Archives For Poverty

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1: Mississippi. The poorest state in the U.S. Also the one whose corruption most approaches levels in a Third World country.

SOURCE:  Gallery: America’s most corrupt states.

When they talk about corruption in this article they are talking about corruption of public officials and that is generally from taking bribes. As shown above Mississippi comes in as number one in this category. And as also mentioned they are also the poorest and most uneducated State.  I suppose those facts are somewhat related.

I read an article somewhere that much of the South’s poverty came from their reliance on slave labor which prohibited a free market place type competition to reign. Yes, slavery was  abolished officially over 150 years ago but most of us know that it continued to have its effects until the Civil Rights area and even today has not disappeared from the mentality of some of its citizens and their public officials.

Here is the list of the ten most corrupt:

  1. Mississippi
  2. Louisiana
  3. Tennessee
  4. Illinois
  5. Pennsylvania
  6. Alabama
  7. Alaska
  8. South Dakota
  9. Kentucky
  10. Florida

It is interesting to see that six of the ten States are in the south, two in the Middle, one in the Plains, and then Alaska.  During much of my lifetime Louisiana was at the top of this list. Huey Long and his dynasty openly had their hands out in almost all public contracts and such. The same goes for Illinois, particularly Chicago with Mayor Daily (the father that is).

It is surprising to see South Dakota on the list but with all the shale oil boom going on I suppose it is ripe for corruption and kickbacks.  What is even more surprising is that there is no State from the Northeast/New England on the list. Tammany Hall ruled New York City for years but I guess that effects have finally evaporated.

If you are interested in more click on the source above to see the article. Some of what you read will probably surprise you too.

 

2014-03-15_13-35-52I can still vividly recall when President Bush rode over the Hurricane Katrina devastation in a helicopter. From a thousand feet above he would shake his head and make a comment of two. From many of his actions, including this one, he just seemed to not really care or want to be personally involved. He was very much different from his predecessor in that regard.  Looking at the tragedy from far above make the people’s suffering seem very remote. I think that is the way he wanted it to be. Yes he was very forceful after 9/11 where he had an enemy that he could attack, real or otherwise, but since Katrina was “an act of God” who would he to take his wrath out on for this one? You simply don’t “shock and awe” God do you?

Actually it was probably a good thing that he did not get down on the ground much as that would have been more of a disruption than anything it would have accomplished. But getting to the point of this post is that some of us currently have only a helicopter view of what it is like to be poor.  To many of us, our only interaction with the poor is that we have to step over some of them on our way to work. The Republican money guy Paul Ryan is very much the same in that regard, He just came out with a proposed budget that drastically cuts food stamps and Medicaid again while not cutting our outrageous military budgets one iota. If that is not a helicopter view of the poor I don’t know what is.  The sad thing about that is that there are so many in his party who are  congratulating him for his “forward thinking”. They seem to say that if we can just forget about the poor then our budget problems would be solved!

Being poor is something many of us just want a helicopter view of. Hopefully it will never happen to us. The statistics say that more than half of us are about three paychecks away from being homeless.  With our helicopter view we occasionally send off a check or two for a few bucks to an organization that has a ground level view. We deem that as enough to fulfill our responsibilities in this area. That is good enough for us at least until we become one of “them”.

Poverty is systemic and government must have a role in reducing it. This is not an ideological assertion but a basic truth given the size of the problem and the complexity of modern society. The Census Bureau reports that government safety net programs cut the poverty rate last year by nearly half. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, kept 4 million people out of poverty, and most of that support went to families with children and a wage-earner with a job that didn’t pay enough to fully feed their families. Without a safety net, the poverty rate would have been 29 percent in 2012, according to an analysis of the Census report by USA Today. Government benefits protected 41 million people, including 9 million children, from poverty.

Conservatives need to stop saying that government programs don’t reduce poverty, because the facts demonstrate that is just not true. Referring to safety nets as “hammocks” simply betrays a lack of knowledge of, or relationship with, people who are struggling and need help. Government is not always the enemy, but often a valuable partner.

Yet, liberals cannot imply that government alone is enough, or that the safety net is capable of completely lifting people out of poverty. After all, the whole idea of the safety net is that it catches you after a fall. There are vital programs that protect people from poverty during hard times and keep many people from falling into further impoverishment, but they do not eliminate the root causes. The problems of family breakdown in our society need to be taken seriously and the cultural pathologies poverty creates require a response. Both social and personal responsibility are needed to end poverty. Economic opportunity must be actually available to everyone, especially lower-income people and families. This is a basic premise and goal that should be the starting point of the conversation between liberals and conservatives.

SOURCE: Want to Win the War on Poverty? For the Sake of the Most Vulnerable, Let’s Work Together – Jim Wallis | God’s Politics Blog | Sojourners.

I just received another moving email from my friends over at Sojourners. Above is part of that message.  As usual in our political system the truth lies somewhere between the two-party extremes of wanting to eliminate all help for citizens struggling and trying to fix all the problems with government programs.

There is a medium point between blaming those who have for one reason or another gotten themselves into trouble and those who think their problems can be totally fixed with government resources without doing something to address the underlying problems, and corresponding lack of responsibility, which caused the distress.  As mentioned above BOTH social and personal responsibilities are needed to end poverty. You can’t do it with only one of these solutions.

I can only dream that someday those yahoos in Washington can put aside their petty bickering and come to an agreement on this very powerful problem.

Many of us are taught, starting in childhood, to never, ever give up.

It applies even more so to those of us in the nonprofit, charitable, and faith arenas. We often work with hurting, broken but incredibly valuable people. We want to be the sort of inspirers who those we love and serve will one day be grateful for. And about us, we hope they’ll say, “When everyone else threw in the towel, this person, never gave up! She was always there for me. He never quit no matter how many times I messed up or tried his patience.”

If this is how you think, good for you. That is very noble.  But you’ve got to stop running around after people and cleaning up their messes or they will never get to that place. They will never say that about you.

You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? I’m talking about that fine line between being a perseverant supporter of a person and being an enabler of bad behavior or poor choices. The line between being dependable and creating someone who is dependent on you.

There’s a place for both. But to choose awareness, we must ask ourselves, If, at the end of trying to help someone, I am depleted, spent, and dried up, has anyone really been helped?

SOURCE:  Sarah Cunningham: Plant Yourself. Hold Firm and Give Off Light Be A Lighthouse | Red Letter Christians.

The words above contain great wisdom if we stop to think about them. I too hope that some I help will say nice things about me in the future. But I must realize that it is not about me but about helping them in their struggle with life. When I first started volunteering at the soup kitchen/homeless shelter ten years ago. I thought some of their practices were less than caring. Although we welcome anyone and everyone to the soup kitchen, no questions asked, there are some pretty strict rules for staying at the shelter. Until I was exposed to that environment more and was more aware of these types of circumstance I thought it should have been done differently. The purpose of this shelter and I’m sure almost all others is not to give those who are homeless and quite possibly involved with drugs a permanent home. Staying at the shelter is meant to be a temporary thing and if you break the rules you are asked to leave.

I have also learned that giving money to those who stand on street corners with the usual cardboard sign is not the way to help the homeless. More often than not the money is spent to support their drug or drinking habit. Giving someone a unconditional home or handout just might be doing more harm than good.  If giving money is the way you want to help those in need it is better spent by contributing to those who are on the front lines of poverty. If you really want to personally help that guy standing on the corner take him someplace for a meal or give him a gift card from McDonalds.

To close out this already long post I want to give you one more quote from the source article.

We can do this too. Plant ourselves in our communities and make our purposes and commitments clear. We can reach out to those in need, express interest in supporting their well-being. But we don’t have to frazzle ourselves chasing them in circles. Instead, we shine light strong and steady. And when they go through their cycles and pass by us again, we keep shining light. We persevere to shine it on them every time they pass. And eventually, when they are ready and tired of darkness, they may very well come to a place where the light starts to look good and they’re more interested in staying in a sunnier, healthier, happier place.

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Ryan2“The Ryan budget kicks 12 to 13 million people off of nutrition assistance, cuts off pathways to opportunity, slashes job training and education, and makes draconian cuts to Medicare, which serves a majority of the disabled and the elderly,” said Boteach. “That’s how House Republicans have outlined their priorities.”

Among those who voted for Ryan’s budget: Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, whose district has a roughly 28 percent poverty rate and 38 percent child poverty rate; Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.), whose district has a roughly 26 percent poverty rate and 37 percent child poverty rate; Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), whose district has a roughly 17 percent poverty rate and 25 percent child poverty rate; Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), whose district has a roughly 16 percent poverty rate and 19 percent child poverty rate; and Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), whose district has a roughly 16 percent poverty rate and a 26 percent child poverty rate.

Source:  ‘Missing In Action’: Congress Ignores America’s Poverty Crisis.

I am a strong believer in our representative form of government. It is what has made us strong over the centuries. But the recent problem has been that many who go to Washington as our representative end up clinging to a party line rather than doing what is best for those they represent. To me it is shameful to see so many of the strongest backers of the GOP/Ryan budget coming from areas that have the highest rates of poverty.

It is a hard fact for me to face but the reality is that poverty in this country just doesn’t have much of a priority when it comes to our government processes. The poor simply don’t have the political power or lobbies that many other things have. Because of the power brokers in the country our military establishments drain so much of the resources away from programs to help the least of these. It seems if they have a choice of making another $50 million war plane or helping 100,000 rise above the poverty level they always choose the former.  I know the Republican party is trying desperately to re-brand themselves in to something that shows they have compassion but given the latest Ryan budget their actions simply don’t live up to their re-framed rhetoric.

One of the easiest ways to help the poor in this country is to raise the minimum wage. It has not even come close to keeping up with inflation in the last 30 years. Of course raising the minimum wage has some very fierce advocates among the GOP. They, like they always have throughout my 60+ years on the earth vehemently claim that raising the wage will result in millions of jobs lost.  To me that ancient rhetoric has been disproved so many times in the past as to have lost all credibility but there are still millions of conservatives around today that  parrot those words.

Lets be clear that the majority of the 46 million who are now living in poverty work, do not lie back and expect life to be given to them. Most are working at  minimum wage jobs, often time more than one.  If the Republican party is really serious about taking on the mantel of being “compassionate conservatives” as Mr. Bush futilely tried to label himself so many years ago they need to recognize that until the minimum wage is raised to something at least remotely resembling what it should be poverty will continue to have a strangle hold on millions of households in this country.

We are almost reaching a third world status when it comes to the number of our citizens living in poverty. Shame on us!!!

As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world — that is the myth of the atomic age — as in being able to remake ourselves — Gandhi

Gandhi was a firm believer that small actions can result in big things. He spent much of his live doing small things but the result did remake the world. He managed to free India from British rule and he became the godfather of the idea of peaceful resistance which was later used by Martin Luther King and many others over the years.

We all need to understand the words above. Most of us wish that somehow we could remake the world into something with more compassion and justice but that is too big a dream for just one person. What we must each do is to find something that will make an even infinitely small contribution to that dream and when it is compiled with millions of other small efforts the end result will happen.

The lesson to be learned from this inspiring quote above is to stop complaining about the way things are and start doing some small things about it. If your would like to see world hunger solved, and it can be solved, contribute a few cans of food to a local food kitchen. How about giving a few hours to the Meals-on-Wheels organization?  If you are worried about people dying from preventable health causes let your representatives know you are for universal healthcare that much of the rest of the world already has. If that is not your thing then find someplace where you can volunteer at a local free clinic by for instance picking up people who can’t get there by themselves.  Even a few hours a month would mean something.

Just get involved no matter how small you think the effort is. If you do that and millions of other do the same then the world will be remade. It takes all of us to do our part to make big things happen. Individually it is impossible but as a group we can, like Gandhi and his followers, accomplish much. Just get off your hind side and do something!

Do what you can to remake yourself and in the process be a part of remaking the world….