One thing that stood out the most when reading the assigned chapters and listening to today’s lecture from class were the negative connotations that are directly correlated with the word poverty. In class, when we were going around the room and discussing what comes to mind when thinking of the poverty, mostly everybody’s reaction was one of negativity or pessimism. I believe it is fair to say that the society we live in today assumes that poverty comes from a lack of hard work or determination. In my personal opinion, that could not be further from the truth.
There are millions of workers in America who work full-time jobs, sometimes more than one, to try and support their family’s needs but somehow still fall under the poverty line. “In 2011, the US Department of Labor reported at least 10 million people worked and were still below the unrealistic official US poverty line, an increase of 1.5 million more than the last time they checked” (Quigley, 2013). That is an astonishing number, to me, for a couple reasons. Not only is that simply an obscene number of people who are working but still struggling to provide for their family, but more importantly, how many people need to struggle in order to get their voices heard. Nobody who works hard in America should struggle to feed their children. Yet, nothing substantial seems to be done for the “working poor” in America to end this ridiculous problem.
This is also a very serious problem I’ve seen my entire life growing up in a small town outside of New York City. One perfect example that I have from my adolescence that proves this to be sadly true came when I worked my first job in a kitchen at the local hospital in town. One of my co-workers was a mother of three, and worked six days a week, 7:30 to 3:30, day in and day out. She also worked a night job about three days out of the week. One day at work I overheard her talking to her friend, who also worked at the hospital, saying that the night before she had to put her children to bed hungry. She simply did not have the money or resources, for dinner, on that particular night. I remember thinking how absolutely ludicrous that sounded, and I haven’t forgotten since, and probably never will. In fact, the more I think about it, the more infuriated I become.
One of the biggest reasons why the working poor are left with absolutely no money or resources, is the outrageous income disparity in America today. Over the past 25 years economic growth has not been beneficial to all workers, in fact, it really only benefited those who were already well off. “ The top 20 percent of households in this country realized an increase of more than 50 percent…while the bottom 20 percent realized an increase of only 2 percent” (Segal, 2013). A 2% increase over the past 25 years? While the rich just keep getting richer? That doesn’t even seem possible in this country, but it is. Does that sit well with you? Because it sure doesn’t sit well with me.
Therefore, my main goal of this blog post was to simply get everyone to think differently about the word “poverty” if you haven’t already. Poverty does not describe the type of person you are, or how much effort you put in every day of your life. So next time you hear a discussion about poverty and the negative connotations that go along with it, maybe drop some actual knowledge on what poverty in America truly is.