Poverty In America

Al Jacobs

The article’s title certainly draws attention: “SoCal’s youngest often live in poverty.” Recognizing the author adds an additional element to the revelation, for it’s Margot Roosevelt, holder of a history degree from Harvard, for 13 years staff correspondent of the Washington Post and great granddaughter of our 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt, America’s first truly progressive chief executive.

It’s clear from her writings Ms. Roosevelt follows the family tradition of promoting social justice, where she’s currently attached to the University of Southern California’s Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities.

The basis of the exposé discloses a quarter of California’s children under the age of six live in poverty. The source of information is a report titled “The Geography of Child Poverty in California,” compiled by the San Francisco-based Public Policy Institute of California. The documentation presented describes in detail the percentages of poor children in selected cities and counties throughout the state, contrasting the wages and benefits of the lower-income workers with the incomes of the most prosperous.

The report presents data from 256 local areas, featuring six broad categories: child poverty, demographics, family resources, education and employment, cost of living and safety net. A typical comment from the report reads: “We can now see where poverty is concentrated. There is enormous variation from neighborhood to neighborhood.”

Over the years I’ve followed the activities of social welfare advocates, I’ve noted statistics are uppermost in their list of identifiable concerns. Apparently it’s a fundamental prerequisite to determine how much and where the money is to be applied when attacking societal problems.

I recall a recent governmental survey of the homeless here in Orange County, concentrating not on resolving any issues, but rather counting them and identifying their specific locations. It will therefore be interesting to learn whether a poor child in Fresno will somehow be favored over one in Alpine and, if so, in what fashion.

It’s now time for a testimonial, for I’m no stranger to child poverty. For those of us who grew up during the Great Depression of the 1930s, money was always in short supply. I’m told my father at one time resorted to selling needles and thread door to door to pay the rent and put food on the table. Nonetheless, I could always be certain I’d be given the dime needed to get into the theater for each Saturday matinee with my schoolboy chums. In short, if any poverty existed back then, I’d not have known about it.

Exactly what Ms. Roosevelt and her admirers describe as child poverty is beyond me; the fact is, I can’t imagine what a six-year-old needs with a five dollar bill. Of course at a certain age money becomes a necessity. My father passed away when I was 12 and my mother needed my help to make ends meet. That’s why at 13 I worked as a caddie for $2 while hiking over an 18-hole golf course, at 15 as a drug store soda jerk at 67¢ an hour, and by 16 as a bowling alley pinsetter earning a dime a line, all while attending school on a full-time basis.

Interestingly, during the one and one-half years I set pins, I managed, while in the pits, to squeeze in my studying between the arrival of each bowled ball while setting double lanes. But most importantly, despite regularly being close to broke, I never considered myself to be poor. The reason for this is fundamental: broke is a financial condition whereas poor is a mental aberration.

Although the specter of child poverty is nothing more than an orchestrated contrivance, the reality of widespread economic deprivation is undeniably real. Recent census data shows half the U.S. population qualifies as low income, with one in five millennials living at the lowest economic level. An astonishing number of people work at low-wage jobs. In addition, many households are headed by a single parent, making it difficult for them to earn a living income.

The near disappearance of cash assistance for low-income mothers and children also plays a contributing role. In addition, persistent issues of race and gender means added distress among minorities and families headed by single mothers.

What we particularly need are more jobs paying decent wages. There aren’t enough in our current economy and this need extends far beyond the current crisis. We require a full-employment policy and a massive investment in 21st-century education and skill development strategies if we hope to break out of our current economic malaise. Quite simply, we’re drowning in a flood of low-wage jobs.

According to recent data available from the Census Bureau, 104 million people, or a third of the nation’s population, receive annual incomes less than $38,000 for a family of three. Understandably, they struggle to make ends meet every month. Families able to send another adult to work do better, but single mothers (and fathers) don’t enjoy that option.

You should note, severe financial difficulty among families with children headed by single mothers now exceeds 40 percent. Wages for those who work on jobs in the bottom half are simply stuck. It’s not because the whole economy is stagnated; there’s been a good bit of growth, but it’s reserved for those at the top. The realization is most of us have been left far behind.

In the meanwhile low-wage jobs bedevil tens of millions of people. And as a final consideration, six million individuals receive no income other than food stamps (now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). This amounts to about $6,300 for a family of three; it’s hard to understand how they survive.

If, following the details I’ve just related, you expect some suggestions on how to resolve these problems, sorry but I can’t be of help. For one thing, as a rule of thumb, the likely span of a nation’s continuity is roughly two hundred years. The United States is now approaching its 250-year mark, and exhibiting a decrepitness normal in old age.

What are the signs of our decrepitude as a society? Communication in a single language, English, is becoming less common. The bedrock of the family, marriage between a man and woman, is systematically denigrated. Our judicial system is unable to process a growing number of felons, while the penal system fails to build enough prisons to house them.

43 percent of all U.S. children live without a father, and the percentage is growing. Our government proclaims unemployment to be five percent when, in reality, it’s closer to 20 percent. The regular use of mind-altering drugs by all segments of the populace is increasingly condoned. Taxation of the citizen in ever more pernicious ways is established governmental policy at all levels.

What the United States of America is devolving into is uncertain, but devolving it most certainly is. It’s truly a pity the society where freedom and opportunity most effectively functioned is now in free fall. Unless it can recover from its current downward spiral, it appears my country is destined to become the globe’s most prominent third world nation.

Al Jacobs, a professional investor for nearly a half-century, distributes a monthly newsletter in which he shares his financial knowledge and experience. You may view it on www.roadwaytoprosperity.com.




Copyright 2022 Beeler & Associates.

All rights reserved. Contents may not be reproduced or transmitted – by any means – without publisher's written permission.