Things are tough all over, mostly, and likely to get worse if you believe the social scientists and economists who seem know these things. Today we learned that the poverty rate in 2009 was the highest it has been in fifteen years. That doesn’t include the misery that continues to grow and fester during 2010. 44 million people, or one in seven Americans, live below the poverty line. That’s $10,830 in pre-tax cash for an individual; $22,050 for a family of four. 9.4% of non-Hispanic whites are impoverished by these standards, 25.8% of African Americans, and 25.3% of Hispanics.
The number of people without health insurance climbed to 51 million as people lost jobs or their employers cut back on benefits. Think about that the next time someone says this country does not need affordable healthcare.
What is tempering the level of impoverishment is that households are forming and expanding. Desperate yet resourceful people who would otherwise be homeless are moving in with family or friends or simply other people. They combine their incomes to survive.
It feels like a downward spiral which is so unfamiliar within the context of our American self-image. We strive and thrive. Good things tend to come to people who work as industriously as we do. We aren’t some under-developed country with crushing poverty. But we are. Internalize the data: 25% of African and Hispanic people in this country are impoverished.
What’s to be done? Vote, of course, for people who have a realization of the necessity for a social safety net. Vote for people doing something with their money other than pouring it into a campaign. (Also in this week’s news, Meg Whitman hit the $119 million campaign spending mark, with no end in sight. How many food banks and shelters and school supplies could that money support or purchase?).
More immediately, be generous when you can in the ways you can. Buy an extra box of on-sale (unsweetened) cereal for a food collection. Dig out those perfectly good sweaters and socks and jeans and job-appropriate clothing to give to a social services agency. People need what you are not using. Find a way to put those things in the hands of distributing services.
Perhaps the greatest act of generosity is the most affordable: Be compassionate with one another. Things are tough all over, and likely to get worse. LLII.
Of possible use, whether giving or receiving, among so many other wonderful City organizations and groups:
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