“Selling plasma is so common among the $2-a-day poor that it might be thought of as a lifeblood….In Johnson City, Tennessee…Jessica Compton donates plasma as often as ten times a month — as frequently as the law allows.”
– $2 a Day: Living On Almost Nothing in America
Dear Kim Moon-shine,
I don’t want you to ever feel embarrassed about all those poor people in the Democratic People’s Republic of Livia.
I know you’re working tirelessly to uplift the lives of your people while American leaders are plotting new ways to crush their people and others outside the country.
Kim, you have no idea how many millions of dirt poor folks we have in America.
In mid-1979, a young Chicano woman famously told President Jimmy Carter, “Some of us have suffered from recession all our lives.”
And guess what?
Things have not changed much in the 38 years since President Carter spoke about the Chicano woman and her life lifelong recession in his famous ‘Crisis of Confidence’ speech a.k.a. Malaise Speech.
Political science professor Kathy Cramer found similar sentiments of lifelong recession in her study of Wisconsin rural voters. “People were like, Whatever, we’ve been in a recession for decades. What’s the big deal?” Cramer told the Washington Post.
An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll in 2016 found that two-thirds of Americans would find it hard to come up with $1,000 to cover an emergency.
America has always had a vast underbelly of poverty.
Even in pre-independence America, thousands of impoverished people lived in poorhouses of Boston, Baltimore and New York.
Distressing poverty in America is not restricted to Appalachia or the Black ghettos of Harlem, Watts, Memphis, Oakland and Wilmington.
Dirt poor people may be found in every town and city of America.
Every American city or town has the “lepers colony” of trailer parks (with mobile homes) set back from the road behind trees and shrubs where the poor are forced, by their difficult circumstances, to live.
Even small towns in America have several trailer parks. My small town in a mid-Atlantic state has seven trailer parks.
The fiction of poverty in America as an “afterthought” has been abetted by mediocre ivory tower White academics like John Kenneth Galbraith (in his book The Affluent Society).
In the worldview of White people like Galbraith, one of the causes of poverty in America is “excessive procreation.”
Ha, ha, ha.
If only American men had learned how to put on a condom, there’d be fewer trailer parks, fewer homeless people and fewer hungry folks ransacking dumpsters near grocery stores.
So Many Poor
Are there really so many poor people in America, the richest country in the world, you might wonder in disbelief.
Few believe there’s much poverty in the U.S. since many of our Sonderkommandos have been brainwashed into believing in the fictional narrative of America as the richest nation of the world.
Our Sonderführers (including the first faux Black President) constantly brag about America being the richest country in the world.
But the harsh truth is poverty is everywhere in the United States of America.
You just have to peel your eyes open to see the poor and their plight.
Even the U.S. Census can’t hide the fact that officially 46.7 million people are living in poverty in America.
Millions of Americans are now so poor they can’t afford to shop even at Walmart, which is supposedly the bastion of low prices.
Dollar stores are expanding across this “richest nation” and many of these stores now sell so called “food” imported from Colombia, Vietnam, China, South Africa, Mexico and India, and high fructose corn syrup laden food Made-Only-in-America.
My small town now has four dollar stores including one that recently moved into a bigger building with several coolers stocking “food.”
Of course, the real count of America’s poor is much higher because in an effort to support and embellish the “richest nation” narrative our leaders and bureaucrats distort and falsify data that differs from the public image.
As Michael Harrington wrote sarcastically in The Other America: Poverty in the United States:
“America has the best-dressed poverty the world has ever known…It is much easier in the United States to be decently dressed than it is to be decently housed, fed, or doctored.”
But don’t tell that to right-wing researchers like John Hood who argue that poverty in America is “woefully overestimated” and arises largely from “self-destructive behavior.”
Medicaid Proves Poverty
One of the best arguments debunking the fiction of the “richest nation in the world” is Medicaid.
A program launched in August 1965 by the Lyndon Johnson administration, Medicaid provides healthcare to the dirt-poor in America.
In 2017, Medicaid covered 68 million Americans and Permanent Residents (Green Card holders) and allowed them to see a doctor for free and get their prescriptions filled at a very modest cost.
When 68 million out of a total population of 325 million are dirt-poor, the true picture of America is that of a land where poverty is pervasive.
In the second decade of the twenty-first century, Medicaid covers more people than Medicare (health insurance program for the elderly).
When you consider the entire Medicaid-eligible population (i.e. Medicaid enrollees plus those eligible but not enrolled), the poverty picture in America looks even worse.
The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured reported that millions of potentially eligible children and adults did not enroll in Medicaid.
In its 2013 report on Medicaid, the Kaiser Commission found that 37% of eligible adults and 15% of eligible children were not enrolled in Medicaid.
“While participation in Medicaid is high compared with other voluntary programs, many people who are eligible are not enrolled and remain uninsured …. Some low-income families are not aware of the programs or do not believe they are eligible, indicating that more effective outreach is needed,” writes the Kaiser Commission.
So pervasive is poverty in America that Medicaid not only covers the healthcare needs of over one in three children but also 40% of all births in the nation.
Without Medicaid and its expansion under Obamacare, the healthcare crisis in America for the poor would have reached Bangladesh or Sudan levels.
Since Medicaid provides some degree of comfort/healthcare to the dirt poor people of America, it’s wildly unpopular among the wealthy White elite and their henchmen in Congress, the Republicans.
The Obamacare repeal initiative launched by President Donald Trump and his Republican associates in Congress in the first quarter of 2017 is a massive assault on Medicaid and a shameless bid to increase the misery of the nation’s poor people.
Why So Much Poverty
As often happens in life, the answers to some vexing questions are simple.
America has so much poverty because the nation has grossly underinvested in helping the poor overcome their difficulties.
Both Democrat and Republican administrations are guilty of neglecting and failing America’s poor. It’s easy to ignore and show the middle finger to the poor since they’re unorganized, heterogeneous and spread over large parts of the country.
Despite so much poverty in America, Dwight Macdonald (of ‘Our Invisible Poor’ fame) found that government intervention efforts to solve this great moral crisis “has always been grudging and miserly.”
America and a lot of Americans see the poor through a strangely distorted and abusive prism.
The poor are never seen as victims of bad luck or circumstances beyond their control.
Instead, the thinking is that if there are any poor people in America it must be because they are stupid, lazy or prefer to live on government welfare programs like SNAP.
The phrase “individual responsibility” is often thrown around by Republicans and commenters in Washington Post and New York Times to suggest that poverty is caused by irresponsible behavior.