The current Population Survey data show that 15 percent of Americans, roughly 46.5 million people, live at or below the government-defined poverty line . . ..
That our poverty numbers have risen to such a high level exposes the fact that as a society, we are choosing to ignore the needs of tens of millions of Americans—as we have done for much of the period since the War on Poverty went out of fashion and the harsher politics of Reaganism set in.
With the exception of Romania, no developed country has a higher percentage of kids in poverty than America. Similarly, America also has a remarkably high percentage of people living in what is called “deep poverty,” at less than half the official poverty rate.
The Republicans claim that unless we slash what is left of the safety net by gutting food stamps (which alone keep 4 million people out of poverty and alleviate the hardship of millions more), putting stricter limits on unemployment benefits and other harsh measures, we’re doomed to go down the Greek road to ruin. In fact, this country has more than enough resources to grapple with poverty. What we’re sorely lacking is not resources but political will and empathy. In modern-day America, it has somehow become easier to bravely sally forth to do battle against assistance for the hungry, the destitute and the down-on-their-luck than to talk sensibly about the causes of mass poverty and rampant inequality.