Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Poverty is our problem

7/31/2013

I read earlier this week that “four out of five U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least part of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.”

This means that you and I have a 76-percent chance to experience at least one year in poverty or near poverty. (That’s if we are white. The percentage goes up if we are a minority). Our kids might have an 85-percent chance. And that’s before we even turn 60. It’s a whole other story what happens after age 60.

I read earlier this week that “four out of five U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least part of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.”

This means that you and I have a 76-percent chance to experience at least one year in poverty or near poverty. (That’s if we are white. The percentage goes up if we are a minority). Our kids might have an 85-percent chance. And that’s before we even turn 60. It’s a whole other story what happens after age 60.

Are we honestly OK with this prognosis? If I had this chance of breast cancer, I would be scheduling a double mastectomy ... and not in a year or two — right now. Why does there seem to be such indifference in our society toward those in need, if the overwhelming majority of us will or have experienced poverty? It is no longer about “those poor people,” it is about us — all of us.

The majority of people who live in poverty work really hard to make ends meet. Some work way more than 40 hours a week and still struggle. Did you know that nowhere in the United States can you afford a two-bedroom apartment if you make minimum wage? Did you know that it probably costs $70,000 for a family of four (two adults with two children) to meet just the basic needs right here in Ottawa — not Washington, D.C., or New York City — that’s not including luxuries, like vacations. Top it off with 50 percent of Americans making less than $30,000 a year, and you have a very gloomy picture.

And how do we get involved in the political process if it costs us a lot of money to do so? How do we scrape together $50, $75 or $100 to have an opportunity to talk to former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee if we can barely afford utilities this month? I don’t think we should!

Are we really OK with continuing to ignore this rising income inequality (more families living in or near poverty) or are we finally going to stand together because poverty is not just our neighbor’s problem? Poverty is our problem, and united we can solve any problem.

 

— Kristina Zhilkina,

director of case management,

East Central Kansas Economic Opportunity Corp.

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