This is the Transcript for a previous episode of “Common Sense” Titled “The Truth About Poverty In America” To View that episode Click Here.
Hi, I’m Eric Butkiewicz and this is Common Sense.
On this week’s episode of Common Sense, I just wanted to take the time to discuss poverty in the United States. Many, when they look at this great nation, they think, how can the nation that brings in the most money, that has the highest standard of living in the whole world have poverty; America is not an impoverished nation, they say, Africa is impoverished, the former Soviet Bloc is impoverished but not America. These folks would be surprised when I tell them that the poverty rate in the United States is 15%. 15% of Americans live in poverty. And this number doesn’t even show half of it. And no this is not due to the “recession.” Right now America is coming out of, practically completely out of the recession. Yes, the job rate is still growing as we reach the final stages of recovery, but most of the recovering has already been done. These poverty rates are equivalent to what we see in a standard U.S. economy, what we saw before the recession.
15% is way too high for a nation with so many opportunities as America. So why is the poverty rate so high? The problems lie deeper. In America, no matter who you are, what you are, who your parents were, you can be successful. This is an opportunity unprecedented in the whole rest of the world. Not only does everybody possess the natural born right to succeed but the nation is sprawling with the attitude that if I’m not succeeding now, I’m next. As grammatically and economically incorrect as it is, Marco Rubio was right socially when he said, “We are a nation of haves and soon to haves.” And Believe me, I am not a fan of Marco Rubio in any way. But he had a good point. Everybody is waiting to reap the opportunity, to be famous, to be a millionaire. However, in reality, not many of us actually get there. Only a very small percent “make it big” so to speak. But in America you don’t have to be a profession athlete, an actor, a famous musician to be successful. No one has to be at the right place at the right time for someone to discover you. In America anyone, and I mean anyone, can take a career that will make them a 6 figure salary. It does not take a genius or someone who “got lucky” to make 6 figures a year. And this is a salary that many would consider the salary of a “rich” person.
So why do people not seize these opportunities. If anyone can make 6 figures, why don’t they. Is it that they believe that they will “get lucky” and they don’t have to work that hard. That one-day, fame and fortune will just come upon them. Because after all this is America: The land where anything is possible. For some this might be the answer, but for others, the answer is just not that simple.
America has long had a reputation of working hard. And for many this holds true today. Most of the population stay in school, work hard to get good grades, go to college, pick a career, work hard at the career, make good money, and raise a family. In modern society, a college education doesn’t always promise a job but it sure does promise a career. With a career anyone can succeed. Although, the hours and pay may seem a little tough at first, in the end everything works out.
So why do Americans not go to college? In a nation, with the prices of community colleges so low and the huge amounts of aid that many universities including those at the top offer there seems to be no reason why people can’t go. Anyone can afford it, especially those in poverty. A matter of fact, they can go to college for free. Yet these opportunities are still not seized. If they don’t go to college, do they have a business in line to take care of, are they joining the military? The answer although sometimes a “yes”, many times is unfortunately a “no.”
The problems go deeper. It arises as the child is growing up. Education is not prioritized, bad peer, cultural, and even adult influences make the child put other things in life over education. All of these bad influences cause a domino effect which is then multiplied by many other negative factors around them which lead to a vicious cycle. This cycle is why bad neighborhoods stay bad. All these children have the opportunities to make something out of themselves, but the influences around them say otherwise.
Partially to blame is the public school system, which is an extremely flawed educational system; at a time when these children need help the most, the school system just aids in bringing them down. All these factors put together cause the poverty level to stagnate.
These problems lie deep and require a solution at the roots. In a nation when anyone can apply for a city job and make over 60 thousand dollars as a starting salary and up and over 100 thousand a year with a little seniority, there should not be poverty. In the worst-case scenario, one can even join the military and make enough to get back on their feet. But yet, in many cases, none of this happens.
15% is a number way too high for a country like the United States. And as I said earlier: The number is so misleading. The 15% is derived from the guidelines set forth by the Department of Health and Human Services. According to their guidelines: If an individual makes over $11,670 a year, they are not in poverty. This comes out to about $973 a month. I ask you this ladies and gentlemen, You try to live on $973 for a month and see how it works out.
In America’s cities, such as New York, it is hard to find a decent place to live for under $1,800. But let us speak for the those who need shelter at the utmost necessity: Living in an incredibly small 3 room apartment, will still set an individual back at least $1,000 a month. A year of rent and any individual at the poverty level will still be $330 short, effectively rendering them homeless.
Ladies and gentlemen this does not even include, utilities, and even the most basic necessities such as food and water. Factor these into the equation, and you can effectively double the number that Health and Human Services puts forth. $23,000 for a person to just survive with the most basic necessities. Goes to show just how badly the bottom 15% percent live.
Keeping in mind that $23,000 is the very least an individual can live to have the most basic life, 25% of Americans make this income or below. This is assuming each of these families are comprised of 1 individual. Imagine families of four or 5. The argument, that families at this income level shouldn’t have that many children aside, families of these sizes will in no way be able to pay the most basic bills.
So how much more will it take to care for 4 additional people? A bigger apartment would be needed, more expensive water bills, heating bills, everyone needs to be fed, clothed. For a family of 5 it would not be far fetched to say that double the money would be needed. $46,000. That is what the family combined salary is for half the population the United States.
Yes not all those are families of 5 individuals but many are 2, 3, 4, or 5 person families and many struggle all the same. Even many Americans who are deemed middle class, live day to day. Their struggle is nowhere near those afore mentioned but the struggle is still there.
None of these problems are simple enough to be solved over night. With a federal deficit of over $17 trillion, there isn’t much for the federal government to do about it. The debt trickles down to the state, local, and individual levels. This is both a symptom and a cause.
As the old adage goes, “You can give a man a fish and feed him for a day or teach the man to fish and feed him for his entire life.” The adage still reigns true today. The problem has to be attached at the source. Education must be improved and we have to all work together to further instill a culture of hard work and education so our youth can be successful. Their bad influences must put to an end and an even greater influence that pushes them forward towards success must be instilled.
Unfortunately, it is not this easy. The causes of this plague are so numerous and so deep that nothing can be done overnight. All sides and walks of life must want the change, special initiatives and committees must be formed, the steps are too numerous to list, but maybe most importantly of all, those in poverty must learn and be willing to use all the systems in this great nation that allow them to rise up and be whoever they want to be.
America is set up so that even those no one wants to help can still follow their dreams. However, not everybody knows how to take full advantage of this system, or in some cases not how to use it at all. We, as society must get up and show these people how to utilize this great system that grants many of us so many confections all the time. Because at the end of the day, society is only as strong as its weakest link and going into the 21st century our society can definitely use some strengthening. Otherwise, with an infrastructure that’s falling apart, a current government that just won’t work, government spying agencies that are running rampant, and a national debt that will bankrupt the nation if not stopped soon, our children may not be able to reap all these great opportunities that I spoke about during this episode. Opportunities that over 1.3 million Americans have lost their lives fighting for. And that would be a damn shame.
As always, I’m Eric Butkiewicz and this is “Common Sense.”
Eric Butkiewicz is the Founder of EB Media. He finds a great fascination in politics and business and enjoys staying up to date on the latest U.S. and World occurrences.