Alarming rise in the poorest of the poor

Alarming rise in the poorest of the poor

November 4th, 2011 in Opinion Free Press

We don't want anyone in America to be in poverty, even in times of economic crisis.

So it is disconcerting that current reports suggest that one in 15 of us is living not only below the official poverty line of a little over $22,300 for a family of four, but at half that level or below -- $11,157 for a family of four.

They are considered the "poorest poor" in our nation.

The U.S. Census Bureau has reported that roughly 20.5 million people in the United States -- 6.7 percent of our total population -- are in that category.

Hardest hit are the District of Columbia, Mississippi and New Mexico. Almost 11 percent of Washington's residents are among the poorest of the poor.

Tennessee reportedly has the 12th-highest percentage of people in that category, with Alabama coming in third and Georgia 11th.

And the numbers appear to be rising nationwide. The 6.7 percent of us who make up the poorest of the poor represent the highest percentage of Americans who have been in that category since the Census Bureau began tracking that statistic in the 1970s.

There are, of course, many causes of poverty, some of which are temporary and some of which are long term. But the ongoing economic crisis and 9.1 percent unemployment are plainly major factors in the current high poverty rates.

That makes it vital to reverse the massive government spending and debt, as well as threats of tax increases, that are contributing to the weak economy and hampering job creation.

Efforts to alleviate the pain of poverty are appropriate, but no anti-poverty program works as well as a job.