What America is Saying … About Poverty




The victims of Katrina lived in some of the poorest states in the nation. In New Orleans alone, 23 percent of the population lives in poverty – 76 percent higher than the 13 percent national average. In Mississippi, 17 percent of the population doesn’t have health insurance. In Alabama, 24 percent of children live in poverty.

These Americans have become the most visible signs of poverty in the nation, but they are not alone. Nationally, 37 million adults and 13 million children are living in poverty. The victims of Katrina have demonstrated that the poorest, most vulnerable among us are in constant danger of being forgotten. Here is a sampling of what America is saying about poverty.

Richmond, Virginia — Richmond Times Dispatch

September 24, 2005 — Editorial

“Vivid images of the devastation and human suffering caused by Hurricane Katrina have opened many eyes to the reality of poverty in the United States. … “Who are the poor? By federal standards the poverty line is set at $19,350 per year for a family of four. That is $1,612.50 per month. Think of your own mortgage or rent payment, your own bills for electricity, telephone, and groceries. How far does $1,612 per month go for four people? … “With new attention now focused on the fragile lives of low-income Americans, rather than cutting programs and eliminating services, we must look for better ways to support and provide new hope for the most vulnerable among us.”

Louisville, Kentucky — Courier-Journal

September 26, 2005 — Letter to the Editor “I think we were not ignorant of [the poor] but that we avoided looking at them in our richly blessed country. How many times have we said or heard in the days since Katrina roared along the Gulf Coast, ‘This is not the country I have known?’… “For too long, we have been assured that whole populations can ‘pick themselves up by their own bootstraps,’ without envisioning how the elderly poor might pick up their own stretchers and carry themselves out of harm’s way. … “Maybe out of this flood of misery will come a determination to share some of our excess to alleviate their distress.”

Miami, Florida — Miami Herald

September 23, 2005 — Opinion

“Black people with means were able to escape New Orleans, just the same as their white counterparts. The people who were left behind were stranded not because they were black, but because they were poor.

“You might call that a distinction without a difference given that the poor are disproportionately black. I call it the basis for a fundamental realignment of American politics if ever the poor of all races and tribes finally realize they have more in common than they do in contention.

“Not to give short shrift to the forces that have led black people to be overrepresented among the nation’s have-nots. My only point is that at the end of the day, poor is poor, color notwithstanding. And the poor in this country are ignored because they are ignorable, forgotten because they are forgettable. Where is their advocate? Who raises their issues and concerns? Where is their voice? …

“[M]any of us simply forget that poverty is there, that American children hunger and American women need and American men lack and American people die for want of basic necessities …”

Detroit, Michigan — Detroit Free Press

September 11, 2005 — Letter to the Editor

“It has been so wonderful to hear the heart-warming stories of American families and communities reaching out to those who have been evacuated from the South. …

“If only we could offer a 10th of this compassion to the homeless families who have been suffering for years in our own backyards. Would we think of offering our homes to the thousands of foster care children who are looking for a sign of hope?

“I find it so interesting that we are interested in helping only those who make the front page.”




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