Poverty isn't a Money Problem

This can not be said enough: "People don't choose to be poor."

Most people do all they can to better their lives. It's not the mismanagement of their available resources, it's not being able to obtain the minimum resources necessary in which to survive—such as being able to find a job, or finding a job that pays a living wage, or finding a job that offers enough hours. Some of the poorest people manage their money better than anyone else, because their lives depend on it. They are attempting to "take personal responsibility for their lives".

Many of the nouveau poor today are mentally well-balanced individuals with college educations. Many are middle-aged adults with years of experience in their field of study or trade, but were replaced with H-1B workers willing to work for lower wages; or they had their jobs offshored. They are poor, not because they didn't responsibly plan ahead or work hard; they are poor because the rich insisted on becoming richer.

Millions of the unemployed (and now, the new poor) had educations, saved their money, and lived within their budgets. They weren't reckless and irresponsible; they didn't go to Vegas to gamble away their paychecks every weekend—they paid their bills.

Very few people try to "game the system" because they are lazy. Most Americans aren't drug addicts or alcoholics either. Most average Americans aren't crooks and thieves—just like most (if not all) politicians will tell you that they aren't apathetic crooks, greedy thieves and manipulating liars.

Poverty isn't a money problem for poor people; poverty (in the richest country in the world) is a problem with our distribution of resources. Poverty is the problem of inequality. Poverty is a problem because the rich hoard their resources. Poverty is a problem because corporations hoard cash while Americans remain unemployed. Poverty is a problem because of corporate welfare. Poverty is a problem because of unethical job creators. The problem isn't because poor people are poor; the problem is because the rich never think they are rich enough.

Poverty is worse in America than at any other time since the Great Depression. One in six Americans -- 16 percent or nearly 47 million -- lives at or below the government-defined poverty level.

The federal poverty guideline is $11,490 for an individual. But a person working full-time at a minimum wage job makes just over $14,000 -- before taxes -- meaning most minimum wage workers are living at or below the poverty level. The poverty level for one adult and two children -- the standard single-mother household -- is $17,000 -- higher than the amount a minimum-wage mother of two makes. According to the Social Security Administration, a third of all wage earners takes home LESS than $15,000 a year.

Poverty isn't a money problem, unless it's a lack thereof. But too many politicians seem more concerned about seeing to it that the rich get richer ("keeping more of what they the earn"), rather than providing better opportunities for all, paying fair wages to the working-poor, or creating jobs for the unemployed. From the Rev. Al Sharpton: "Minimum Wage vs. Maximum Greed".

If anyone believes even for a brief moment that corporations are in the business of hiring more people, he/she just might be temporarily delusional. Let's be honest and keep it real: businesses are consistently looking to grow their profits ... But the problem arises when workers keeping those businesses running cannot even afford to keep the lights on in their own homes. When CEOs and those in charge argue that they do not want to raise the minimum wage so that they can hire more workers, nothing could be further from the truth or more insulting. It appears that we're locked in a battle of minimum wage vs. maximum greed.

The working poor and the unemployed don't want their children living in poverty. More children live in poverty in the U.S. than in any other developed country except Romania, with one in two being eligible for WIC (Women Infant Children) program benefits. Child poverty increased 35 percent between 2007 and 2012. Over 41 percent of single mothers in America live in poverty -- as do their children.

Nearly half of all American children will receive SNAP (food stamp) benefits before they are 20. By the age of 20 a full 90 percent of African-American children will have participated in the SNAP program. Women are disproportionately affected by poverty, according to the Dept. of Agriculture statistics on hunger, with 79 percent of all working poor being female.

The percentage of Americans living in poverty -- 16 percent as of January 2013 -- is up from 14.3 percent in 2008. Federal government statistics show the percentage of people living in poverty is significantly higher in rural and inner city areas than elsewhere in America. According to the Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) more than half of all Americans (58.5 percent) will spend at least one year living below the poverty level at some point between the ages of 25 and 65.

The middle-aged working poor with educations (but with no corresponding jobs) are increasingly the face of poverty today. According to U.S. Census data, the widening wage and income gaps in the U.S. have made people between 35 and 55 most at risk for poverty due to job loss. The older a person is when they lose a job, the more likely they are to become long-term unemployed. And the older and longer they remain unemployed, their chances drop further of ever finding work again.

Suburban poor -- something virtually unheard of 20 years ago -- is now the fastest-growing sector of people living in poverty, with suburban food banks at record numbers. Once poverty was "them", now it is "us"—as poverty was once a generational problem (inheriting poverty the way the rich inherit their wealth). But now we've witnessed first hand that many once-middle-class Americans have also fallen into the poverty trap since the Great Recession. Poverty has become "mainstream". Our next-door neighbor can be living in poverty and many of us wouldn't know. A woman by the name of Paula Bray is but one example:

This is my America: Life in an RV Park with a Master's Degree: "I lost my full time job in September 2012. I have only been able to find part-time employment -- 16 hours each week at $12 per hour. For the month of December, my net pay was $365. My husband and I now live in an RV at a campground because of my job loss. This is America today. We have no running water; we use a hose to fill jugs. We have no shower but the campground does. We have a toilet but it only works when the sewer line doesn't freeze -- if it freezes, we use the campground's restrooms. We don't have a stove or an oven, just a microwave. We don't have a refrigerator, just an icebox (a block of ice cost about $1.89). My husband can't find a job. I apply for so many jobs daily. I have a Master's degree and have been in the workforce for over 30 years. Why can't I find a job? I have marketable skills. No one wants to hire me. Luckily, the State of Washington has decided to provide us with $300 in food stamps each month, but it still isn't enough to survive on. All of our savings is gone. I no longer have any retirement savings. Nothing. By the end of this month, we will be without anywhere to turn."

The lifetime risk of economic insecurity keeps increasing -- now at 79 percent by the time Americans reach age 60. The peak age range for economic insecurity and concomitant poverty is between 45 and 55—and statistically, the hardest ages to escape poverty.

Excerpted from a post by an "over-40ish" woman and professional journalist, who was once middle-class before the Great Recession, but who is now living in poverty—one of the many the nouveau poor: "The Invisible Americans"

Poverty isn't a "money problem." It's not about having to wait to cash out your 401k or your IRA or some of your stocks. It's having nowhere to turn for money. It's wondering which bill can be paid and which bill can be put off. It's trying to figure out how hard you can push an employer for more work before they get irritated. It's cutting back until there is nothing left to cut back.

And these things happen to poor people because they don't have money in the bank or credit cards or lines of credit or other access to money. They live paycheck to paycheck and the money always runs out before the bills. Look at the teeth of poor people. They are missing because a root canal and crown costs upwards of $2,000 while getting a tooth pulled costs less than $200. Medicaid will pay for an extraction, but not a root canal.

The images of American poverty all seem to be from the Depression...Haunting photographs of grinding, filthy, ramshackle poverty. Poverty looks different in most of America today. The poor aren't dirty, their clothes aren't torn. Unless you're in a poverty-stricken neighborhood, you don't know for sure that someone actually is poor. Because one of the tenets of poverty is to try not to look poor, try not to act poor.

Why are those of us living in poverty trying to hide it? Shouldn't the shame of poverty fall on those with too much, not those with too little? The shame is not on us. No one wants to be poor. No one wants their children to be poor. But until those who have so much make those who have so little a priority... America's poor will continue to walk among the rest of you, invisible as ever.

Recently another 1.3 million Americans just lost their jobless benefits and will be struggling to pay their rent. This week Pete Sessions (R-Texas) told Democrats:

"I believe it is immoral for this country to have as a policy extending long-term unemployment benefits to people rather than us working on creation of jobs. A job is the most important attribute, I believe, in a free enterprise system." (But what most of the politicians won't admit to is that the "free markets" have really been "fraudulent markets" for the past 30 years.)

Pete Sessions also said that Congress spends too much time arguing about people, such as the long-term unemployed (who are defined as workers who lost jobs through no fault of their own, and have been unable to find new work in the still-struggling economy for more than six months.) But if Congress isn't supposed to be talking about "people", who are they supposed to be arguing about, corporations?

The new 5-year farm bill cuts food stamps for the poor. But many members of Congress received direct payments in farm subsidies last year. Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.) received a subsidy and made headlines after he said during a committee debate that lawmakers should cut food stamp spending because they shouldn't use "other people's money" to feed the hungry.

Poverty isn't a money problem, it's a leadership and moral problem within Congress. It is they who appear to be too inept, mean-spirited and ignorant to do anything meaningful about joblessness, fairness, inequality and poverty. Maybe it is they who are "gaming the system" and maybe it is they who are the apathetic crooks, greedy thieves and manipulating liars. Why else would they blame the poor just for being poor? 

Many times it is they, the accusers, pointing their twisted fingers of blame, who are the guilty ones—guilty of the very accusations they make—such as when the rich claim that a war is being waged on them, when it truth, it is they who have been waging a war on the poor for decades; such as when the rich call themselves the "makers" and call the poor "takers", when it is the rich who have taken everything from the everyone else, and it is working people who actually creates the real wealth (It's true: The rich didn't build it, poor people did.)

Poverty isn't a money problem; greed is the problem when 1% of the world's population has too much and 50% of the world's population has too little.

In Pope Francis's apostolic exhortation, he said that the Church must "go forth to everyone without exception." But then he asked, "To whom should she go first?" But then he makes it very clear—it is to the poor, the forgotten and those who cannot pay us back.

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