Democrat From Kentucky


Democrat from Kentucky
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Lots's going on today: Howabout poverty in my lovely home state Sunday, February 19, 2006

Often people don't think of abject poverty in the United States. Most people, even poor, have enough to eat, they have a warm bed to sleep in and things aren't that bad as far as basic necessities. But that's not everbody many are here in our very own commonwealth. A recent article in the a British newspaper had an interesting introspective into poverty in the U.S. The traditional media don't talk much about it here and for that matter, many of the blogs don't either. But this is really the substance of all the arguments we have, all the debates we go through isn't it.

Poverty: a : the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions.

The flickering television in Candy Lumpkins's trailer blared out The Bold and the Beautiful. It was a fantasy daytime soap vision of American life with little relevance to the reality of this impoverished corner of Kentucky.

The Lumpkins live at the definition of the back of beyond, in a hollow at the top of a valley at the end of a long and muddy dirt road. It is strewn with litter. Packs of stray dogs prowl around, barking at strangers. There is no telephone and since their pump broke two weeks ago Candy has collected water from nearby springs. Oblivious to it all, her five-year-old daughter Amy runs barefoot on a wooden porch frozen by a midwinter chill.

It is a vision of deep and abiding poverty. Yet the Lumpkins are not alone in their plight. They are just the negative side of the American equation. America does have vast, wealthy suburbs, huge shopping malls and a busy middle class, but it also has vast numbers of poor, struggling to make it in a low-wage economy with minimal government help.


This is just one example because poverty is certainly not exclusive to Kentucky. Consider that 37 million Americans live in poverty. That's 12.5% of the national population. As the article pointed out, that's more than any developed nation. Also keep in mind, the number has grown every year since 2001.

Now, consider congress just passed bills cutting the "budget" by reducing the money spent on medicaid, student loans and tons of other social programs, most of which go toward helping people just like the Lumpkins. They don't want the help but their situation lands them where it is and as they point out, if it weren't for churches, they'd have even less.

This is Bush's America. The poverty rate continues to climb and as some have pointed out, all it takes is one nasty medical issue or the factory shutting down(which is happening more and more) and people have no other options.

I've heard some say that the impoverished do some of it to themselves because they don't make the right choices, they don't take the right paths to improve the situation. Many can't get far enough ahead long enough to consider other options. Many believe things don't get much better and the sad thing is they're probably right.

Consider that 6% of population control 50% the world's wealth and all that 6% live in the U.S. Also consider 20% of the U.S. population control 80% of the nation's wealth. So what does that say, especially considering 12.5% of the population live in abject poverty? There's a distinct difference between the haves and the have nots in this nation and the difference is growing. Also, more of the people keep slipping into the poverty side of things as opposed to the other side and the wealthiest in this nation are trying real hard to make sure no one else gets there. This isn't just partisan issue either. Sure, people like the Bush's are extremely wealthy but the Kennedy's and the Kerry's are also extraordinarily wealthy too, more so than the Bush's are.

Many religious groups in this nation are working on the White House, they have the ear of the Oval Office and they wield tremendous power. They try to stop abortion, they try to stop homosexuals, they try to do all kinds of things to influence moral and social behavior. But the one thing they seem to be lacking in is gusto to tackle poverty in this country. They don't care about the high dropout rates in Texas. Heck they'd probably just learn about evolution anyway.

But, in fact, Edwards was right. While 45.8 million Americans lack any health insurance, the top 20 per cent of earners take over half the national income. At the same time the bottom 20 per cent took home just 3.4 per cent. Whitaker put the figures into simple English. 'The poor have got poorer and the rich have got richer,' he said.

Dealing with poverty is not a viable political issue in America. It jars with a cultural sense that the poor bring things upon themselves and that every American is born with the same chances in life. It also runs counter to the strong anti-government current in modern American politics. Yet the problem will not disappear. 'There is a real sense of impending crisis, but political leaders have little motivation to address this growing divide,' Cynthia Duncan says.

There is little doubt which side of America's divide the hills of east Kentucky fall on. Driving through the wooded Appalachian valleys is a lesson in poverty. The mountains have never been rich. Times now are as tough as they have ever been. Trailer homes are the norm. Every so often a lofty mansion looms into view, a sign of prosperity linked to the coal mines or the logging firms that are the only industries in the region. Everyone else lives on the margins, grabbing work where they can. The biggest cash crop is illicitly grown marijuana.

Save The Children works here. Though the charity is usually associated with earthquakes in Pakistan or famine in Africa, it runs an extensive programme in east Kentucky. It includes a novel scheme enlisting teams of 'foster grandparents' to tackle the shocking child illiteracy rates and thus eventually hit poverty itself.

The problem is acute. At Jone's Fork school, a team of indomitable grannies arrive each day to read with the children. The scheme has two benefits: it helps the children struggle out of poverty and pays the pensioners a small wage. 'This has been a lifesaver for me and I feel as if the children would just fall through the cracks without us,' says Erma Owens. It has offered dramatic help to some. One group of children are doing so well in the scheme that their teacher, Loretta Shepherd, has postponed retirement in order to stand by them. 'It renewed me to have these kids,' she said.


Poverty's a problem in this country. Certainly people can do things for themselves but someone needs to take their foot off their heads long enough to allow them to get out of the water do so. We shouldn't have any poor in this nation. None. Not with 20% of the nation's population controlling 50% of the world's wealth.

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Location: Harrodsburg, Kentucky, United States

I'm currently working in the telecomm industry but one of my passions is still politics.



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