Poverty conveys the impression of individuals and families struggling to afford basic sustenance, shelter and education. Nothing that we should be concerned about then, since our status as the richest country in the world precludes the possibility of this phenomena existing in our society. Right? Sadly, no.
A 2008 U.S. Census Bureau/American Community Survey revealed that over 39 million Americans are currently living in poverty. 13.2% of our fellow citizens are living below the poverty threshold. One in ten of us are struggling to feed, clothe, educate and shelter ourselves. It gets worse.
A September 2011 study (Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010) commissioned by the U.S. Census Bureau revealed that the national poverty rate has risen to an astounding 15.1% (43.6 million), the highest since poverty rates were published in 1959.
More alarmingly, 22% of our children (18 and below) are now living in poverty! These numbers have been steadily increasing for years, and make no mistake; it WILL affect our future as a nation. The malnutrition, lack of education and psychological issues will follow these children into adulthood, and increase the likelihood of social alienation and generational poverty.
Excerpts from Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010
... 46.2 million people were in poverty, up from 43.6 million in 2009 - the fourth consecutive annual increase...
... poverty rate increased for non-Hispanic Whites (from 9.4 percent to 9.9 percent), for Blacks (from 25.8 percent to 27.4 percent), and for Hispanics (from 25.3 percent to 26.6 percent). For Asians, the 2010 poverty rate (12.1 percent) was not statistically different from the 2009 poverty rate
... Since unrelated individuals under 15 are excluded from the poverty universe, there are 422,000 fewer children in the poverty universe than in the total civilian noninstitutionalized population...
“Our economy plunged into recession almost three years ago on the heels of a financial
meltdown and a rapid decline in housing prices. Last year we saw the depths of the recession,
including historic losses in employment not witnessed since the Great Depression. Today, the Census
Bureau released data that illustrates just how tough 2009 was: along with rising unemployment,
incomes failed to rise for the typical household, the percentage of Americans without health
insurance rose to 16.7 percent, and the percentage of Americans living in poverty increased to 14.3
But the data released today also remind us that a historic recession does not have to translate into
historic increases in family economic insecurity. Because of the Recovery Act and many other
programs providing tax relief and income support to a majority of working families – and
especially those most in need – millions of Americans were kept out of poverty last year.
The substantial expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) helped inoculate our
children from the economic distress experienced by their parents, as there was little change in the
percentage of children without health insurance. The Affordable Care Act will build on that success
by expanding health insurance coverage to more families.
Even before the recession hit, middle class incomes had been stagnant and the number of people
living in poverty in America was unacceptably high, and today’s numbers make it clear that our
work is just beginning. Our task now is to continue working together to improve our schools, build
the skills of our workers, and invest in our nation’s critical infrastructure.
For all of our challenges, I continue to be inspired by the dedication and optimism of America’s
workers, and I am confident that we will emerge from this storm with a stronger
September 16, 2010: Statement by President Obama on Income, Poverty, and Health
"... Finally, the last thing I just want to -- want to point out is on the issue of work and
poverty. One of the things that happened after welfare reform was that we made sure that everybody
had to work at some point. Unfortunately, we didn't lift them out of poverty. We have got a lot of
people who work and are still impoverished. And so we've got to make work pay. That means that we've
got to increase the minimum wage. "
June 4, 2007: Sojourners Presidential Forum on Faith,
Values, and Poverty, for Democratic presidential candidates (Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and
Barack Obama), George Washington University.
“Today’s steps build on the successes of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed
by President Obama last February. The ARRA:
• Modernized and Expanded Unemployment Insurance: The recovery act included an unprecedented
investment in unemployment benefits, including up to 79 weeks of benefits in the hardest-hit areas,
a $25-a-week supplement to benefits, and incentives for states to expand coverage to part-time
workers and take other steps to modernize their unemployment systems. The law also cut taxes on up
to $2,400 in unemployment benefits and created a tax credit that pays 65 percent of health insurance
premiums for unemployed workers. These provisions helped keep 800,000 people out of poverty,
according to estimates developed by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.”
2009; White House Press Release: Fact Sheet: The Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act
“And today, I’m announcing our new U.S. Global Development Policy -- the first of its kind
by an American administration. It’s rooted in America’s enduring commitment to the dignity and
potential of every human being. And it outlines our new approach and the new thinking that will
guide our overall development efforts, including the plan that I promised last year and that my
administration has delivered to pursue the Millennium Development Goals. Put simply, the United
States is changing the way we do business.
First, we’re changing how we define development. For too long, we’ve measured our efforts by
the dollars we spent and the food and medicines that we delivered. But aid alone is not
development. Development is helping nations to actually develop -- moving from poverty to
prosperity. And we need more than just aid to unleash that change. We need to harness all the
tools at our disposal -- from our diplomacy to our trade policies to our investment policies.
Second, we are changing how we view the ultimate goal of development. Our focus on assistance has
saved lives in the short term, but it hasn’t always improved those societies over the long term.
Consider the millions of people who have relied on food assistance for decades. That’s not
development, that’s dependence, and it’s a cycle we need to break. Instead of just managing
poverty, we have to offer nations and peoples a path out of poverty.
Now, let me be clear, the United States of America has been, and will remain, the global leader in
providing assistance. We will not abandon those who depend on us for life-saving help, whether
it’s food or medicine. We will keep our promises and honor our commitments.”
2010: Remarks at the Millennium Development Goals Summit, United Nations Headquarters, New York