When considering poverty in America, I feel like I'm on a tightrope between compassion and outrage. Compassion for the truly poor people who lack food, clothing, and shelter, and outrage at all the evidence of welfare system "scammers." We all know people on food stamps who are severely overweight and feeding several large dogs, or families on welfare with big screen tv's, IPhones, and IPads.Perhaps we should redefine the economic classes in this country. Instead of classifying people as belonging to the upper, middle, and lower classes, perhaps it would be more accurate to classify them as members of the upper, middle, and lower upper class.
I have a friend whose family receives some government aid. Her husband is a photographer and she works in a beauty salon, but they can barely make ends meet. Their children receive free school lunches and have had to drop out of sports and return musical instruments because they could not afford it.
We went to the beach together and had to cook every night because the family could not afford to eat out. I gladly supported this economic choice. I felt bad that evening when one of the children wanted a souvenir T-shirt and was severely reprimanded by her mother for wanting such a frivolous thing. Imagine my shock, when the very next day, this Mom bought herself a $200 pair of designer sunglasses on the boardwalk! So what is "poor?" I agree that "poor" is a relative term.
My daughter and I traveled to the Dominican Republic in May of this year with Compassion International, to visit the child I sponsor, Franklin Acosta (age 8). Our trip began in the city of Santo Domingo, visiting the homes of some of the sponsored families. The "home" we visited was a one-room concrete slab under the street level. We entered a small, narrow, alley which wound deeper and deeper into the earth. We passed by many concrete homes built on top of each other into the earth. It is a whole other world down there.
When we got to this woman's home, it was only big enough to hold a double bed which took up the entire back half of the home. The entire family of five sleeps together in that one bed. The front half of the home had room for a small gas cook top, tiny refrigerator, wooden end table, and a chair. Clothing was hung on a metal bar across the bed.
That night, our Compassion tour specialist checked us in to an all-inclusive ocean-front resort, in order to magnify the cultural shock. My daughter and I cried and were hugely impacted, as was the rest of our team.
Over the next two days we visited more poor families at the Bateys. Bateys are communities of poor Haitians who crossed the border due to promises of money to work the sugarcane plantations. Of course, that was a false promise. They were paid $1 a day. Now, the sugarcane plantations have closed down, but these poor people still live there. They crossed the border without paperwork and identification, so are not recognized by the Dominican Republic as citizens.
This means that they are not eligible for many Dominican programs, but they are too poor to go back to Haiti. They live in concrete one or two-room homes. They cook in big pots over an open fire. They have no running water or electricity in their homes. These people have no electronic devices, no phones, no bathrooms. That is poor.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Recently we ran a post titled Poverty in America to which a reader named Carol submitted a response in which she expresses the feelings of many Americans who want to help people who are less fortunate than they are but who are repelled by the abuse they see in the system. She also illustrates the absurdity of calling the less well-off in America poor, as if they were in anything like the same straits as people in much of the world who live daily in abject misery and squalor. I'd like to share some of what she wrote with you:
at 9:27 AM
Ron Suskind has a new book coming out about the Obama presidency and it has a few items in it that are sure to raise blood pressures at the White House. According to Politico some of the major players on the President's economic team felt there was simply no leadership coming from the Oval Office. Suskind quotes Larry Summers talking to Peter Orzag:
‘You know, Peter, we’re really home alone.’ Over the past few months, Summers had said this, in a stage whisper, to Orszag and others as they left the morning economic briefings in the Oval Office. … ‘I mean it,’ Summers stressed. ‘We’re home alone. There’s no adult in charge. Clinton would never have made these mistakes.’The fact that people closest to the Oval Office felt no one was manning the helm is bad enough, but there's more in the book to dismay Obama enthusiasts (are there still such folks?). Mr. Obama's staff was apparently comprised of a bunch of Neanderthals as well:
‘The president has a real woman problem’ was the assessment of another high-ranking female official. ‘The idea of the boys’ club being just Larry [Summers] and Rahm [Emmanuel] isn’t fair. He [Obama] was just as responsible himself.’ … ‘[L]ooking back,’ recalled Anita Dunn [Obama's former communications director], when asked about it nearly two years later, ‘this place would be in court for a hostile workplace … Because it actually fit all of the classic legal requirements for a genuinely hostile workplace to women.’Yikes. The most progressive White House in history is run by a bunch of chauvinist pigs? Who'd have guessed? But, hey - they'll keep abortion legal so presumably feminists will bite their tongues and keep their complaints to themselves, just like they did during the Clinton presidency. Isn't it ironic that we never heard these kinds of revelations emanating from the Reagan administration or either Bush administration. It seems that it's only when liberals are in the White House that women get treated shabbily.
at 7:26 AM