Is Poverty a Death Sentence?

From Common Dreams: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/09/14-6

by Bernie Sanders
September 14, 2011

The crisis of poverty in America is one of the great moral and economic issues facing our country. It is very rarely talked about in the mainstream media. It gets even less attention in Congress. Why should people care? Many poor people don’t vote. They certainly don’t make large campaign contributions, and they don’t have powerful lobbyists representing their interests.Sanders (I-VT)

Here’s why we all should care. There are 46 million Americans — about one in six — living below the poverty line. That’s the largest number on record, according to a new report released Tuesday by the Census Bureau. About 49.9 million Americans lacked health insurance, the report also said. That number has soared by 13.3 million since 2000.

Moreover, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States has both the highest overall poverty rate and the highest childhood poverty rate of any major industrialized country on earth. This comes at a time when the U.S. also has the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country on earth with the top 1 percent earning more than the bottom 50 percent.

According to the latest figures from the OECD, 21.6 percent of American children live in poverty. This compares to 3.7 percent in Denmark, 5 percent in Finland, 5.5 percent in Norway 6.9 percent in Slovenia, 7 percent in Sweden, 7.2 percent Hungary, 8.3 percent in Germany, 8.8 percent in the Czech Republic, 9.3 percent in France, 9.4 percent in Switzerland. I suppose we can take some comfort in that our numbers are not quite as bad as Turkey (23.5 percent), Chile (24 percent) and Mexico (25.8 percent).

When we talk about poverty in America, we think about people who may be living in substandard and overcrowded homes or may be homeless. We think about people who live with food insecurity, who may not know how they are going to feed themselves or their kids tomorrow. We think about people who, in cold states like Vermont, may not have enough money to purchase the fuel they need to keep warm in the winter. We think about people who cannot afford health insurance or access to medical care. We think about people who cannot afford an automobile or transportation, and can’t get to their job or the grocery store. We think about senior citizens who may have to make a choice between buying the prescription drugs he or she needs, or purchasing an adequate supply of food.

I want to focus on an enormously important point. And that is that poverty in America today leads not only to anxiety, unhappiness, discomfort and a lack of material goods. It leads to death. Poverty in America today is a death sentence for tens and tens of thousands of our people which is why the high childhood poverty rate in our country is such an outrage.

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/09/14-6

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