More Poverty in 2010 No Surprise, Still Worrisome

The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that median household income declined in 2010 and the poverty rate increased. The bureau reported the highest numbers of people living in poverty in the 52 years it has collected such estimates. There were 46.2 million people in poverty in 2010, up from 43.6 million in 2009, the fourth consecutive annual increase. The nation's official poverty rate in 2010 rose to 15.1 percent. That's up nearly a full percent from from 2009's 14.3 percent. It's the third consecutive annual increase in the poverty rate. Since 2007, the poverty rate has increased by 2.6 percentage points. Real median household income in the United States in 2010 was $49,445, a 2.3 percent decline from the 2009 median.

The U.S. South appears to have been hit the hardest in the last year. According to the report: "The South was the only region to show statistically significant increases in both the poverty rate and the number in poverty -- 16.9 percent and 19.1 million in 2010 -- up from 15.7 percent and 17.6 million in 2009. In 2010, the poverty rates and the number in poverty for the Northeast, Midwest and the West were not statistically different from 2009."


The Census Brureau reports that since 2007, the year before the most recent recession, real median household income has declined 6.4 percent. It is now 7.1 percent below the median household income peak that occurred prior to the 2001 recession in 1999. The number of people without health insurance rose by nearly 1 million to 49.9 million, not statistically different from the previous year.

The poor and the middle class are enduring a joint pummelling as the nation's "recovery" continues, but are the numbers enough to draw Congress's attention away from budget cutting and toward spending aimed at emergency relief? Not likely as the nation's political establishment enters another year of campaigning (did it stop?).


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7 years 6 months ago
I do not think the so called new jobs program proposed by Obama will help the poor.  The last one certainly didn't as the current numbers indicate.  It is directed at Democratic Party constituencies such as public sector unions and some private sector unions.  This emphasis on the unions essentially eliminated the poor in the jobs area so what Obama has proposed is not friendly to them. It is just taking money from everyone and giving it to those who reliably vote Democratic.  They are repeating the same immoral behavior they always engage in since they started buying votes with money during the 1930's.
All it will do is distort normal market activity and then fade into oblivion.  Stimulus spending programs almost never work because the government picks winners for short term help while the rest get nothing.  There is no long term expectation or future connected with it.  As I said, Obama and his crew are just repeating all the mistakes of the Great Depression but they hope their rhetoric will get approval so they can buy the votes.  Spending on projects didn't work then and if it works now, it will be a first.  What is the definition of insanity, repeating the same failed things over and over again.
And there is their enablers in the press, academia and popular culture.  
7 years 6 months ago
Read the whole thing when you get a chance.  The concept of poor is a relative thing and essentially there are very few poor but we will hear the term bandied about here as we must not cut programs for the poor when in fact what they mean is we must not cut the increases that are built into the budget for the poor.  It is a political football that we will hear played by various elements for an advantage.  Here are few short paragraph from not too far into the report: 
''The poorest Americans today live a better life than all but the richest persons a hundred years ago.” In 2005, the typical household defined as poor by the government had a car and air conditioning. For entertainment, the household had two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR. If there were children, especially boys, in the home, the family had a game system, such as an Xbox or a PlayStation.  In the kitchen, the household had a refrigerator, an oven and stove, and a microwave. Other household conveniences included a clothes washer, clothes dryer, ceiling fans, a cordless phone, and a coffee maker.
The home of the typical poor family was not overcrowded and was in good repair. In fact, the typical poor American had more living space than the average European. The typical poor American family was also able to obtain medical care when needed. By its own report, the typical family was not hungry and had sufficient funds during the past year to meet all essential needs.
Poor families certainly struggle to make ends meet, but in most cases, they are struggling to pay for air conditioning and the cable TV bill as well as to put food on the table. Their living standards are far different from the images of dire deprivation promoted by activists and the mainstream media.'' 

The unfortunate thing is we have a president and a political party that is on its way to not only making more poor than we had before in a statistical sense but to make their lot worse so that they may in the end become the poor of our images and not just relatively worse off than others.  Will we get any intelligent discussion of that here.  No, just rhetoric that has as its aim, electing a political party that will cause with its programs even more poor.  A sad thing for a so called Catholic organization that arrogantly looks down on those who suggest alternative approaches are much better.
C Walter Mattingly
7 years 6 months ago
Kevin Clarke here provides us with the sad numbers of increase in the poverty level, which comes as no surprise to most of us. Nor does the fact that poverty tends to be worse in the south than other regions of the country. There is, however, a factor which is a greater indicator of poverty than region: ethnic composition. Of the states with the 3 highest rates of unemployment, only Mississippi is in the south. The other two, DC (which is counted with the states in the US Census figures) and New Mexico, are not. What do they have in common that distinguishes them from the states with the lowest unemployment figures? Ethnic makeup. The population of Mississippi is 37% black and 40% black and hispanic; DC is 51% black and 60% black and hispanic; N Mexico is 46% Hispanic and 48% black and hispanic. By contrast New Hampshire, with the lowest unemployment rate, is 1% black and 4% black and hispanic. In fact, the states with the 4 lowest unemployment rates have less than a third the combined black and hispanic populations percentages as do their counterparts with the 4 highest unemployment levels. And that same general correlation exists between the south and other regions of the country. 
The question that follows is what can the government do to improve this situation that doesn't cost more money, as we are, roughly speaking, broke. Since all sides agree that the US is suffering from a poor K-12 education system despite over a generation of huge spending increases, that is where we can begin.
Minority public education has just had its Rosa Parks moment. As we all recall, Rosa was the one who sparked the Civil Rights movement by being arrested for refusing to move her seat for a white person. It is less well known that Ms Parks attended a religious school(Quaker), where she was taught principles of morality, charity, and religion. Just recently, Kelley Williams-Bolar was jailed with felony charges for illegally enrolling her children in a school she judged to be safe and competent rather than the one to which she was assigned which was unsafe and of lesser quality. Rosa Parks was objecting to separate and equal, which of course was separate and unequal, but she only objected to losing her seat on the bus. In the case of Kelley, her children were losing the right to a safe and adequate education, her illegal defiance by enrolling her children into such a school that would provide for them resulted in the same quandry Rosa experienced. 
Vouchers would have helped Kelley by providing her with expanded opportunities for such a school for her children. In the case of parochial schools they would also provide her children with moral and religious foundations outlawed in the public school system. Since the greatest predictor of impoverished children is whether or not a mother and father are at the home, teaching the discipline and moral good of such actions and the discipline of restraint and delayed gratification might have a greater impact on building a committed relationship between father and mother for the child's benefit than teaching that child proper condom usage would.
7 years 6 months ago
Miramur. I don't understand how Mr Ciosgrove can consistently take over this Catholic site, no matter the topic, to amplify the Republican talking point of the day or, in this case, one of the sources for the TPs. After reading his offerings today, I am able to say: Lord, when did I see you hungry that you were not taking food stamps from taxpayers? And when did I see you a stranger that we didn't bankrupt ourselves letting you and your ilk take advantage of us? And when did I see you naked that you didn't have a government clothing voucher? And when you were in prison, we used our hard-earned tax money to build you a weight room that is better than the one at my gym.
 When the words of the Gospel threaten to hit home, just find an economost to drown them out.
Tom Maher
7 years 6 months ago
Very interesting how in vast regions of the nation - the northeast, mid-west and west - the poverty rate did not change since 2009.   This is not a nation-wide problem.  The increase in poverty rate is a regional problem.  How did that happen?

The regions with unchanged poverty rates since 2009 are more politically favored regions to the Democrat party that are more urban and more Democrat and more unmionized  parts of the nation.  Intentionally and unintentionally the 2009 stimulus law under the complete and absolute control of Democrat majorities in Congress targeted the stimulus toward their political constituancies and politica intrests such as  the urban poor as  oppossed to all poor,  projects helpful to unions employment  and "investments" in technically and commercailly non-viable but oh so environenmently appealling  "green" industries that are going backrupt across the country.  

No jobs were created and the overall economy still ramains fragile and unrecovered.  The 2009 stimulus law was an old-fashion political boondoggle, a waste of money without economic impact. 

It is no wonder that people will remebering this failure of economic policy and reject any more stimulus programs especially in non-urban parts of the country that recieved no funding for their economic recovery.  These economic programs were a massive failure that the nation can not affrod to repeat.   
Beth Cioffoletti
7 years 6 months ago
My husband and I recently went through a time where we had to live on less than $30,000 a year.  We had to be creative with how we ate (we learned a lot about beans and rice) and shopped for food, and we had to do without a lot of things like new clothes or little vacations.  In fact, we had to do without anything extra.

By far, the biggest hardship was the stress related to health coverage and health insurance.  We spent almost 1/2 of this $30,000 income that we had  - more than $1000 a month - on minimal health insurance.  Which means that we lived on $15,000.  We were lucky, our house was paid for so we had no mortgage payments. 

I don't know how others do it.  Especially if there are children to raise.

There is much that government can do to alleviate the severe and crippling hardship of poverty for so many Americans. 

But a culture of consumerism is also part of the problem.   As usual, Christianity has the answer, articulated well by Peter Maurin:

Everybody would be rich
if nobody tried
to become richer.

And nobody would be poor
if everybody tried
to be the poorest

Bringing this insight to the light of day in a Capitalist country is going to take some very creative Christians.  There are little pockets of Catholic Workers and even the Amish who seem to be on the right track.
Vince Killoran
7 years 6 months ago
Poverty is a relative thing of course, which means that its definition is different today than in, say, the nineteenth century. So too is just about everything, e.g., medical care.  I can't imagine anyone arguing that we need not fight disease because we have a healthier public than we did back then. 

So, a discussion of what constitutes poverty is fine but it should include food insecurity, homelessness, lack of health care, etc. as well as our changed notion of human rights.

I endorse Kevin Clarke's plea that some certain people not use this site as their hobby! 
Michael Maiale
7 years 6 months ago
While I imagine I'm one of the more conservative commenters here, I'm a little uncomfortable with JRCs presentation of things.  For one thing, there really are people in this country who, even if they're not homeless, cannot afford basic household appliances like refrigerators.  Additionally, pointing out that most people have them isn't indicative of all that much when you consider that making daily shopping trips and purchasing in very small quantities (or, alternatively, packing coolers with ice) would be more expensive, in the long run.

More importantly, I think it's important to separate out concepts.  On the one hand, we've obviously made big gains in living standards across social classes since we've embraced market-based economies, finance and industrialism, and, recognizing that, it's important not to turn against those drivers of progress just because some people haven't progressed "enough" for our tastes.  But, on the other, it's important that as society progresses, we continue to revise our notions of what kind of quality of life we expect our worse-off citizens to have.  Without those revisions, wages for unskilled laborers will remain stagnant and, ultimately, our long term progress will be imperiled.

 So, if someone's turning poverty into an indictment of modern capitalism, it's worth pointing out that the poor aren't all that bad off in an historical context, but that doesn't mean that we should have no concern for the wellbeing of those at the bottom of the income ladder or that we should brush aside the legitimate hardships that they face.
7 years 6 months ago
Mr. Maiale,

I suggest you read the study I referred to.  All I said and what the study said is that those who are classified as poor in the US have a lot of material comforts and very few are subject to problems with food or are homeless.  I also said that the poor are more poor spiritually and culturally and implied that a lot of this is due to how they are raised, a large percentage in single parent household.  I also said that the policies of the Democrats are what are creating this environment.  If you read the comments I have made over time, it will be in defense of the poor as compared to the Democratic party policies that create the situations that lead to poverty.  Their support of unions with substantially above average salaries has helped contribute to the poverty of many.  These programs favor some while leaving little money for others.  It is the same thing they did during the Great Depression where union workers got good salaries and large masses of people had no jobs at all.   

Essentially I am trying to defend the poor by supporting those that are trying to eliminate the conditions that lead to poverty.  Ask yourself, what has caused cities like Detroit and other inner cities to be disaster areas and why African Americans have a 70% illegitimacy rate.  It is the direct result of policies of the Democratic Party. 
7 years 6 months ago
''I would encourage you to limit your comments to one or two a day and allow other people to have a chance to weigh in on our blog posts. And also, please to not just repeat the same criticisms time after time or opinions harvested from other, ideologically cemented websites.''

There is no fixed limit on the number of posts here so how does one person posting a few times limit another person.  There was a thread that ran to over a hundred comments recently and some commenters posted many times. At no time has multiple comments ever prevented someone from commenting.  I have never seen that put forward anywhere except on this blog and to those who criticize the bias of the authors.  It is a means of censoring comments one does not like.  If someone who is an author repeats the same thing time and time again, then the same objections should be raised time and time again until they are dealt with by a dialogue.  There is rarely a dialogue here.  Oh and this is not a ideologically cemented website?  This is one of the more close minded websites around in terms of author's posts which is why myself and others persist with a different view point.  The Jesuits I once knew encouraged different view points.

''JR, I look forward to your proposed monthly budget, detailing how a family of four remains fed, clothed and sheltered on the $22k level our govt defines as poverty, a level you feel should be sufficient to escape such a designation.''

I never said I could or implied that anyone could.  All I said was that the poor according to the definitions that the government use have a lot of material amenities and are not hungry.  There is a small percentage that definitely are but not in the numbers implied by the latest survey so the numbers are more of a polemic than insightful.  The question is how do so many of those who are designated as poor acquire all these material amenities and find a way to eat  enough.  So to use them as political footballs is not appropriate.  Let's find out what is really happening.  Getting them jobs or if they have one, a better job  should be the number one consideration.  The best way to do that is to find ways to expand the economy.  That has been my central theme for a lot of my time here.

''JR once again repeats the well debunked historical revisionism that the Great Depression was extended by Keynes, adding a new wrinkle on the comparable ''wealth'' of America's poor compared to the poor in say Sri Lanka or Bangladesh.''

This is a little bit incoherent but I will try to make some sense of this.  Do you know what is Keynesian economics?  Keynes recommended a lot of things and one form of Keynesian economics has seldom worked.  And that is the fiscal policy of government spending.  From the mouth of FDR's Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau, in May of 1939.

'We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. And I have just one interest, and if I am wrong…somebody else can have my job. I want to see this country prosperous. I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. We have never made good on our promises…. I say after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started…. And an enormous debt to boot!' 

So one form of government fiscal policy is government spending and it has a poor track record of working.  It did not work in the 1930's, 1970's and just 2 years ago with Obama's big stimulus.  Now a form of fiscal policy that has worked is tax reductions, when they become a permanent part of the tax policy and people can plan on it.  It  worked in the early 1920's, the 1960's, 1980's, late 1990's and in 2001-2006.  Tax reductions that are temporary tend not to be very effective because people know they are a temporary gimmick.  So please get right what I say if you are going to say I have been debunked.  If you do not know what I recommend or it is not clear then ask.  I have not been debunked.  The quote from FDR's treasury secretary is devastating.  I can also provide you one from Carter's economic advisers too and Obama's fiscal spending has been a disaster.

I have no idea why you brought up Bangladesh or Sri Lanka but they certainly represent some really impoverished areas.  Sub Saharan Africa is another really poor area, probably the poorest on the globe and they are made even poorer by American protectionist policies.  The poor in the US are no where close to these peoples but we protect our farmers which hurts the poor in Africa.

''eight years of deficit spending under Bush,''

The deficit was headed to zero under Bush till 2007.  The deficit in 2007 was $167 billion, the last budget written by the Republican congress.  Starting in 2008, the Democrats started writing all the budgets.  And our current president voted for all of them.  He did not complain one iota except when he opposed raising the debt ceiling amount in 2006 implying we would be saddling our grand children with this unsupportable debt.

''tax cuts for ''job creators'' who persist in not creating jobs.''

The Bush tax cuts resulted in increases in federal income so they paid for themselves immediately and produced a profit if you want to use that word.  And millions of jobs were created during this time period.  I have no idea why this nonsense keeps repeating itself.

''If as JR claims, we are repeating the mistakes of the Great Depression, the major mistake we are repeating is the effort to balance government budgets during a period of acute economic uncertainty and high unemployment.''

No we are repeating the policy of large fiscal spending programs and unduly favoring unions.  Both were essential policies of the Democrats in the 1930's that prolonged the Great Depression.  I would personally be for a tax cut stimulus that became permanent or one that made the tax system more efficient.  Paul Ryan proposed reducing the tax rate to 25% and eliminating a lot of loop holes that the rich use and this would make the tax system more efficient and encourage investment and generate the same amount of taxes.  It would probably actually increase revenues as it would encourage more investment and job creation which generated more taxes.  Similarly reducing the business tax would encourage expansion of business and this would mean hiring.  Which is what we want.  We want the large amounts of money that are in the hands wealthy people to be used for investment and a lower marginal tax rate with no gimmicks would be one way of doing that.

But also getting rid of the excessive regulations imposed by Obamacare and Dodd Frank and the EPA would reduce business expense and encourage expansion and the hiring of more  people.  Right now the future is extremely uncertain, especially with tax policy and regulations and third party expenses and these conditions freezes people with their use  of money.  Business will not invest in hiring anyone if they think that the cost will be too great.  They will go over seas with their investment.  Also letting American businesses bring back to the US the money made in other countries that has already been taxed once outside the US would encourage the potential use of a large pool of money for use in the US.
7 years 6 months ago
Mr. Blackburn,

''I don't understand how Mr Ciosgrove can consistently take over this Catholic site, no matter the topic, to amplify the Republican talking point of the day or, in this case, one of the sources for the TPs. '' 

I just counted up the number of OP's on this site in the last three weeks.  There has been about 45.  I have commented on 11 of them.  On four of them I had one comment only.  On a couple I had several comments mostly replying to comments of others who used my name or commented on something I said just as now I am replying to you because you used my name and tended to ascribe some unjust comments towards me.  Should I not reply? 

I tend to comment on political OP's but not all.  I tend to comment when I believe there is an unfair point of view put forward or distortion of the basic theme.  In this case the basic image of who is poor in this country does not meet with the facts.  The vast majority of the poor are not deprived of any material necessities.  Many may indeed be poor in other ways.  Of course many are seriously deprived and we should deal with them as best  we can but also we should try to eliminate the conditions that lead to poverty.
Beth Cioffoletti
7 years 6 months ago
David (#21) says:
"Humans aren't built like that, Beth."

No?  Wouldn't you agree, though, that that is what we are called to be?

Spiritual teachers, throughout the ages, have recognized that it is our ego that keeps us competing with each other, crushing our enemies, and keeping us stuck in misery and malevolence, sorrow and horror - "in darkness" is what they call it.

Don't you think that Jesus would know the way through this darkness? 

Since this is a Catholic site, I suggest that all the political pundits who comment here be required to back up what they say with Catholic social teaching or the Gospel words of Jesus the Christ.  Otherwise, I hope they go somewhere else.  One of those secular leftist sites.
C Walter Mattingly
7 years 6 months ago
'First, you guys need to find a hobby that does not include this website."
A hobby is usually considered a relaxing, less than serious pastime. The words of the commentators you apparently refer to here, such as JR, seem to me anything but relaxed and casual about the subject, but rather those of a very well informed Catholic citizen concerned about the current and future prosperity of a country he has come to know and love. Those words here are no less, and I hope no more, a hobby than yours.
"Now, allow me to summarize...."
Gladly, Kevin, but to do so you must encounter what the commentor actually said. For brevity's sake I will concentrate on your apparent reference to what I said as opposed to what I actually said: "African Americans are poor because Catholic schools don't have vouchers...."  It would be merely a rhetorical question to ask you to point out where I said that; what I did try to offer was a way to counter poverty that does not cost a desperately indebted US more deficit spending. I asserted that all sides agree that poor public education k-12 in the US contributes to the poverty problem, and I suggested that one answer that would not require additional spending might be to expand the voucher program, using Kelley as an example, noting that parochial schools might also offer the disciplines of moral and religious instruction. Where did I find affirmation for the idea that vouchers might be a way to help the poor in our inner cities? America, which stated in 2008 that although general opposition to the Bush agenda and union and their political supporters might make broad adoption of vouchers difficult, a good compromise might be to make them (Bush's Pell grants for the poor) available to inner city residents who have experienced chronically underperforming schools. (And Bush is no longer in office to oppose.)
Exactly. And here is just a fine example of just such a person trying to find a safe and decent school for her childern by illegally enrolling them in her father's district. So like Rosa Parks being arrested for having no choice for her seat on the bus, but far, far more damaging to Kelley's family.
Do I think religious education likely helped Rosa Parks, Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor, Surgeon General Livingston, and Barack Obama? Yep. And since the Society of Jesus is a Catholic order with special carisms of helping the underpriviledged and the education of all, what better place to further these carisms than support of vouchers here in America?
Likewise I find your summary of my comments on the south and poverty to be misleading. As two of the 3 states with the highest unemployment are not in the south, that they have very high minority (black and hispanic) populations, and that these two groupings have double the unemployment rates of whites and Asians, it is obviously a major factor in determining unemployment levels. You may have noticed that high unemployment New Mexico is in much closer proximity to Mexico than lowest unemployment and minority population New Hampshire; likewise Florida to black and hispanic populations than say Utah. And I certainly do consider, for example, slavery and lacking the ability to communicate in English in the  US things that affect (or affected) these minorities, yet can you explain to me why in 1945 75% of African American children had mothers and fathers at home, and in 1995 that figure was 37%? As that is perhaps the greatest predictive factor of an impoverished child, it is a crucial consideration. Since Little Rock, the Civil Rights Act, and Johnson's Great Society all intervened, what happened? (Hint: Moynihan, the movie "Precious.")
Although I love your term, the site I used for the Rosa Parks/Kelley issue was the CSMonitor website. I also refered to the NYTimes and. as previously stated, America. Do you consider these "ideologically cemented" websites? I stopped reading such demagogic rags as Truthout, Moveon, Breitbart, etc some time ago as I found their ideology to be poured, set, and hardened.
Kevin, I fear if you start censoring your well-informed alternate viewpoints such as JR, that clear, open-minded writers such as Fr Kavanaugh will stop writing for America, which will then be in danger of becoming a myopic, "ideologically cemented" publication, to the detriment of those you seek to serve. Those who don't want to hear them can simply skip the comments they don't like.
I will dare to respond to Vince and Beth, as briefly as I am able. Otherwise there is no dialogue here.
C Walter Mattingly
7 years 6 months ago
Almost everything has political ramifications, and certainly altering the definition of the poverty level is no exception. As you are a socialist, for example, you would wish to do everything you can to maximize the size and economic control that government exercises over the nation and its economy, minimizing the free market in the process. If poverty can be defined "up," then it is far easier to put more of the nation's GDP into new and/or expanded programs for the newly defined impoverished, as well as gathering more government control over the people. While this is certainly contrary to the Founding Fathers' idea of limited government, this was formerly  widely done by major countries such as Britain (to a large degree), the USSR and continued in Cuba Venezuela, and perhaps Greece even today. The newly-defined impoverished in the US, then, become a voting power base for the democratic party. The reverse of all this, of course, is also true.
What seems to be occurring now is the evolution of two differing definitions of poverty, one the traditional one of lacking the basics of survival, another the ehanced one of a percentage of the average income. Probably a result of the political jockeying of the two camps.
C Walter Mattingly
7 years 6 months ago
A better counter example for your case than "Europe"-we have enough problems without adding the Euro and the current European DisUnion to ours-would be Sweden. It comes closest to matching the pre-Thatcher Britain and, unlike Britain and the great majority of countries, has been successful with a mixed economy.
I don't have a dictionary definition for you, but the basics of survival would involve having enough food to eat, clean water to drink, a roof over your head and basic access to healthcare. All these things the extremely impoverished in say Africa commonly lack, and in the US uncommonly lack. The point is it would have a necessary relationship to basic conditions necessary for survival, I would think. A percentage of income definition of poverty would have no necessary relation to basic needs but rather simply a percentage of the income of others. 
Vince Killoran
7 years 6 months ago
I don't want to be a "blog hog" so I'll offer a quick comment and then benefit from what others write for the rest of the thread:

"[T]he basics of survival would involve having enough food to eat, clean water to drink, a roof over your head and basic access to healthcare."

That's a great start but I can offer several additional things that one would need to stave off poverty: not just enough food to eat but healthy, fresh food (and what about "food anxiety"?); dental care (lots of evidence that poor dental care=poverty with infections, pain, poor presentation at job interviews, etc.); safety (a roof over your head is great but what about pest & rodent infestation, lead paint, crime, etc.?), education (both for job skills and citizenship). I have no idea what "basic access to healthcare" means but it should mean that one is adequately covered when they can walk into a country hospital with a bleeding arm and little else.

There's much more. . . About the only people thinking in a systematic way in the public realm about what constitutes poverty are conservatives and "living wage" advocates.  

Barely being kept alive should not be our criteria for determining poverty. If you are not a productive, engaged citizen because of the absence of these things then you lead a life of poverty.  
7 years 6 months ago
I am surprised people are still talking in this circle, but since Mr. Cosgrove has answered me (#20), I will just note that he has been here six times on this thread, repeating himself.
At length, usually. Ms. Cioffoletti's comment that participants should ground themselves in the Gospel or in the social teaching of the church makes sense to me. I get talking points from rightwing sources all day long, and Mr. Cosrove adds nothing new to them at a Jesuit magazine site - where I just might possibly go to get a different (less biased) view than one gets from the wards of Scaife, Coors, the Kochs, etc.
Vince Killoran
7 years 6 months ago
Beth Cioffoletti
7 years 6 months ago
Amen.  I totally agree with you David.  I think that part of the problem of our differing perspectives is the way that we define the word "ambition".

According to Pascal, the craving for distraction is the driving force of ambition. 

The following is excerpted from a website, Pascal: The first modern Christian:

"Few words, in fact, are more crucial to Pascal than divertissement, usually translated as "diversion" or "distraction." …"all the misfortunes of men derive from one single thing, their inability to remain at repose in a room." Far from being merely the obiter dictum of a dry cynic, Pascal’s remark actually forms the opening gambit of his Christian apologetics, for he knows that "being unable to cure death, wretchedness, and ignorance," and being not too fond of the medicine of Christ on offer either, "men have decided, in order to be happy, not to think about such things." … "That is why men are so fond of hustle and bustle," he says. "That is why prison is such a fearful punishment; that is why the pleasures of solitude are so incomprehensible.""
7 years 6 months ago
Here is an analysis of the what the poor have in America by experts on the poor.

The poor in America are not quite like the poor in the rest of the world in terms of food and substance and material possessions.  My guess their real poverty is spiritual and cultural due to a high percentage of single parent households who themselves were raised in single parent households.  I once was on a jury for an armed robbery on a cabbie.  The accused man who did the robbery was at the home of a single parent mother who was entertaining him and a couple friends all night while her child was asleep.  After the trial I started to wonder who was going to take care of the child when he woke up.
Stephen Morris
7 years 6 months ago
''Nobody is actually starving. The hobos are actually better fed than they have ever been. One hobo in New York got ten meals in one day!'' -Herbert Hoover.

Except they were starving.

When my father's (previously successful) business failed, the family went bankrupt, then homeless as our parents divorced. A family took in my mother, my brother and myself. My father had a friend set him up in an empty office next to his real estate office. I'd visit him on the weekends and we called it camping, but really we were squatting in an office building. We ate a lot of instant oatmeal, cup o soup, & ramen noodles. That's what you could make using the coffee maker next door. Occasionally we would have those chocolate Entenmanns donuts. 

Stephen Morris
7 years 6 months ago
The ''luxuries'' he had were his tv & vcr, a blockbuster membership (blockbuster was brand new back then), a recliner (where he slept), a chair that folded out into a bed (where I slept), and a family membership to a nearby raquetball club. The raquetball club was where we went everyday to shower. 
We volunteered at a local soup kitchen each week (we also ate there). That is likely where we both contracted tuberculosis. We were treated at a free clinic. It took a year for my father to get back to a point where we could rent an apartment. He spent a lot of money on gas driving to and from the farm where the family had taken us in. 

My father didn't commit any kind of fraud or mismanagement, it was just a very bad year of slow business, some customers who didn't pay, and he just finally ran out of cash. He said that if he had enough savings for another six months, he would have made it through. Something people don't realize is that (this was during Reagans administration, so it may have changed, but I doubt it's for the better) if you own your own business, and it fails, and there is no money left to pay the IRS, they'll take your house and then disqualify you from welfare if you haven't settled in full. Bankruptcy didn't matter. It wasn't until my parents divorced that my mother could qualify for food stamps. 
Stephen Morris
7 years 6 months ago
It wasn't as bad with my mother. Just some teasing at school for wearing clothes that didn't fit me right. It was donated from the church. We lived with the other family for a year. They lived on a farm, so they put me in 4H. I carved & painted a slot car. I shared a bedroom with their 2 sons. They were good people. 

When I hear people complain about how great the poor are doing here because they have a cell phone, or a dvd player, I do my best to explain to them that when we wound up homeless my father picked up my box of toys from the curb and put them in the back of his truck. We also picked up his tv & his vcr, recliner & a few other things. That didn't make us "not poor". 

My mother worked but still needed food stamps & assistance for several years. She kept a few of the trappings of our old life that probably looked luxurious, but they eventually wore out too. My father wore a suit to work, but starting over from scratch and paying back the IRS and a few creditors, we still lived in poverty for at least 5 years. (The IRS is not really a villain in this story, it just was what it was) 
Since then, I've travelled to Haiti and seen horrible poverty. Poor in Haiti is devastatingly poor. That still didn't make me "not poor" when I was young. Getting pneumonia is better than getting lung cancer, but just because other people have lung cancer doesn't mean your pneumonia isn't a serious problem. 
Tom Maher
7 years 6 months ago
David Smith (#12)

I have to agree with you.  Wide-open dialogue and debate is the life blood of our democracy and should be expected in any blog that deals with national issues such as this article does on the current rising level of poverty in America.
The September 11, 2011 Rasmussen poll show that 75% of likely voters believe the country is the wrong track.  This is a thirty year low in this right track/wrong track measure of confidence in the direction our country is headed.  This extemely low result is confirmed by numerous other polls such as Gallup.  This low result is brought about by the failed economic policies of our current adminsitration. 

The increase in poverty is the final result of numerous other  bad economic results.   Other results are high and persistant unemployment, long term unemployment,  zero or negative job creation, decline in wages and working hours, decline in business activity to the point we may have a second recession,  and of course a very poor real estate market and a home construction industry in a 60 year depression and on and on.

W???i?t?h? ???????????????????s?o?? many negative economic? ??r?e?s?u?l?t?s? ????????at work that ha?ve not been brought under c?o?n?t?r?o?l? ??o?f? ?c?o?u?r?s?e? ?t?h?e?r?e? ?w?i?l?l? ?b?e? ?m?a?n?y? ?d?i?f?f?e?r??e???n??c?e?s? ?o?f? ?o?p?i?n?i?o?n?.????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
Tom Maher
7 years 6 months ago
David Smith  (# 21)

This exchange shows the value of wide-open dialogue, discussion and debate as you pointed out. 

So far, possibly the only point of agreement is the author's  first statement in the title of this article that rising poverty is still worrisome.  But maybe not.  Without tolerance for open discussion who would have thought or known that such wide divergence of opinion on how to approach this problem of rising poverty existed? 

This exchange of ideas demonstrates that opinions are all over the universe and into several unknown dimensions.   Who in the world would have thought that economic policy is a matter of theology as if a certain remedy for all human problems could be found or derived from the Gospel?   Just lay your hands on the economy and it will be cured.  We even have faith healers in this discussion.  Who needs doctors who know anatomy and medicine or economist who known the elements and forces at work in the economy?   Economic policy can be written as lines of poetry.  (Isn't that what Moa did with his cultural revolution in China?)  Who would have thought there is such extremely wide divergence of opinion on economic policy among educated people?   Do you think that this wide diveregence of opinion may have something to do with why the nation essencially does not have an effective and coherent economic policy?  

Vince Killoran
7 years 6 months ago
What are the "basics of survival"? Is that where we draw the poverty line?

The attempt to connect the process of defining poverty to the service of a political ideology doesn't seem compelling.  I suspect plenty of people see the poverty around them and take on their political identities in response.

To Walter's list of countries that embrace strong governement anti-poverty measures you could add most of Europe, Canada, Australia and NZ, et al.
C Walter Mattingly
7 years 6 months ago
Your comment that since this is a Catholic website and should be backed up by Catholic social teachings or the words of Jesus the Christ may not be as efficient as your statement makes it appear. For example, consider divorce and gay marriage. Very little in the bible is more clear than Jesus' definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman, nor his antipathy toward breaking the indissolveable bond of the "two" becoming "one flesh," yet would excluding those who are sympathetic toward gay marriage or the problems of a partner in a really bad marriage from expressing their views on a Catholic website be a good move? Sending them to a secular leftist website migh have them encounter a virtually unanimously sympathetic audience, but they would then be removed from a Catholic dialogue. Do you really want that?
7 years 6 months ago

''Since this is a Catholic site, I suggest that all the political pundits who comment here be required to back up what they say with Catholic social teaching or the Gospel words of Jesus the Christ'' 

How do you know that the political comments are not based on a concern for one's fellow man especially the poor.  That is the basis for my comments.  I have asked repeatedly and so far no one has answered, ''if a so called socially just act ends up hurting the intended target, is the act socially just.'' 

I can document pretty clearly that much of the support for the unions hurts the poor. Not all certainly but a lot of what unions do is get higher wages and easier working conditions for themselves than non union workers, especially the public service unions, and in the process they extract money for themselves that could be used for other purposes, and might employ the poor.  Democrats all over the country are awakening to this phenomena as their public budgets are being constrained by their commitments to salaries and pensions and benefits of the public service employees and they have no money for social services.

If you want to discuss some of the points made by those who oppose the party line here and what they are advocating, fine.  But don't just send them away because in reality they may be closer to what the Church and Jesus is all about.  They oppose much of what the liberals advocate who want to intervene constantly with programs that favor their own people and not necessarily help the poor.

You said before that we should state each other's positions and I am trying to help you here with our side of the equation.  Yet you mis represent what we advocate. 

Again here is a comment that is in response to someone else's comment that does not agree with a point of view that many of us have.  I fail to see how such a process is not healthy and that we should shut up or go away.  And the reason I am here is because this is a Jesuit site, I was taught by Jesuits, and they teach a lot of Catholics and I believe their underlying opinions are based on a false understanding of human nature and how the economic and political system works.  That is one reason I will no go away.  I have been hoping for a dialogue for nearly two years and no one who supports the OP's posted here seems to want one.  I find that very strange.
Vince Killoran
7 years 6 months ago
 A correction: "but it should NOT mean ONLY that one is adequately covered when they can walk into a country hospital with a bleeding arm and little else."
Stephen Morris
7 years 6 months ago
The only objection I would have to comments such as JR's is their "debate" on each of these issues seems to be solely about the merits of Republican party ideology vs. Democratic party ideology. 

Our Catholic faith demands that we deal with social issues such as poverty & caring for the sick.
It seems odd that the first, best & only solutions they can offer to solve those problems are "liberals are bad, vote Republican". 
If the only "debate" revolves around checking your ballot every other year, then I don't think that a Catholic website is the best place for that debate. 
Beth Cioffoletti
7 years 6 months ago
Walter (#27) ...
 You say:
"Very little in the bible is more clear than Jesus' definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman, "  ...

Could you please direct me to the passage in the Gospel where Jesus says anything at all about homosexuality?

I am dead serious about my Catholic Faith and am totally open toward having it inform, guide and change the way I live my life.  But I don't want to get stuck in childish, rule (and shame) -driven, religion.  I've been there and am not going back.
Tom Maher
7 years 6 months ago
Kevin Clarke (#10)

For your information last week release of employment data for August, 2011 showed no new jobs - literally zero in absolute terms  - were created.  This was the first month since 1945 that no jobs were created.  Hopefully this will not be repeated in the future but unfortunately is very likely to,.  This is rock bottom bad and not the ususal cyclical downturn due to slow demand.  This suggests  more permenent structural unemployment whcih has nothin gto do with demand and is not responsive to  Keynesian economic stimulus. 

For example the closing of numerous clothing mills in the 1950s in Massachusetts had nothing to do with demand and everything to do with costs. and technologies.  The large textile mills of Massachusetts were no longer viable but the businesses were fine  and relocated elsewhere to new and cheaper to run facilities.  This is very much what is happening to our industrial base nationwide today where production facilities are moving to China .  Keynesian economics has no affect on costs and technology caused structural unemployment which has nothing to do with demand.  So Keynesian stimulation of demand is a waste of time and money that will not create any new jobs.  This is a major reason why the Obama stimulus has failed,  Economic stimulus does not work on structural unemployment.  

C Walter Mattingly
7 years 6 months ago
The main support for the words you quote from me concerning Jesus's definition of marriage would come from Mark 10:5-12.
I of course did not address the question of what Jesus said about homosexuality itself, but rather that Jesus defined marriage here explicitly as existing between a man and a woman. He seems to be saying this in a fit of pique for even being questioned about the nature of marriage and any toleration of divorce.
I find nothing specific that Jesus mentioned about prohibiting homosexuality. In the NT, as you likely are aware, you can find fairly explicit words from Paul in Romans 1:26-27.
My own view is that it is likely Jesus never seriously considered homosexual marriage as even a living question in the Jewish community of his time, much as I never heard the issue even discussed in my parochial school years covering the mid-50's to the mid-60's. That occurred with the sexual revolution, the pill, etc.
I agree, we don't need to look to Somalia to define poverty in the US. Yet as the average US family at the poverty level has twice the living space as the average European, unlike his Euro counterpart air conditioned, perhaps the second color tv he owns and the upgraded cable TV and multiple cell phones are chosen above getting teeth cleaned.  And as this person eats more protein than his wealthy counterpart, food procurement does not seem to be a major issue. And frozen vegetables are a cheaper and nutricious alternative to more expensive fresh vegetables alternatives he does have, often containing more nutrients as well. And this is for the $22K definition of poverty. And of course your person with the bleeding arm has guaranteed access to hospital emergency room services.
Your reference to dental care brings up an important overlooked issue. As Friedman noted in Free to Choose, the medical profession, by restricting the supply of doctors for years, acted just as a union does by defeating free market pricing mechanisms of supply and demand, artificially raising the costs of service. While this has been largely corrected by the AMA, dentists and pharmacists have gotten on board by restriciting access and numbers to tighten the supply and drive up the costs of services beyond what they should be.It is not only the NEA which gouges the public taxpayer. Medical and other professional monopolies can effect the same thing.
That's it for me here.

Beth Cioffoletti
7 years 6 months ago
David says (#38)
"That's not to say that some people have a lot less ambition than others.  Perhaps it's those who can to some degree answer the call to simplicity and poverty."

I'd have to disagree with you David, that those who answer the call to poverty and simplicity are less "ambitious".  Maybe it's just that spiritual effort take priority for these people.  Look at Dorothy Day.  Look at the monks at Tibhirine.  These men and women are haunted (driven) by a call, and they give their hearts and souls to this call.

Maybe the realization that less is more is the evolutionary leap that will not only ensure our survival, but lead us to the fullness of our humanity.  All of us, not just a few saints who are on the cutting edge.  Maybe that is the way God made us.


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