US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Morally unacceptable: 1 in 2 Americans is low-income or poor

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Why doesn't it bother us that 48 percent of Americans--148 million people--are low-income (up to 200 perecent of the poverty line) or poor? That's what a new census report shows anyway. Instead we get this reaction from the Heritage Foundation's Robert Rector: According to the Associated Press: "He said that while safety-net programs have helped many Americans, they have gone too far. He said some people described as poor live in decent-size homes, drive cars and own wide-screen TVs." That's an indirect quote, so here's the direct one: "As we come out of recession, it will be important that these programs promote self-sufficiency rather than dependence and encourage people to look for work."

Must be nice to sit up there enjoying your think-tank salary pontificating about poor, lazy people who evidently are not looking for work. There's a reason for that, you know: There are no jobs, and some of the ones there used to be are being destroyed even now while public agencies lay off scads of workers. Even the jobs there are pay a wage so low that a poor person in Chicago and most other big cities can't pay the rent.

And here's a major problem with our current debate: A lot of people who talk a lot about poor people don't actually know any. If they did, they would know that even if someone has a $300 TV set, they don't have health care, they can't afford their heating bill, and they are hungrier than ever. (That's from the mayors of the nation's 29 largest cities, 27 of which are reporting more hungry people than last year.)

It's a mess out there, but I don't think it's the poor who are to blame. In fact, if I had to place blame, I think I'd go with big banks, Wall Street brokers, and politicians who won't even raise taxes on those with more than $1 million in annual net income to throw a bone to those in dire straits. Good thing Catholics United is bringing its Golden Calf for the next Occupy DC march, since it's clearly the god those in power are worshiping.