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America’s DEEP Poverty: The REAL Scandal!

By Shlomo Maital

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Deep Poverty

    All eyes, all attention, all media  are focused on America’s government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis, now coming to a head.  This is indeed a scandal – no way to run a country, as the Economist cover claims. 

   But as usual, the real scandal is elsewhere, and is largely ignored by all, including the squabbling Washington politicians.

   According to the Wall Street Journal Europe (Friday Oct. 11-13, p. 7),  “Extremely Poor Fall Further Behind”,    despite the so-called economic recovery,  44 per cent of Americans who live below the poverty line  are in “deep poverty” (i.e. they have income that is half or less that of the official ‘poverty line’, which itself is exceptionally low.     Some 20.4 million Americans live at this level of income!   One American in every 16 lives in deep poverty.  This is up from one American in about 30, in 1975. 

     Some 45 m. Americans live in poverty, defined as an income of $23,492 for a family of four.  So deep poverty is an annual income of $11,750, or about $240 a week.   Some of the biggest increases in deep poverty occurred in the Deep South – Mississippi, Indiana, Georgia, Alabama. 

   Many of the ‘deep poor’ have part-time jobs in retailing, and struggle to get enough hours to get by, because their jobs are for 20 hours a week or fewer. 

     I wonder how many of us could survive in the U.S. on $240 a week, to pay for food, shelter, clothing, education,  and of course paying for health insurance at that income level is out of the question. 

    So while partisan Washington squabble over politics, the deep poor sink deeper and deeper into despair.    What really could help the deep poor?  Sustained economic growth.  Only that can create the jobs they need, and convert part-time jobs into full-time ones.  But we won’t get sustained economic growth, while U.S. government spending is being slashed, because right now the government is the main, even only, source of growth in demand.  And of course the deep poor have no voice – they are silent, unorganized, with no-one to stand up and speak for them.

     Those of us who are comfortable should try to speak up for those who have so little.  But I just don’t know how to do this effectively.  Do you?

Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital