It's focused on jobs. And certainly, what you want to do is provide the incentives to help companies to be creating new jobs. I think the number of 50 million strikes a little high. But for those that are not paying any taxes at all, simply writing a check doesn't seem to me to be the right course to follow.”
January 20, 2008: Interview on FoxNews Sunday
“I'm in this race because I care about Americans. I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I will fix it. I'm not concerned about the very rich. They're doing just fine. I'm concerned about the very heart of America, the 90 percent, 99 percent of Americans who right now are struggling. And I will continue to that mistake across the nation…
… Well, you had to finish the sentence, Soledad. I said I'm not concerned about the very poor that have the safety net, but if it has holes in it, I will repair them…
… You've got to take the whole sentence, all right, as opposed to saying, and then change it just a little bit, because then it sounds very different. I've said throughout the campaign my focus, my concern, my energy is going to be devoted to helping middle income people, all right? We have a safety net for the poor in, and if there are holes in it, I will work to repair that. And if there are people that are falling through the cracks I want to fix that.”
February 1, 2012: Romney, in an interview with CNN’s Soledad O’Brien
"Well, obviously, it should be a state issue. It shouldn't be a federal issue. You even admitted it doesn't work very well. Then no, it should be a state issue.
But it has a responsibility, if you understand the economic environment that's necessary that the federal government can create -- sound money, don't overregulate, don't overtax, don't run up deficits. That's the environment that the federal government creates, destroys the job. The whole system of taxation and monetary policy sends our jobs overseas.
So, yes, they have a responsibility. But to say yes, there's only a few people who need our help, so we're going to give food stamps for the very needy. Well, what happens is you give food stamps for the very wealthy and endorse that principle 100 percent."
September 5, 2011: CNN Newsroom/GOP Presidential Forum, Colombia, South Carolina
"Well, I imagine that applies to a few people in the country, but, no, I don't quite come at it that way because the system has been biased against the middle class and the poor. When you destroy a currency, you transfer wealth from the middle class to the wealthy because they have access to the capital and they have a lot of benefits and they get the bailouts. So the poor and the people losing their jobs, wasn't their fault that we followed a very deeply flawed economic system, so I am not so anxious to say, "Yes, it is all your fault, if you want to be rich, you can be rich."
People are begging and pleading for jobs, but there are no jobs as a consequence of bad economic policy. It is the fact that we still accepted the notion that central economic planning and central banking under the Keynesian model can provide prosperity. That's where the flaw is. To blame that on the average person who wants a job, I don't agree with that."
October 6, 2011: Paul commenting on a remark made by former presidential candidate, Herman Cain, who claimed that Americans should blame themselves for not having a job and not being rich.
"The misguided federal 'War on Poverty' has proven disastrous to our nation. Federal intervention only resulted in more poverty, as the welfare rolls grew while employment shrank and mothers were encouraged to have children out-of-wedlock because the more children they had, the bigger the check they got from the federal government. I propose getting the federal government out of the way of private charities and institutions that wish to deal with the impoverished, and I want to end federal regulations and subsidies that restrict businesses, discourage renovation and expansion, and further the plight of the poor. Eliminating many taxes and regulations will allow businesses to hire more workers, and make it easier for impoverished areas to be renovated with private and corporate money. True compassionate conservatism means letting individuals, churches, and other groups, not indifferent federal bureaucracies, provide help."
"Poverty is not the result of bad luck; it is the result of bad decisions. Therefore, it can only be defeated through education. Fighting poverty with welfare programs is like fixing a heat pump by passing out sweaters. Welfare only helps people cope with the problem. It doesn’t fix the problem."
• Wuensche believes that we should help those in our society who because of mental or physical reasons cannot help themselves. But he believes that requiring all others to be productive is the best way to help them.
• He believes that handouts only create destructive dependency.