Extreme Poverty in America / by kevin murray

America is the world's richest country as demonstrated by its having the world's largest monetary assets in aggregate, as well as the highest GDP in aggregate.  You might think this would mean, that in such a country such as America, which has actually created a social welfare net of long standing, that nobody lives in extreme poverty, of which extreme poverty is defined as living under $2.00 a day, yet as reported by the washingtonpost.com, "One and a half million American households live in extreme poverty today, nearly twice as many as 20 years ago."


The thing about poverty in America, is that this country has historically ignored the most poor and vulnerable in this country, by simply pretending that they don't exist, so that, it was a Danish immigrant, named Jacob Riis, who took the photographs in 1888 of the conditions as they were in the slum tenements of New York City, which would subsequently be published in his seminal book "How the Other Half Lives," that shocked the conscience of ordinary Americans.  Yet, the more things change, the more that they stay the same, for when hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, Americans professed to being shocked at the extreme poverty of those living in the Lower Ninth Ward, flooded out from their homes, and thereby exposed to America at large, demonstrating through those visuals the extent of how many were impoverished at stunningly high levels.


None of this, should even be possible in America, for if America cannot take care of its most vulnerable and exposed people in the present age, when it is at the peak of its powers, then it will be so much worst for those on the losing side of income and opportunity, when those powers begin to wane, as they inevitably will. 


The most disappointing aspect of extreme poverty is that it really should not be a shock or even surprising to anyone with even a scintilla of common sense, that it exists, for if you make it public policy, that it is just fine to have failing schools which do not teach anything of substance to its students, with blatant discrimination and social inequality being part and parcel of the way certain segments of the population are and have been historically dealt with, in addition to placing the poorest of the poor into unsafe, vulnerable and decaying residential areas, much more prone to natural disasters and crime, with an inherent lack of resources within the neighborhood that will provide fair and good employment opportunities, then the ultimate result will only be poverty and hopelessness.


If, America and its citizens, really cared about poverty in America, and especially extreme poverty in America, than they would make it public policy, once and for all, to really utilize the wealth of resources that it has at its disposal, effectively and with dedicated purpose, so as to actually go about correcting the foundation and the structure of this cycle of poverty that is systemic and will not go away by itself.  That is the challenge that a country as great as America should really want to rise up and confront, so it could prove to itself as well as the world, that this is truly a great nation, of which, to date, in so many ways, it isn't, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable masses of Americans that have been left behind, abandoned, forgotten, ignored, and forsaken.