Poverty in America

I just got the daily e-mail from Sojourners. Today’s, Sept. 9, isn’t online yet, but it will be here. Read it.

An excerpt:

As a direct result of Katrina and its aftermath, and for the first time in many years, the media are reporting on poverty, telling Americans that New Orleans had an overall poverty rate of 28% (84% of them African-American), and a child poverty rate of almost 50% – half of all the city’s children (rates only a little higher than other major cities and actually a little lower than some others). Ironically (and some might say providentially) the annual U. S. Census poverty report came out during the Hurricane’s deadly assault showing that poverty had risen for the fourth straight year with 37 million Americans stuck below the poverty line – and they were the ones most stuck in New Orleans.

Katrina has revealed what was already there in America; an invisible and mostly silent poverty that we have chosen not to talk about, let alone to take responsibility for in the richest nation on earth. This week, we all saw it; and so did the rest of the world. And it made Americans feel both compassionate and ashamed. Many political leaders and commentators, across the ideological spectrum, have acknowledged the national tragedy, not just of the horrendous storm, but of the realities the flood waters have exposed. And some have suggested that if the aftermath of Katrina finally leads the nation to demand solutions to the poverty of upwards of a third of its citizens then something good might come from this terrible disaster.

I signed their petition to President Bush about dealing with poverty, and I’ll be fasting at least part of Thursday as global leaders meet Sept. 14-16. I’d encourage you to read about it and sign the petition, too.

One thought on “Poverty in America

  1. You might want to check this book out: The Tragedy of American Compassion by Marvin Olasky. Before you do – be forewarned…Newt Gingrich wrote a recommendation for it on the back. I’m not saying I agree with everything in the book but it is extremely thought provoking. Olasky takes some interesting positions like, for example, the reason we haven’t cured poverty in Ameria is not beause we can’t afford to, it’s because “the poverty industry – the bureaucrats, caseworkers, service providers and grab-bag vendors in the private sector who plan, implement and evaluate social programs on goverment contracts” block attempts to get the money to the poor.He also asks some hard questions such as, “Even if we could write a check to every poor family in America, should we?” Olansky writes that “Poverty has been the condition of the vast majority of human communities since the dawn of history, and they have for the most part been communities of stable families, nurtured children and low crime…” I grew up under the poverty line but didn’t know it until I decided to attend George Fox College and the financial aid office told me so. Addressing poverty is very important, especially in light of recent events. How we do it matters.


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