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
Daniel Robertson, 33, and 29-year-old Marlana Robertson were born and raised in Hattiesburg, Miss., and have known poverty all of their lives.
WHY DID THEY HAVE 8 KIDS?
I am sorry, if you have been poor all your life, and you have 8 kids, I no longer feel bad for you. You are not very bright! I am almost wondering the statistics on this, because I think the lower class is growing simply because they are out reproducing any other class. This is by no way science, but you see it in all communities, it doesn't matter race, black, hispanic, white, if they have more than 5 kids, 9 times out of 10 they are dirt poor.
I think greatter access to birthcontrol and sexual education might help put a dent in this madness!
Knew about his MS at age 15, can't work, but went ahead and had 8 children. When you can't afford to keep yourself, you need to keep it in your pants! And, how many of those kids did he pass that MS on to?
It's funny how Americans will give aid in the BILLIONS to other countries and we won't even give a single poor woman in the ghetto a toaster.
We'll step over the homeless right here at home, but give MILLIONS to the poor abroad.
The hollywood movie stars will step over a child that need adopting at home, but go to Africa and adopt a baby there.
Aren't we great people.
I don't know any of these peoples' situations personally, except what little details they have given us, but most of them seem to have brought poverty upon themselves. Having 8 kids when you know you are going to be disabled your entire life is ridiculous! As is staying where your "friends and family" are, in a town of only a couple hundred or thousand, when you know damn well that there are no jobs there! With the exception of the sick, homeless man, who actually travels to find work, the rest of these people are just making excuses. And I say this as a liberal. I am sick of the excuses made in this country for not having to support yourself.
I know times are tough, but eventually we are going to have to cut people off. We can't support everyone all the time, especially people who refuse to make sacrifices (like relocating or having less children) to better their life.
Hmmm... people single parenting... a married couple where neither works and they have EIGHT kids... people who refuse to leave their hometowns to seek work... golly, wonder why they're having trouble getting by, poor abused folks...
Rudolf, at least the illegal aliens you speak of are willing to pursue a better life... rather than sit back and expect it to come to them.
I understand there are people who cannot work for medical reasons, and they should not be left to starve, but neither should they be eating much steak... and there are those who would work, but their industry is suffering right now, same deal as above... but recognize that "from each according to ability, to each according to need" is the DEFINITION of socialism. "From each according they have more, to each because they feel entitled," that's just STUPIDism.
The homeless man in Atlantic City is at least making an effort... but there was probably a reason his sister's landlord said he couldn't stay at the house anymore...
What a sad comment on the state of affairs in what used to be the greatest country in the world.
Just look at us now...despised by the rest of the world for our foreign policies.
Basically broke! Actually even worse than that. Our entire government operates on borrowed money that we have no way of knowing how we will ever pay it back.
Millions without health insurance and many that have it, going broke trying to pay for it.
Unemployment that is at an all time high and the number in this article doesn't count all the people that have given up finding a job or used up their unemployment benefits.
The Middle Class is now the working poor.
Greed so rampant in our businesses it's just sickening!
A political system that's corrupt, ineffective and so wasteful it makes you want to puke.
And don't tell me to leave if I don't like it, because I spent my entire life working to make this country a better place and a better life for my family and I'm staying right here to voice my disgust for the way it's been destroyed. After all, isn't that what the thousands of soldiers that have died all over the planet were fighting for...our freedoms?
Yet we still have famous hollywood actors begging for our $$'s on tv commercial's to send overseas. Whatever happened to taking care of our own first?! Wow what a concept.
Want to get "the poor" working. Insist that to get their unemployment they have to show up each day witout fail at the unemployment office where they are formed into work gamgs and sent throughthe city with brooms, mobs, bags, pick up th gargage, scrape off the graffitti, an dsweep and mop the streets. Six hours a day 6 days a week. In the winter they get snow-shovels and brooms to clean up the snow. Work prgrams planting flowers in parks and beautifying the country.
In four weeks you'll cut the unemployed poor in half. Make sure the orders are only given in Englsih and you'll find out amazing that most illegals have learned English in record time.
Disciplinary problems simply lose their check. Extreme disciplinary problems lose their check forever and are sent to a re-education camp. Someplace like Magadan or Chelyabinsk.
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