We are becoming a poorer nation. The median income for a male full-time worker has remained virtually unchanged since 1973. In 2010, the poverty level increased from 14.3% in 2009 to 15.1%. In New York alone, 63,000 additional people fell below the poverty line last year, and the nationwide child poverty rate grew by a whopping 18% during the past decade.
Instead of moving forward, we are moving backward.
It seems that in our talk about spending and taxes, there’s a little too much anger and yelling – and also, a little too much use of the word “poverty.”
Poverty is a concept. Talking about poverty can blind us to the actual experience of being poor, which for many, means:
- Your child doesn’t get a good education
- Your family can’t get a nutritious meal
- Your senior parent is living in housing that is unsafe, or unhealthy
- The breadwinner in your family can’t find a job
This is not some abstract notion of “poverty” referred to in political speeches or Census analytics. It’s the cold, hard reality of being poor.
It seems the only question before us is: Can we provide the basic necessities for our population? What we need to try to work for as a society and as an economy is to make sure that everybody has access to the things that make us human – a place to live that’s safe, decent food to eat, and a job… for indeed, contributing to society through work and labor is part of what it means to be human.
If we could just think and talk in terms of people who are poor, and the challenges they endure — if we could shift the conversation from the abstract to the actual reality, then we might finally be able to get somewhere.
Do you agree? Do you see a difference between “poverty” and “being poor”?