Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 4, 2012

Another View: Nation's poverty rate threatens our future


---- — There's an ugly truth that keeps nagging us. As much as we might like to, it cannot be ignored. It's staring us in the face.

More Americans are becoming poor. Their numbers are increasing in the Blue Water Area, in Michigan and throughout the nation.

The standard responses — poor people are lazy; there's a job for anyone willing to work — no longer apply. Too many Americans live in poverty.

The nation's 2011 poverty rate is expected to hit 15.7 percent, according to an Associated Press forecast, a troubling increase from 15.1 percent in 2010 and a harbinger of worse rates to come.

St. Clair County is no exception. The 2010 U.S. Census showed 15.4 percent of county incomes were below the poverty level — slightly less than the state average of 15.5 percent.

There's no disputing the Great Recession's impact on the growth of poverty. The national rate increased from 13.2 percent in 2008, when the economic crisis began, and has grown steadily ever since.

With the ranks of the poor significantly expanded with victims of the economy, it stands to reason that the threat of the growing poverty rate ought to have emerged as a critical issue. It has not.

Election campaigns locally, statewide and nationally don't address the threat of poverty or the increasing ranks of the poor. You won't hear a robocall, watch a television ad or read a campaign flier that mentions the issue, much less proposes ways to fight poverty.

Thank goodness for the soup kitchens, food pantries and other services that help the poor. Most of them struggle to meet the rising demand for their services despite reductions in government aid.

You won't see many politicians paying them visits in this election year — and you won't hear the candidates making any promises to win these resources greater support for the vital work they do.

Poverty is the status we fear and fight to avoid, but it is a condition few of us seem willing to do something about. It also is a circumstance that is becoming greater — and that ought to trip some alarms.

We can't comfort ourselves by saying it's the poor's fault. Their growing ranks dispel that myth.

Sooner or later, the fight against poverty must win a place on local, state and national agendas. The latest status reports suggest the time to begin developing an anti-poverty strategy and campaign is now.

Times Herald (Port Huron)