The New Face of Poverty in America

??The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines poverty as “The state of being inferior in quality or insufficient amount.” While this is a universal definition, is this accurate in America? The basic needs budget for an American family of 4 is $31,080 (rural Nebraska) to $64,656 (Boston, Massachusetts). It is unrealistic to expect people in a major consumer culture to live off of the bare minimum. To many, the solution to poverty is simple: hard work. The stigma that often comes along with poverty is those who make less money are somehow lazy.

Reality demonstrates that this is not the case. ??In a Fox News report by Charles Payne, he explains, “There’s this idea that between the food stamps and the welfare and the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit and the local programs, you know, it gets a little comfortable to be in poverty,” arguing that this stigma is real. Payne claims that our government has made it seem okay to be poor, because “someone will always come and save them.” We need to realize that it’s okay to have a safety net until we can get back on our feet. Why starve when resources are all around to help? People working minimum wage jobs have reported to the use of government aid.

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Are they lazy? Very few people if any could live off of minimum wage alone. In 2011, nearly 46.2 million Americans were living in poverty. That is close to 16% of the nation. The majority of these people were on food stamps or some form of government aid.

While Payne states that this is enabling poverty, it’s actually decreasing it, by nine percent to be exact, according to the NY Times. ??Payne’s next argument is that the poor are also uneducated. Because of the recession a few years ago, lawyers and business owners are unemployed. People with doctorates and PhD’s are also out of work. Even new graduates. How could individuals who are newly educated be out of work and on assistance? Hard work and education is obviously not the end all, be all means of employment.

??The solution: Education of the general public needs to happen. It’s easy to point fingers and throw out solutions when the person doesn’t have to deal with the results. It’s not something that can be swept under the rug, because it’s a very big problem that needs fast solutions. It’s not just the man from the homeless shelter in line for a hand out, it’s the doctors and engineers too. It’s time we recognize the new face of poverty, and begin to work towards reducing the number of people in this class.