World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 


Working and Poor in America

Working and Poor in America
By William Spriggs

The furor has not died down over Rep.Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) comments about inner city men and poverty in America. Ryan has agreed to talk with the Congressional Black Caucus about the racial overtones of the comments. Still, a troubling theme in America is the concept of the "deserving" poor. The problem with Ryan's statement and the current unwillingness to raise the minimum wage is a new sense among conservatives that there are no "deserving" poor.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., told us in 1967: "In the simplistic thinking of [the early part of the 20th Century] the absence of worldly goods indicated a want of industrious habits and moral fiber.We have come a long way in our understanding of human motivation and of the blind operation of our economic system. Now we realize that dislocations in the market operation of our economy and the prevalence of discrimination thrust people into idleness and bind them in constant or frequent unemployment against their will. The poor are less often dismissed from our conscience today by being branded as inferior and incompetent. We also know that no matter how dynamically the economy develops and expands it does not eliminate all poverty.”


Unfortunately we are back to Dr. King's square one discussing poverty. Being poor again means you are not industrious. The government that Ryan promotes is for the industrious company that ships American jobs overseas, gives tax breaks to the oil industry and farm subsidies to huge industrial agricultural firms. Ryan's government is not supposed to extend unemployment insurance benefits to support American families struggling to find work or help low-income children eat.

On these counts, too many are like Ryan. But, the reality is closer to Dr. King's assessment of the problem at hand. Let's lay out the facts. The majority of poor non-senior households in America have someone who works (62 percent) and yes, Ryan, this is also true for African Americans. Further, roughly one in five poor households has a full-time, year round worker; and yes, Ryan, this is also true for African Americans. Eighty percent of families with children receiving means-tested assistance for food, housing or health insurance have a worker in the family.

The new view is that the working poor are not "deserving" because times have changed, less educated workers are "too lazy" to have read the message and did not put in the effort in school they should have-they "deserve" low wages. But, since Dr. King's speech, the educational attainment of Americans has increased dramatically. So the poor cannot be simply those who dropped out of high school. Again, among families with children receiving means tested assistance, 40 percent have some college coursework, an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree or more.

Now, of course, a direct way to address this anomaly would be to at least return the minimum wage to the level when Dr. King shared these words. President Obama's proposal of $10.10 an hour would be a huge down payment toward doing that and would mean full-time, year round workers could lift a family of three out of poverty.

But in the midst of the continued fallout of the Great Recession on family incomes and employment, we must come to see that poverty is about more than work, or individual effort. It is about policy choices we make. Choices like Ryan makes to promote fiscal austerity instead of closing the huge $750 billion gap America suffers from having more than 10 million people unable to find work.

The income of our nation has more than doubled since Dr. King spoke on poverty, increasing by almost $28,000 (adjusting for inflation) for every baby, toddler, teenager, adult and senior citizen in this country-enough to have eradicated poverty. Ryan and conservatives want us to believe the rich are entitled to all that growth, and that the 1 percent are entitled to a free society for free.

Let us hope we share Dr. King's conclusion: "We are wasting and degrading human life by clinging to archaic thinking. The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization, when men ate each other because they had not yet learned to take food from the soil or to consume the abundant animal life around them. The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty."
ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Israel’s Demolition Of Palestinian Homes

Makarim Wibisono, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories. UN Photo/Violaine Martin More>>

ALSO:

  • Palestinian Centre For Human Rights - Israeli Settlers Continue Their Attacks against Palestinians
  • Tribespeople Call On WWF To Stop Funding Abuse

    This Baka man from Ndongo village reported that he was severely beaten by anti-poaching squads on two occasions. His neighbors have appealed to WWF to stop funding such abuses. More>>

    Ebola: UN Crisis Response Mission Opens New Office In Mali

    Workers build an enclosure at the Mayagba Ebola community care centre construction site in Bombali District, which is among the areas worst affected by the disease in Sierra Leone. Photo: UNICEF/John James More>>

    ALSO:

    UNESCO Chief Denounces Murder Of Somali Radio Journalist

    Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova. UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz More>>

    Palestinian Refugees From Syria Face Worsening Situation

    Palestinian women at a UNRWA distribution centre in the Jaramana refugee camp, Damascus, Syria. Photo: UNRWA/Carole Alfarah More>>

    ALSO:

    Greece Risks Prolonged Social Crisis

    Greece’s severe financial crisis has bred social unrest and intolerance of the nearly one million irregular migrants living in the country (October 2012). Photo: IRIN/Kristy Siegfried More>>

    Madagascar: Warning Of ‘rapid’ Spread Of Plague In Capital

    Ny Hantra Andriatsifasoa survived the bubonic plague after being infected in Madagascar in 2011. Photo: IRIN/Tiana Randriaharimalala More>>

    New Bird Flu Strain In Europe Threatens Poultry Sector

    24 November 2014 – The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization ( FAO ) today warned that a new bird flu strain detected in Europe poses a significant threat to the poultry sector, especially in low-resourced countries situated along ... More>>


    Get More From Scoop

     
     
     
     
     
    World
    Search Scoop  
     
     
    Powered by Vodafone
    NZ independent news