Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Trickle Up Poverty: Part Two

Gone Are the Days of Leave It To Beaver

According to a recent study, 85% of recent college graduates have returned home to live with their parents. The dismal job market hasn't been kind, and inexperienced college students aren't exempt from this cruel economy in which we find ourselves. 13.5 million Americans are currently looking for work but remained unemployed. We currently have an 8.1% unemployment rate, relatively unchanged, (the lowest it's been over the last 3 years, but still much higher than in the previous administration. 1 in 7 Americans are on Food Stamps, with roughly the same number facing something called "food insecurity." Adding insult to injury, is the recent news that JP Morgan is the largest processor for electronic food stamp benefits in the United States. For every new person found eligible for food stamps in 26 states, they make money. Big money. 

Part of the impetus behind Occupy Wall Street crowd's battle-cry is income inequality--the fact that the people who fall in the 1% category have seen their wealth experience unparalleled growth, while for the rest of us (the 99%), our income has failed to keep pace with the growth of inflation, and in many cases, dwindled as people face job losses or salary cuts. Many working class/middle-class folks have not seen raises in years, while the cost of living climbs (and so does the bottom lines of Fortune 500 companies, and salaries of hedgefund managers, CEOs of large financial institutions and corporations. The bottom-line: the "Average Joe" has less and less money, and has to somehow figure out how to make due with less, while everyday costs soar. The middle-class have less disposable income, which exacerbates the struggling economy. People hold their money a little closer to their chest when they're fearful about what tomorrow holds for them.

"Daddy Warbucks?" versus "Spread the Wealth?"

Much has been made about the wealth of presumptive GOP Presidential nominee, Mitt Romney. Money will be a crucial and deciding factor for many voters. Obama's campaign talks frequently about the plight of the working poor (or, depending on who frames the argument, "politically astute advisers" who know their targeted demographics, know that many of the working poor vote based on their pocketbooks). In fact, Obama's campaign has a new twist on Reagan's "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" question, turning it into a concern about the future, "Will you be better off in four years under a President Romney?"  Political pundits and talking heads digress into complicated discussions about euphemistic terms as "growth plans" versus "austerity measures" and proposed cuts in spending (or cuts in the "growth of future entitlement spending"---again, depending which pundit is talking). 

These politically divisive issues underscore some very basic things: Money is important to most of us. Scarcity of resources is a reality. Not everyone is going to have the same sized piece of the pie. Economic theorists argue the merits of one economic system over another, while mostly ignoring the true source of human misery and impoverishment (stay tuned for my take on that in upcoming posts!). Some argue that the goal should be to grow the entire pie so everyone has a bigger piece. Meanwhile, other egalitarians maintain that everyone should have the same size of the pie across the board, regardless of ability, talent or work ethic. Is the answer really some modern version of Robin Hood?

The Love of Money is the Root of All Evil and other Tales

Any casual study about wealth in the USA will reveal some very interesting statistics. There really is a huge disparity in wealth in America. The top 20% of the richest Americans own 85% of all privately held wealth. That leaves 15% of wealth for the remaining 80% of the population. Fully two thirds of all recent economic gains went to the top 1% of our wealthiest citizens.  Meanwhile, many are seemingly able to escape Uncle Sam. It seems that the cliche' that the rich get richer has some truth to it. Surprisingly, another study indicates that money really doesn't buy happiness. But that doesn't stop the elites from seeking more. The Biblical adage, "The love of money is the root of all evil" is no less relevant than today's news headlines. Story after story can be found about how avarice has lead to unfathomable heartache and broken lives.

So...the questions remain: why is poverty so prevalent? How do we fix it?


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I work for a Community-Based, Not-for-Profit agency. I have worked in the disability field for over twenty-five years. I am the father of two boys, and have been married to my teenage sweet-heart for 23 years. I live and work in the same town where I was born & raised.
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