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Poverty is pervasive

Poverty is pervasive

Poverty is more pervasive than we realize, says Mark Rank in an op-ed for The New York Times. He writes:

Contrary to popular belief, the percentage of the population that directly encounters poverty is exceedingly high. My research indicates that nearly 40 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 60 will experience at least one year below the official poverty line during that period ($23,492 for a family of four), and 54 percent will spend a year in poverty or near poverty (below 150 percent of the poverty line).

Even more astounding, if we add in related conditions like welfare use, near-poverty and unemployment, four out of five Americans will encounter one or more of these events.

In addition, half of all American children will at some point during their childhood reside in a household that uses food stamps for a period of time.

Put simply, poverty is a mainstream event experienced by a majority of Americans. For most of us, the question is not whether we will experience poverty, but when.

I am wondering if support for the social safety net–which I think of as one of the great achievements of western capitalist democracies–would be stronger if these figures were widely known.


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Tom Sramek, Jr.

There seems to be a huge mental disconnect. People carry signs saying “Government Out of Healthcare!” and then support Medicaid. There is a huge push for “smaller governemnt,” especially by older conservative folks–most drawing Social Security benefits. The map of the United States that has the comparison of taxes paid versus government money received has the “taker” states almost exactly matching the Republican-dominated south. For some reason, people are not grasping that when they push for deep cuts in social programs, they’re cutting their own throats.

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