Wednesday, February 22, 2006

USA: Weapons not Welfare



" 'The Working Poor' examines the "forgotten America" where "millions live in the shadow of prosperity, in the twilight between poverty and well-being." These are citizens for whom the American Dream is out of reach despite their willingness to work hard. Struggling to simply survive, they live so close to the edge of poverty that a minor obstacle, such as a car breakdown or a temporary illness, can lead to a downward financial spiral that can prove impossible to reverse."

Amazon.com

"Grotesque inequality"

A report in the Observer makes clear the appalling level of poverty and the grotesque inequality in the US, largely ignored by US politicians, not reflected in the entertainment media - laugh along with Friends and other yuppies - rarely reported in US news media with its focus on celebs, sport and crime:

"37 million poor hidden in the land of plenty"

"... Americans have always believed that hard work will bring rewards, but vast numbers now cannot meet their bills even with two or three jobs. More than one in 10 citizens live below the poverty line, and the gap between the haves and have-nots is widening.
...
Under President George W Bush an extra 5.4 million have slipped below the poverty line. Yet they are not a story of the unemployed or the destitute. Most have jobs.
...
Even families with two working parents are often one slice of bad luck - a medical bill or factory closure - away from disaster. The minimum wage of $5.15 (£2.95) an hour has not risen since 1997 and, adjusted for inflation, is at its lowest since 1956. The gap between the haves and the have-nots looms wider than ever. Faced with rising poverty rates, Bush's trillion-dollar federal budget recently raised massive amounts of defence spending for the war in Iraq and slashed billions from welfare programmes.
...

During the 2004 election the only politician to address poverty directly was John Edwards... While 45.8 million Americans lack any health insurance, the top 20 per cent of earners take over half the national income. At the same time the bottom 20 per cent took home just 3.4 per cent.
...

In America, to be poor is a stigma. In a country which celebrates individuality and the goal of giving everyone an equal opportunity to make it big, those in poverty are often blamed for their own situation. Experience on the ground does little to bear that out. When people are working two jobs at a time and still failing to earn enough to feed their families, it seems impossible to call them lazy or selfish. There seems to be a failure in the system, not the poor themselves."

Paul Harris in Kentucky, Sunday February 19, 2006
Observer story

Cf:

'... The percentage of black Americans living in poverty is 24.7, almost twice as high as the overall rate for all races. In predominantly black New Orleans, that disparity translated into those with cars and money, almost all white, fleeing the flood while more than 100,000 car-less blacks were trapped in the flooded city.
...

Academic experts also say the government's figures minimize the true scale of poverty because they are outdated. The formula for the poverty level was set in 1963 on the assumption that one third of the average family's budget was spent on food.

This is no longer true. Housing has become the largest single expense and tens of thousands of the "working poor", the label for those who work at or near the minimum wage, are forced to sleep in cars, trailers, long-term motels or shelters.

U.S. Poverty Worst in Industrialized World

"Every August, we Americans tell ourselves a lie," said David Brady, a Duke University professor who studies poverty.

"The poverty rate was designed to undercount because the government wanted to show progress in the war on poverty.

"Taking everything into account, the real rate is around 18 percent, or 48 million people. Poverty in the United States is more widespread, by far, than in any other industrialised country." '

http://english.epochtimes.com/news/5-10-5/32984.html

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