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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Them That’s Not Shall Lose

Them That’s Not Shall Lose
By Charles M. Blow
Information Clearing House

June 29, 2011 "NY Times" -- “Anyone who has ever struggled
with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.”

James Baldwin penned that line more than 50 years ago, but it
seems particularly prescient today, if in a different manner than
its original intent.

Baldwin was referring to the poor being consistently overcharged
for inferior goods.

But I’ve always considered that sentence in the context of the
extreme psychological toll of poverty, for it is in that way that
I, too, know well how expensive it is to be poor.

I know the feel of thick calluses on the bottom of shoeless feet. I know the bite of the cold breeze that slithers through a drafty house.

I know the weight of constant worry over not having enough to fill
a belly or fight an illness.

It is in that context that I am forced to assume that if Washington politicians ever knew the sting of poverty then they have long since vanquished the memory.

How else to qualify their positions?

In fact, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, nearly half
of all members of Congress are millionaires, and between 2008 and
2009, when most Americans were feeling the brunt of the recession,
the personal wealth of members of Congress collectively increased by
more than 16 percent.

Must be nice.

Poverty is brutal, consuming and unforgiving. It strikes at the soul.

You defend yourself with hope, hard work and, for some, a helping
hand. But these weapons grow dull in an economy on the verge of
atrophy, in a job market tilting ever more toward the top and in a
political environment that would sacrifice the weak to the wealthy.

On Thursday, the Pew Research Center released a poll that showed
how disillusioned low-income people have become. Those making
less than $30,000 were the most likely to expect to be laid off or
be asked to take a pay cut.

Furthermore, they were the most likely to say that they had trouble getting or paying for medical care and paying the rent or mortgage.

But at least those numbers include people with incomes. A vast subset is chronically unemployed and desperately searching for work.

According to the Consumer Reports Employment Index, “In 23 of the past 24 months, lower-income Americans have lost more jobs than they have gained.”

It continues, “Meanwhile, more affluent Americans seem to be gaining more jobs than they are losing.”

And the current election-cycle obsession to balance the books with
a pound of flesh, which is being pushed by pitiless Republicans and
accommodated by pitiful Democrats, will only multiply the pain.

Until more politicians understand — or remember — what it means
to be poor in this country, we are destined to fail the least among
us, and all of us will pay a heavy price for that failure.

Mr. Charles M. Blow is an Op-Ed Columnist for The New York Times.

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