6/14/2012 7:35 PM ET|
America's own Third World
The percentage of US residents living in poverty is on the rise, according to the Census Bureau. We shine a light on the diverse faces of America's underclass.
America's poor: The grim statistics
● U.S. population: 313.7 million (June 2012)
● U.S. poverty rate: 15.1% (2010), up from 14.3% in 2009
● U.S. unemployment rate: 8.2% (May 2012)
● Real median household income: $49,445 (2010), down 2.3% from 2009
● People without health insurance: 49.9 million (2010), 16.3% of the population
The numbers are startling. But the names and faces tell the raw story.
Gary Thompson is one of those faces. At age 68, he's broke and sick, and he sleeps in a charity mission surrounded by homeless strangers in Atlantic City, N.J. It's not a pretty picture.
In general, poverty in America today is disturbingly unattractive. It is gritty and pervasive and hard to break out of. It's a story of men and women all around us who are suffering great pain, frustration and deprivation. It sounds banally dramatic, but only, gratefully, because most of us have never endured those circumstances. For the minority that has -- and, let's be clear, it is a small minority -- the suffering is substantial, and it has not lessened in recent years. Political divisions have made sure of that. Partisanship has frequently hindered or scuttled initiatives that each political party has proposed.
Democrats and Republicans manifest very different notions of how to cope with poverty. Some of us believe that people should take full responsibility for their actions under all circumstances and that "neediness" is a character flaw overcome through hard work and determination.
That's one point of view.
Others believe the government's main purpose is to care for the well-being of its people -- not just the "cans" but also the "cannots," the "have-nots" and sometimes even the "do-nots." They believe compassion is integral to civil society, that government's role is to make sure Americans are safe and healthy, and that if you don't or can't work, or can't get by on your paycheck, you should not be relegated to Dickensian penury.
We profile five people who come from different backgrounds and circumstances but now find themselves in America's underclass -- the working and nonworking poor. Some of these people have lived most of their lives in poverty. Others are new to it. Most say they never could have imagined they would be as dependent as they are today on friends, family, charities and government programs to support themselves and care for their families.
Click through the following pages to read their stories.
VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
Talk to Mr. Obama! He said he would cut the poverty rate in half, and instead it has skyrocketed!
Gee, I wonder if MSNBC will allow me to post this?
I feel for all the homeless....I am 57 years old, worked hard all my life supporting 3 childern and 3 grandchildern. I am one pay check from being homeless myself, its scares me to death. Which I am sure all the homeless are going through worse. I pray for our country as I see such a decline happening, we should not have homelessness in America.
Keep voting Republican poor people! It's bound to work one of these times!
Again, as a europeen, I like most europeens are asking you
WHY ARE YOU BLAMING PRESIDENT OBAMA when you all know that republicans have said NO to everything he proposed and that since DAY ONE of his presidency ???
I think many of you need to check into a mental institution !! You really need some help !
We have the same poverty rate that we had in the 1950's (actually more so). All that time the democrats keep telling you......"we're here for you". There here as long they get your vote, but... baby... that's about it. They never brought you more jobs, never cleaned up the ghetto, won't even buy a poor black woman in the slums a toaster. Year after year after year.........the democrats.
How's that working out now.
With poverty on the rise...why in the hell did you vote democrat.....They keep telling you there here for you...I'm for the little guy........but the poverty rate says otherwise.
Yes, stick with the dem's
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