Friday, November 04, 2011

America's Poor

They may not be starving, but by American standards some 46.2 million people live in poverty today.

The number of people living in neighborhoods of extreme poverty grew by a third over the past decade, according to a new report. More than 10 percent of America’s poor now live in such neighborhoods defined as areas where at least 40 percent of the population lives below the federal poverty line, which in 2010 was $22,300 for a family of four or an individual has to make less than $11,139, or about $30 per day. Residents of such areas were more likely to experience joblessness, poor schools, broken families and high crime. Living in such areas often led to poorer health and educational outcomes for children.

“It’s the toughest, most malignant poverty that we have in the United States,” said Peter Edelman, the director of the Center on Poverty, Inequality and Public Policy at Georgetown University.

Meanwhile, SOYMB reads at the AlJazeera website Robert Jensen, a professor at the School of Journalism at the University of Texas, explaining a bit about human behaviour and capitalism.

"The theory behind contemporary capitalism explains that because we are greedy, self-interested animals, a viable economic system must reward greedy, self-interested behaviour. That's certainly part of human nature, but we are also just as obviously capable of compassion and selflessness. We can act competitively and aggressively, but we also have the capacity to act out of solidarity and cooperation. In short, human nature is wide-ranging. In situations where compassion and solidarity are the norm, we tend to act that way. In situations where competitiveness and aggression are rewarded, most people tend towards such behaviour. Why is it that we must accept an economic system that undermines the most decent aspects of our nature and strengthens the cruelest? Because, we're told, that's just the way people are. What evidence is there of that? Look around, we're told, at how people behave. Everywhere we look, we see greed and the pursuit of self-interest. So the proof that these greedy, self-interested aspects of our nature are dominant is that, when forced into a system that rewards greed and self-interested behaviour, people often act that way. Doesn't that seem just a bit circular? A bit perverse?"

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