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Vincent Guarisco: Poverty in America - From Riches to Rags

'Poverty in America -- From Riches to Rags'

By Vincent Guarisco

March 6, 2012

Like a pebble dropped in a pond, everything we do affects the people in our lives, and their reactions in turn affect others. The choices we make will have far-reaching consequences. Each of us carries within us the capacity to change the world in small ways for better or worse.


I once read that, "short of genius, a rich man cannot imagine poverty." Perhaps. But these days, wealthy imaginations are not as narrow as they used to be as all walks of life (the rich included) witness the massive poverty increase in the land of plenty. Could it be that, for most Americans (the 99%), the blessed era of fruitful sustainability is coming to a close?

Numbers don't lie. The economic injustice that fuels poverty is very real. And with unemployment soaring, even those lucky enough to have jobs are either working part-time or lumbering through long hard hours for a paltry check that is rarely enough to pay the bills. This is not quality of life. This is not the way it's supposed to be in a civilized society. Along with the physical aspects, chronic depression and loneliness is an ever-present life-degrading condition during hard times, and the numbers are staggering. In fact, with economic absurdities piled upon stress, it makes a strong emotional case that fragile minds now feel like worn-out slaves profoundly living on a huge modern-day plantation. This is especially true with crushing debt burdens, high inflation, job lay-offs and ongoing austerity measures in this full-blown era of psycho-economic "globalization." It doesn't take a mental giant to figure out how the system works and for whom. For details on what to expect here in the U.S., see the tragic mess in Greece. It's not pretty.

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The reality on the ground is grave. People are homeless and way too many bread baskets are empty. All walks of life are affected, including children, the elderly and the disabled. Inequities continue to widen and people are without crucial medicine, dental, vision or other basic healthcare needs. For the penniless, the sick and the disfranchised -- government policymakers are definitely not up to snuff when it comes to serving our best interest.

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However, poverty has awakened the national psyche. All doubt has melted away and we now know for sure that most politicians are blowhards without virtue, offering little more than "fascism" for a corporate empire filled with swelled egos who woefully believe the rest of us are small inferior bottom-feeders ... and that big ol' them deserve more, more and more. Although our representatives try to convey the foolish idea that they are our champions, we know who is bearing the blunt of policies that slash at already threadbare safety nets.

Numbers don't lie. According to census data, 47 million Americans now live below the poverty line -- the most in half a century (since the last great depression) -- fueled by years of high unemployment, home foreclosures, the stock market crash and a diminishing manufacturing base that has jettisoned American livelihoods in every direction outside our border. There's no pretending anymore, this is the economic agenda favored by transnational corporations and the folks on Wall Street -- as businesses, services and other commerce drift away from our shores. And with no good jobs to be had, opportunity will continue be out of reach until we reverse course. Therefore, a great American triumph must be realized. We must rise above the destructive ideology of "outsourcing" ... and rebuild America's manufacturing base and put Americans back to work. And it must be done now!

And so the story goes -- the "news media" has little concern for publicizing the struggles of the little guy, regardless of the consequences that those cited above have engineered. Because, when it comes to playing us like like a fiddle under the big tent, media clowns perform on cue. Indeed, they have taken their "corporatutional" oath to do us harm in all sectors of newsworthy information, but it really hits home -- economically -- when it comes to their silence on America's manufacturing base "fire-sale" to foreign nations.

In terms of their commitment to such kindred spirits such as Mr. Rupert (wiretap) Murdoch, the media's endless spy/spin cycle will not be receding anytime soon. However, once in a while a few discordant images gets through the laughable theme of a robust economic "recovery." It's usually not music to corporate ears, but nonetheless ... it does capture the effect of today's widespread social sickness that surrounds us like a thick fog. Here's a few blunt snapshots rarely caught in that disappearing lens called "mainstream" media.

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For the Children: The ongoing economic crisis has negatively affected the livelihoods of millions of Americans, but the effect it has on children and youth is especially tough to bear. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2012), the unemployment rate is 8.3 percent as of January 2012. Of course, we already know this number is low-balled at best. For example...

  • U.S. Census data reveals that from 2009 to 2010, the total number of children under age 18 living in poverty increased to 16.4 million from 15.5 million. Child poverty rose from 20.7 percent in 2009, to 22 percent in 2010, and this is the highest it has ever been since 1993.

  • Racial and ethnic disparities in poverty rates persist among children. The poverty rate for Black children was 38.2 percent; 32.3 percent for Hispanic children; 17 percent for non-Hispanic White children; and 13 percent for Asian children.

  • The National Center for Children in Poverty reports that 17.2 million children living in the U.S. have a foreign-born parent, and 4.2 million children of immigrant parents are poor. It is reported that child poverty in immigrant families is more closely related to low-wage work and barriers to valuable work supports.

  • The Population Reference Bureau (2010) reports that 24 percent of the 75 million children under age 18 in the U.S. live in a single-mother family. The poverty rate for children living in female-householder families (no spouse present) was 42.2 percent in 2010; 7 in 10 children living with a single mother are poor or low-income, compared to less than a third (32 percent) of children living in other types of families. A staggering 50.9 percent of female-headed Hispanic households with children below 18 years of age live in poverty (48.8 percent for Blacks; 31.6 percent Asian, and 32.1 percent non-Hispanic White).

  • Single-mother headed households are more prevalent among African American and Hispanic families contributing to ethnic disparities in poverty.

The number of those affected speaks for itself. Poverty is color-blind.

I have no catchy euphemisms or metaphors to describe the horrific hardship that has shattered the bond-of-trust between our nations' people and those who govern in public office. Shame on them! And although some of them do have their priorities in the right place, sadly, there is not enough of them to create the change we so desperately need. Overwhelmingly, most representatives have sold us out and we are nearly destroyed because of it. The poor souls pictured here will always be in my prayers. To some degree, I have exploited them, but for a worthy purpose in order to draw attention to their plight. Their struggle is our struggle, it's a full-blown human-rights disaster that must be addressed by all of us.

Our Forgotten Solders: And so it would seem, nothing is sacrosanct in this degenerating environment. Even our brave soldiers returning home from battle are mystified at what has happened to their country while they were gone. Most are completely blown away to say the least! Images such as this, the military routinely sweeps under the rug, because It's not exactly a moral booster for "enlistment" purposes.

The rate of homeless veterans is a manifestation on the rise. Only eight percent of the general population can claim veteran status, but nearly one-fifth of the homeless population are veterans. Based on statistics gathered by the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, there are currently over 67,000 homeless veterans in this country and this number rises higher each day. Roughly 56 percent of all homeless veterans are African American or Hispanic, despite only accounting for 12.8 percent and 15.4 percent of the U.S. population respectively. About 1.5 million other veterans, meanwhile, are considered at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.

In addition to the complex set of factors influencing all homelessness -- extreme shortage of affordable housing, livable income and access to health care -- a large number of displaced and at-risk veterans live with lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse, which are compounded by a lack of family and social support networks. Although this obligation is not being met, A top priority for homeless veterans should be secure, safe and clean housing that offers a supportive environment free of drugs and alcohol. Having a father who still suffers the lasting affects of PTSD (a most honorable combat veteran who served during WWII and Korea), I can relate to the importance of providing a safe, supportive environment.

Also, In a 2009 article published in USA Today, it was reported that veterans stayed in shelters longer, on average, than non-veterans. The median length of stay for single veterans was 21 days, while non-veterans stayed for 17 days. Most homeless veterans -- 96% -- are alone rather than part of a family. Among all homeless people, 66% are without families. The 136,334 veterans who spent at least one night in a shelter during the year studied amount to one of every 168 veterans in the USA and one of every 10 veterans living in poverty.

I would add, many veterans became financially devastated while serving our country in foreign combat zones. To me, this is especially unacceptable when we consider the sacrifices they made.

There is a better way for us to move forward. Issues such as poverty, corruption, collapse, homelessness, war, starvation and the like appear to be "symptoms" born out of an outdated social structure. Our principal focus should include recognizing that the majority of social problems which plague our nation at this time are the result of institutional corruption, corporate monopolies, austerity political policy and a flaw of irresponsible management from the top down.

We need to find optimized solutions, and we must to do it now! And if that means marching in the street to get it, so be it. Our allegiance should be to each other in the grand scheme of things and we should not rely on traditional political platforms or parties to do it for us. No one should be left behind. The path forward is self-evident, we must tackle the challenges ahead and make sure all basic resources are affordable and available to everyone, not just a select few at the top of the food chain.

We Are One Humanity.

We are all connected in this tapestry called "life." Like a pebble dropped in a pond, everything we do affects the people in our lives, and their reactions in turn affect others. The choices we make will have far-reaching consequences. Each of us carries within us the capacity to change the world in small ways for better or worse. I say let us be the heroes we always hoped we could be. Let's heal humanity! God bless.

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Vincent L. Guarisco is a freelance writer from Arizona, a contributing writer for many web sites, and a lifetime founding member of the Alliance of Atomic Veterans.

The 21st century, once so full of shining promise, now threatens to force countless millions of us at home and abroad into a dark abyss of languishing poverty and silent servitude; a lowly prodigy of painful struggle and suffering that could stream for generations to come. I'm wishing for a miracle, before it is too late, the masses will figure it out and will stand as one and roar. So, pass the word -- it's past time to take back what is ours -- the American Dream where the pursuit of happiness, the ability to live in a free and peaceful nation is a reality. We bought it, and we paid for it. It's time to take it back.



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