Monday, June 6, 2016

Poverty would not exist in a fully democratic society

My letter to the Boston Globe about poverty was printed online and in the Sunday printed edition on June 5, 2016. It is reprinted below. 

The letter (with its restricted word limit) is a reflection of the position I presented in my book, How We Are Our Enemy--And How to Stop. There I stated (p. 107):
A democratic society must provide sufficient food, clothing, shelter, transportation and health care to enable its members to live and participate as they choose and to the extent they are able. This is what it means to value each human life equally.
I pointed out that the U.S. official poverty line is too low to provide a healthy diet for urban dwellers, which means that actual poverty is significantly higher than the current official level of 14.8 percent (more than 1 in 7 Americans). 


Poverty persistent in ‘land of opportunity’

(Boston Globe, June 5, 2016, online and p. K2 of printed edition.)

JEFF JACOBY writes, “Affluence in America is dynamic, and our economic system is biased toward success” (“From the land of the Medicis to the land of opportunity,” Ideas, May 29). This blithe view ignores one of America’s greatest defects, its persistent poverty level that has increased over the past twenty-four years.
In 1990, the poverty rate was 13.5 percent. In 2000, it had briefly dropped to 11.3 percent, still quite high for a nation with so much wealth. In 2014, it had risen to 14.8 percent. In 2014, approximately 20 percent of school-aged children lived in families below the poverty level. These poverty levels are not the signs of an economic system “biased toward success.” Instead, it is an economic system that is persistently structured to maintain poverty, a system that guarantees that many cannot succeed.
I would agree with Jacoby’s implication that attacking the 1 percent is merely a popular focus that misses the point, but not because the wealthy members of the 1 percent will change, but because a more serious problem is that those in poverty suffer. Blaming poor individuals and welfare benefits for poverty is the callous route many take to avoid addressing America’s structural problem of increasing poverty.
John L. Hodge

Jamaica Plain

Copyright © 2016 by John L. Hodge. All rights reserved.