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Increasingly poor Americans: The new normal?
Posted By Jerry Newcombe On 09/24/2013 @ 6:43 pm In Commentary,Opinion | No Comments
I’m not an economist, and I don’t play one on TV. But it seems to me that the so-called recovery is taking a long time. Or maybe it isn’t a recovery after all.
Virtually every week there’s some new study out showing that more Americans are struggling financially. Are Americans getting poorer? Is this the new normal? Is the middle class shrinking in our time? Jesus said, the poor you will always have with you, but now we apparently have more of them.
There’s a human price to all this, with millions of fellow Americans struggling to get by. People strive to find work. With Obamacare looming, full-time employees are being reduced to part-time status. Many college grads, saddled with school debt, live in their parents’ basements.
I know of a young man who graduated from college with high honors in December 2008. But his degree was not in engineering or accounting, but more of a general field. He couldn’t find a job, any job, so he hopped on a bicycle and basically rode from south Florida to Los Angeles – keeping his parents on their knees in prayer the whole time. He found work in California; but if he had been forced to do this, it would have been “cruel and unusual punishment.”
Melville D. Miller Jr., the president of Legal Services of New Jersey, said, “The Great Recession was the worst major economic event since the early ’30s. … It’s taken longer for the U.S. to come out of it.” (Brent Johnson of the Star-Ledger, “Poverty in N.J. reaches 52-year high, new report shows,” nj.com, Sept. 8, 2013). Have we fully come out of it?
Writing for the L.A. Times, Emily Alpert notes there is a “small but surging share of Americans who identify themselves as ‘lower class.’ Last year, a record 8.4 percent of Americans put themselves in that category – more than at any other time in the four decades that the question has been asked.” (Emily Alpert, “Amid slow economic recovery, more Americans identify as ‘lower class,’” Sept. 15, 2013).
The Associated Press notes that unemployment for those who make under $20,000 a year has now exceeded 21 percent – a statistic akin to the Great Depression.
They add, “The gap in employment rates between America’s highest- and lowest-income families has stretched to its widest levels since officials began tracking the data a decade ago, according to an analysis of government data conducted for the Associated Press.” (Hope Yen, “Employment Gap Between Rich, Poor Widest on Record,” AP, Sept. 17, 2013).
The Census Bureau reports 6.6 million more people as poor, up to a record 46 million Americans. That’s basically 1 out of 6 of us.
Terrence P. Jeffrey of CNSnews.com reports this month that the number of households on food stamps (23.1 million) exceeds the total number (20.6 million) of all households in the northeast U.S.
Well, who is doing well in this economy? One group that is not hurting is government workers in D.C. The four richest counties in the country now are in the greater D.C. area. (Jeffrey H. Anderson, “A River of American Money Flows to D.C.” Weekly Standard, Sept. 23, 2013).
Conservatives argue that one of the reasons for the slow economic recovery is Obamacare. As of this writing, there’s another showdown looming on Capitol Hill related to Obamacare. Maybe “show”down is an appropriate word, in that it might all be a show.
But if Obamacare – which the Supreme Court said is constitutional as a tax (which it was not passed as and probably would not have been passed had it been proposed as a tax) – does go into full force, the poor could well be the hardest hit.
Writing for Pharma & Healthcare (Sept. 23, 2013), Chris Conover reports, “Obamacare will increase health spending by $7,450 for a typical family of four.” Not only will the costs for health care increase, but many are already losing their jobs (or having them reduced in hours and pay) because their employers find the health-care benefit too prohibitive.
The irksome thing about Obamacare is the way the politicians exempt themselves from it. If it’s so great for everybody else, then those in government should also have to live by it. No? Shouldn’t the politicians have to swallow their own medicine? Ninety-two percent of Americans think Congress members and their staff should not be exempt, as they currently are.
Any way you look at the numbers, we seem to be getting poorer as a nation.
Now, it’s not a sin to be poor. I know some poor people who are rich in faith and joyful, and I know some rich people who are poor in faith and miserable. To paraphrase Ben Franklin, contentment makes a poor man rich, and discontentment a rich man poor.
But the Bible has strong warnings against laziness. The Apostle Paul says that if a man deliberately will not provide for his own family, he has denied the faith. He also says if a man will not work, then neither shall he eat. (He didn’t say if he cannot work, but if he will not work. The church has always been on the forefront of helping those who cannot work.)
Our founders said that that government which governs best governs least. But our government today essentially says the opposite. The real story in all this is that while the average American is getting poorer in our time, the federal government is growing beyond reasonable bounds.
Oh, for the likes of Ronald Reagan. Perhaps, he put it best in his First Inaugural Address: “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
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