The Poor Are Getting Poorer

Today 83% of people living in poverty are either children, elderly, people with disabilities, students, people taking care of family members, or people who can't find jobs, according to The Washington Post. There are six million families with children living in poverty right here in the wealthiest nation in history, which means one in five families are living in poverty. For the United States of America to ensure no children grow up in poverty stricken households, it would cost us $57 billion a year. This would only cost each non-poor family $578 a year. So are Americans all going to pitch in to make this happen?

If we focus on the percentage of children in poverty, the Council on Contemporary Families shows us quite a disparity. The percent of married white couples with children in poverty is 5.2%, while single white mothers is 34.8% and single white fathers is 15.9%. For blacks, married in poverty is 16.2%, single mothers 53.3% and single fathers 32.6%. For Latinos, married is 21.1%, single mothers is 52.2% and single fathers is 30.1%. Is this an argument for us all to get married?

Back on January 8, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson declared "an unconditional war on poverty in America." His goal was to help the one in five American families with incomes too small to even meet their basic needs. He pledged better schools, better health, better homes, better training and better job opportunities. He also proposed more libraries, public transportation and food relief for the poor. So our journey to help the poor began. The Food Stamp Act was passed in 1964 and the Child Nutrition Act came in 1966. Both Medicare and Medicaid were launched in 1965. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) became a Cabinet department in 1965, and the HUD act of 1965 expanded funding for existing federal housing programs, added rent subsidies for the elderly and disabled, gave housing rehabilitation grants to poor homeowners, had provisions for veterans to make low down payments to obtain mortgages, and set money aside to have community centers constructed in low-income areas.

Now it is 52 years later. Our poverty level back in 1964 was one in five families. Our poverty level today is one in five families. The Heritage Foundation reports that since 1964, U.S. taxpayers have spent over $22 trillion on anti-poverty programs. This is three times the cost of all U.S. military wars since the American Revolution. Are we just spinning our wheels?

Nationally, all of these numbers are very scary. But if you look at it locally, it is even worse. In my own state of Arizona, the Arizona Daily Star reported in April that Tucson's poorest residents are about to get poorer. 5,000 residences were just notified that the state is taking them off the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and several hundred are losing their Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) benefits. Add to this that the Tucson City Council is voting on reducing funds sent to the Community Food Bank and the Primavera Foundation, which provides pathways out of poverty through safe and affordable housing; and now you have a crisis in the making. Primavera reports that over the last couple of years, with their current funding, they could only service 42% of the 3,600 families that needed shelter, and half of those had children. How many more American families will now have to suffer because of the City Council vote?

It is a given that government is under pressure to curtail their spending, so ordinary citizens and nonprofit organizations need to step in to fill the void as our poor are getting poorer. Luckily there are several nonprofits set up to begin to help those in the most need where we can turn to with our donations and also volunteer to help. The Children's Defense Fund is a strong and effective independent voice for all children. The Salvation Army, in their mission for "doing the most good," feed, clothe and comfort those in the most need. The Gospel Rescue Missions provide social services to help the less fortunate with 300 missions serving 50 million meals and providing 20 million nights of lodging. And at DollarDays on our Facebook page, we are giving away backpacks to nonprofit organizations to help the less fortunate kids. Make sure you nominate your favorite organization that can use our help.

The numbers of those in need in America are staggering. Our government has no more money to allocate to additional programs. It hurts all of us when our neighbors go hungry or can't find a place to sleep. Our total society suffers when we deny children a good night's sleep and a nourishing meal, because they are the future of America. This is not a political or religious issue; it is a moral issue that we all need to embrace.