Dear Future President,
I have learned that poverty is defined as “...the state of being extremely poor.” I know that poverty exists all over our world; in developing countries as well as in local suburbs and cities right here in the United States. Poverty is something that can affect anyone at any time and at any age. One can be born poor into an economically challenged country or one (and one’s family) can become poor, both situations often out of anyone’s immediate control. What is this country doing to help its poor as well as the poor around the world? Are we doing enough? Could we be doing better?
In my research, I found that the United States spends over 600 billion dollars a year in the United States and roughly $25 billion internationally on the fight against poverty, yet somehow poverty still exists. Almost half of the world lives on $2.50 per day, so that begs the question, where is the money going? I know that at least in the U.S., some of it is spent on government programs such as Medicaid, (health care for the poor), while another portion is spent on assistance programs such as food stamps. Internationally, I read that a large amount of funds are spent on food aid to combat hunger in the short run. Of course that isn’t getting to the causes of poverty which as you know include but are not limited to, lack of education, (which is certainly true of developing countries across the globe), access to clean drinking water (which the lack there of leads to disease and costly medical bills as well as the lack of farm-able land and crops), lack of job training, as well as a lack of affordable child care on top of many others. These issues and many more are part of the reason why the world remains poor, and in 2016, that is unacceptable. More has to be done. The World Bank has made it a goal to end poverty throughout the world by the year 2030. Their plan involves the idea of “shared prosperity” and they are working to foster the income growth of the bottom 40% for every country, as well as end extreme poverty by decreasing the number of people living on less than $1.90 a day to no more than 3%. Does the United States government have concrete goals for the eradication of poverty as well?
I know some people like to ask the question, “why should the rest of us non poor people care about the economically disadvantaged?” While I disagree with that line of thinking, I know others wonder if poverty is something society should manage or if the poor should be held responsible for their own actions? I believe one reason that poverty should be a concern for all of us is because high rates of unemployment hurt the U.S. economy, which in turn affects everyone. Also, poverty begets crime. When the poverty rate rises in an area, the crime rate rises as well. In some parts of the world, a rise in poverty can mean a rise in homegrown terrorism. People feel disconnected from each other and not supported by their government which can lead to radicalization and tyranny.
Some might say that the richest people in a country are actually causing the poor to become poorer. Is poverty caused by external factors out of our control? One might argue that some government policies (such as the sales tax on bread, but not on bonds) actually rewards the rich and neglects the poor. In the U.S., is our capitalist society to blame?
While it is disheartening to know this, I realize that poverty has been a reality in our world since the beginning of time. At some point though, we need to have more solutions than we do problems. Critics would say that (at least in the United States), some are poor by choice, taking advantage of an over-stressed system and causing the rest of us to pay for their mistakes. Research has found though that this is often not the case. Most families (at least in the U.S.) receiving welfare assistance are headed by someone with a job, often who is simply not paid enough to provide for a family without government help. Economic barriers in respect to poverty need to be addressed by our government.
Poverty itself has many forms. People in developing countries who walk 25 miles a day for clean water are poor and need our help. The working poor in the United States who can’t earn a decent wage are poor and need our help. Public schools who deal with anxiety ridden kids and families who are living below the poverty line need our help. While it is realistic to note that the government can’t be held solely responsible for the world’s poverty problem, maybe the United States government, the wealthiest country in the world, should be treating poverty like the urgent concern that it truly is.