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A honest look at poverty
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America, the land of milk and honey and self-realization, has a poverty rate that is steadily increasing.

Approximately 16 percent of American people live below the poverty line, which stands at about $23,000 for a family of four, according to an Associated Press (AP) study.

It is the highest poverty rate America has seen since 1964 and it will continue to rise amidst recession woes and an influx of minimum wage jobs, according to several news sources. Most reports give numbers for people living below the poverty line, but America has seen an increase in families who are just making it living paycheck to paycheck. NPR reported in “How America is Losing the War on Poverty” that the number of people living just at or near the poverty line is likely to be twice the number of people who are living below the line.

Robert Rector, a researcher with the Heritage Foundation, said he is afraid that people are using the rising poverty rate as a way to “justify additional spending on the poor, when in fact, many live in decent-size homes, drive cars, and own wide-screen TVs.”

There are a lot of people who get government assistance that choose to spend their money irresponsibly; welfare fraud is alive and well. But, so what if the lowest wage earners have a car or at TV? Those people need to get to work one way or another as public transportation is not available in every area; and it’s not a crime to own a TV or a basic computer. American poverty in a lot of ways, and for a lot of people, is unlike poverty in other countries; it’s incomparable.

Despite popular belief, however, not all poor people are lazy and don’t want to work; there is a large, seemingly invisible, class called the working poor. The working poor work just as hard as anybody, but they work for minimum wage. A job or two may get them by on the basic bills—rent, car maintenance, gas, basic cell phone plan, water and electric-- but doesn’t allow a family to get ahead and save for unexpected bills and expenses such as an illness or ever-fluctuating gas and food prices. By the time people are finished paying for basic necessities that are required to maintain any job, they are left with nothing extra.

Let’s be real here: $23,000 for a family of four? I can’t even imagine. That can very easily be a family where the parents where both making an okay living before the recession hit and at the blink of an eye, one of them lost a job. A poor family means that there are poor children, and according to the AP, child poverty will increase from its 22 percent standing in 2010. With limited access to resources the cycle has a change of repeating itself.

Poverty is like a disease; nobody is naturally 100 percent resistant to it, nobody wants it, but it exists and you have to deal with it.

Government assistance is an opportunity that should not be abused. There should be welfare reform and I have no problem with required drug tests to receive assistance, but popular (by necessity) welfare programs should not be cut.

People who once flourished have had to adapt to a new way of life. If Americans ever misunderstood the word downsize, the recession gave it a new meaning. Still, the delusional reality is that self-actualizing in pursuit of the “American Dream” has become synonymous with the pursuit of wealth; anyone who doesn’t pursue it is labeled as “other.” Money is necessary to survival in America, but someone is always going to make less than what is seen as adequate in order to survive. Survival of the fittest shouldn’t be a theory that allows us to leave others behind, but an argument to do the best we can at all times and help others achieve what they are able to. The strong will always manage to survive; therefore they should assist those who need help along the way.