Name the poorest nations in the world, and you get a very long list. Now, according to research done by Brookings, we can add the poor from the United States to that list.
The United Nations lists poverty as “when a family’s income fails to meet a federally established threshold that differs across countries.” In the United States, this is $16 per person per day. In addition, extreme poverty is defined as $1.25 per day per person, with just plain poverty as $2 per day per person.
And, according to numerous research, the United States has people living in poverty at the level found among the poorest nations in the world. The Brookings research found that the US has between 2% and 5%, or roughly 6.6 and 16.5 million Americans. So much for the claim that the poor in the US have it well-off compared to other nations. They can appear to be better off thanks to the widespread waste culture combined with scavenging.
Simply put, because we waste more goods, there are better goods to scavenge. Everything from cars to appliances can be scavenged for little effort and turned in to something useful again. This gives the false impression that our poor are doing better than those in other countries. They are not, they just have better material to pick over. And it is now so popular in the US that it has been given its own name, “Freeganism.”
The one good note about the Brookings findings is that for most people, their time at the bottom rung is temporary, with most growing from the sub-$2 per day per person point to the more established poverty rate within a year. But it becomes a revolving door, with our rates staying stable, and up to 16 million fellow Americans consisting of wages which would be considered unthinkable in nations like North Korea and Vietnam. It is only through the safety net, as threadworn as it is, that the United States simply does not have the bottom fall out from under its economy.
Our nation is reaching a dire point if we have more people in poverty than we do in the top 1%. It indicates a slow motion implosion. And this is the result of decades of Republican anti-poor rhetoric. From “Welfare Queens” to “Thugs,” an entire political party in this country has made it their goal to demonize the poor, while ensuring the growing ranks for those who are in poverty. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for them.
The issues of systemic poverty were ignored when it was the minority communities trapped within it. From African American ghettos to Native American reservations, the problems of minority poverty were all but ignored by the majority in this country. But now, we have hit the point where it is effecting the majority, and awareness of it is starting to creep in.
How much more before the people face the reality that we are now a third world nation? And then, what will we do about it?