Tuesday, September 08, 2009

growing poverty and despair in america

MediawithConscience | On August 6, the US Department of Agriculture reported a record 34.4 million Americans (one in nine) receiving food stamps in May as unemployment keeps surging. It was the sixth consecutive monthly record, and every state showed an increase as economic conditions worsen.

On September 10, the Commerce Department will release 2008 census data expected to show around another 1.5 million people added to the poverty rolls over 2007 figures - a total of nearly 39 million representing 12.7% of Americans. According to Rebecca Blank, Economic Affairs Undersecretary, final numbers aren't yet in and may be worse than expected because of how bad things are for growing numbers in the country. She believes if (U-3) unemployment hits 10% (up from 9.4% now), poverty could reach 14.8% this year and rising because of jobs and homes lost, savings exhausted, and the sharpest ever decline in personal wealth between mid-2007 and December 2008.

Worst of all, conditions for most people are deteriorating as businesses, states, and local governments shed workers and cut budgets at the worst possible time. It promises harder times ahead and potentially millions more impoverished.

Homelessness Facts
Annually, two - three million Americans, including 1.3 million children, experience homelessness and many more are at risk. Most vulnerable are those losing jobs, homes, and the millions of low-income workers paying 50% or more of their income in rent so that a missed paycheck, health emergency, or unexpected financial burden makes them vulnerable to homelessness at a time government aid is being cut.

Criminalizing the Homeless
In the face of a growing burden on society's most needy, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty reported that "many cities use the criminal justice system to punish people living on the street for doing" what they must to survive. Local ordinances prohibit sleeping, camping, eating, sharing food, sitting, loitering, and/or begging in public places with criminal penalties imposed on offenders. Some cities even punish organizations and individuals for helping, and the idea always is to keep the unwanted out of sight, mind, and preferably out of cities, at least in or near more affluent areas or business districts.

As economic conditions deteriorate, the problem will grow and so will the plight of the homeless as cities crack down harder in violation of constitutional and international human rights laws.

The OECD's 2008 Report, "Growing Unequal?: Income Distribution and Poverty in OECD Countries

It states that America "is the country with the highest inequality level and poverty rate" among the 30 OECD countries, ranking only ahead of Mexico and Turkey. In addition, since 2000, inequality grew rapidly, "continuing a long-term trend (going) back to the 1970s" when inflation-adjusted household incomes began falling.