The proponent of this study will use the following excerpts from the US Census Bureau in order to understand the economic development in this country for the past decade. The statements provided will also underline the basis for any type of anti-poverty strategy that the Federal government would like to use in order to deal with the following issues:
- In the year 2010, it was discovered that more than 46 million people were in poverty, and this was an increase from more than 43 million the year before and this shows consecutive increase in the number of people in poverty;
- Between the years 2009 and 2010, there was also an increase of the poverty rate with regards to non-Hispanic Whites and also for African Americans. The same is also true for Hispanics. However, for Asians, the poverty rate in the year 2010 did not show any significant change;
- It was also brought out that the poverty rate in the year 2010, which was listed as higher than fifteen percent was among the highest since the bureau recorded such type of figures since 1993.
- It was also noted that the number of people who were poor in the said year was the largest number in the last 5 decades.
Significance and Causes
The statement taken from the U.S. Census Bureau highlighted the growing inequality in America. The United States is considered one of the richest nations on the planet, and yet, close to 50 million people are poor. There are countries in the world with a population less than 50 million people, and by comparison it is easy to feel a great deal of concern. This is especially the case if one establishes the connection between poverty and crime. It does not require a political scientist or an experienced economist to understand that if there are many poor people in a given country, then, it is easy for that country to experience political instability. A quick survey of the headlines of international newspapers and a quick survey of the news feed in social media sites will help people realize that in countries that experiences civil wars and the threat from religious extremists, most of these countries have high inequality problems between the rich and the poor. The United States cannot afford to follow the path of destruction of countries that once were prosperous but now are suffering from the impact of inequality.
The above-mentioned statistics from the Census Bureau also highlighted another important problem in America, and that is the high number of poor families that belong to the minority groups, especially African Americans and Hispanics. It is important to focus on this issue, because when it comes to the debate on poverty there are many people who are quick to point out that it is due to flaws in character and one can oftentimes hear the complaint that poor people lacked the determination to succeed or that they are plain lazy. It is unfair to stereotype people, however, it is hard not to do so if one can see the statistics. Be that as it may, one can also make the counterargument that the cause of poverty in the lives of the minorities go beyond character flaws. In the case of the African Americans, less than 60 years ago, many of them were not allowed to ride in the same buses and eat in the same restaurants as white people. If social structures were in existence even as early as the 1960s, so that fellow Americans are able to humiliate them like that, then surely they have limited opportunities and this explains the poverty levels they are in right now. The same can be said of the Hispanics who came to the US as migrant workers escaping the extreme poverty in their homelands.
It has to be made clear that the US government is serious in eliminating poverty at all levels and in all sectors. This commitment is shown clearly with the Federal government's welfare program. According to one report, if one will take away access to food stamps, an additional number of poor families will be added to the list, like eight million more people will be classified as poor. In the same report, the absence of social security and tax credits will also increase the number of poor families in the United States. However, it has become much clearer in the past two years that these welfare programs are not enough to reduce the number of poor people in this country.
Aside from increasing the budget needed to subsidize and support welfare programs and other anti-poverty schemes, it is also important to use resources to improve the quality of education in schools where the majority of the students are African Americans and Hispanics. In addition, the government must take a more active role in the creation of programs that will cause na increase in jobs available for poor people. It is important to consider the fact that a high unemployment rate may not be the result of the lack of jobs available in the market, but the lack of qualified people that can take these jobs. Imagine the sense of injustice that poor American families are going through every day when there is only one thing that separates them from the American Dream and that is the lack of resources to earn a High School diploma or a simple certificate that certifies that they were have been trained to perform a particular job.
There is a good reason why characters flaws were mentioned earlier as being linked to poverty. Without a doubt laziness and the lack of desire to succeed is the root cause of poverty in some families, but it is not logical to use character flaws as the main explanation for the failure to reduce poverty in America. One of the real root causes of the poverty crisis may have been identified by an intellectual serving as a member of the faculty at the University of Maryland. Philip Cohen pointed out that “the stated goal of the 1996 Welfare Reform Law was not to alleviate poverty but to encourage marriage and reduce single parenthood”. One can make the argument that it is harder to increase the wealth of a single parent household as compared to a conventional unit called the family that is made up of two sets of parents. It all boils down to having little assistance when it comes to raising up children. There is no need to elaborate the fact that a single mother taking care of a child without the support of a husband will not be able to perform well in any given job because she has spent so much energy in taking care of a child without the added income of a husband. However, if Cohen is right that the welfare program encourages the creation of a conventional family and punishes single mothers, then, the cycle of poverty in African American and Hispanic homes will never end.
Policy makers that created laws similar to the Welfare Reform Law must look beyond the circumstances of ordinary white Americans and consider the struggles and present limitations of African American women before they create policies that makes it shameful and embarrassing for single mothers to ask for help. For example, they must consider the fact that in a country with 2.3 million people behind bars, 1 million of them are African Americans. If one will combine the number of African Americans and Hispanics behind bars, the statistics says that these minority groups represents 58% of people that are in prison. Going back to Cohen's argument that it is now time to change the laws that punishes single mothers to reduce poverty is a real cause for concern.
America is faced with a serious problem, particularly when it comes to rising poverty in the nation. It is not good for a global leader like the US to have so many poor families, because history and current events will show everyone that poverty is the cause of high crime rates and the growth of radical groups prone to cause wars and violence. It was pointed out that the US Federal government established welfare programs that was designed to reduce poverty in this country. However, welfare programs like social security services and food stamps are not enough to change the numbers when it comes to poor people. In addition, policy makers must look into the core values within the laws that were passed to help the poor. For example, the 1996 Welfare Reform Law was aimed to correct the behavior of people or to challenge character flaws, because it discourages single parents. Single mothers are seen to have a character flaw and they are not getting as much assistance from the government compared to families with a mother and father. It is not practical to use this kind of thinking considering that 1 million African Americans are behind bars, this means that even if single parents of African American lineage would love to have a conventional family, the present reality does not allow them. Therefore, it is unfair to punish them for something that is not beyond their control. Economic policies must increase jobs and to hike up the wages of struggling workers, but it has to go beyond that and also look into laws that punishes those who needed help the most.