Poverty is the new death

Nobody likes to talk about poverty, have you noticed?

We’re all either in the middle class or about to be tossed out, except for the 1%, who are presumably safe in their gated communities.

New poverty figures are coming out from the Census Bureau and it looks as if one out of three of us are either poor or near poverty (one or two paychecks away)—the greatest number of poor people in this country in fifty years.

And here’s the question: how much is enough?

You’ve heard the quote (I’m paraphrasing): It’s not that we don’t have enough, but that we won’t share.

I listened to “Radio Lab” this past weekend (my almost favorite program), and the talk was about animals’ brains. Monkeys were placed in three different environments: rich, average, and poor. When their brains were studied (not by killing, I pray—by looking at them in a machine), the average monkeys (i.e. the middle class) had 20-30% more neural connections than the poor monkeys. They had bushier brains—busy expanding, learning, enjoying. When the rich monkeys were measured, their brains were no bushier than the average monkeys. And when poor monkeys were moved into an average environment (read, not worried about survival and with time for fun), their brains grew bushier in four weeks.

The lesson I took away is that we can be happy with enough—a sufficiency—and we’re no happier with more.

Why don’t we want to share?

Cornell West says nobody talks about poverty because poor people don’t vote in the numbers the entitled do, and poor people don’t contribute to campaigns.

The Republicans want to take government out of the safety net business and return care of the needy to private hands. Take a look at how we share now and see if you think this would work.

7 responses »

  1. The problem isn’t that people won’t share, but that 51% of the population are not paying taxes, plus those who are living on credit without saving enough money to buy what they need or want. It is the same with our government: we cannot give money to everyone if there is no money to give.

    • I agree with Zona’s sentiment, however our government IS absolutely giving away or spending money that they don’t have. They just print more money. That IS a very short sighted fix at best, in reality it’s not a fix at all. I work full time and cannot afford to rent a place on my own so I live with my mother and although see owns the title on her home, she can’t afford the ever increasing property taxes. I pay the property taxes as well as some of the monthly expenses including food. On my meager earnings I also manage to help my fledgling kids who are 23 and 19 y/o. My baby is in the army and can’t afford his cell phone services, so I pay for that. By the way he uses some of the apps to aid him when he is on a military assignment. I also manage to donate monthly to The Wounded Warrior Project. It’s a little sacrifice on my part in exchange for the huge sacrifice that our military men and women (plus their families) make in order to serve our country AND to help to establish democracy in other countries such as Iran. I sure would hate to be a woman or child living in any Islamic country that practices Sharia law. They have absolutely NO rights and are most definitely NOT created equal.
      I feel blessed that I was born an American, that I have a job and can help my family out a little bit.

  2. catherine marshall

    It is naive for the middle class to believe that as long as they are not poor themselves poverty doesn’t touch them. Poverty is increasing in this country at an alarming rate particularly among women and children. It affects us all as we deal with crimes of desperation, health costs passed to emergency rooms, and children dropping out of school because they are homeless and hungry. One way the middle class can help is by insisting that funds that support poverty alleviation programs (CSBG funds and Medicaid) are not cut from the federal budget and that we retain the Earned Income Tax Credit for working families.

    • How do you feel about people that are in the States illegally and are getting student aid, welfare, social security, health care, food stamps, ect. and yet have never paid into the system other than sales taxes, and are not even legal citizens?

  3. Leslie Sternlieb

    If low-income people voted, their issues would suddenly matter. Haven’t we learned from some rather high profile razor-thin majorities that every vote counts? The swing states will decide not only who becomes president, but the make-up of Congress. Get out and vote–and don’t forget to register!

  4. Women still make 77 cents on the dollar. AND take care of the kids. AND the Republicans still only value men, obviously, since they are trying to set women’s reproductive rights back 30 years. They don’t give a shit about caring for the children that are already here, either. That’s “women’s work.” This country has always been classist, there are just more poor folk now to bring it to our attention.


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