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By the end of the 20th century
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Joined: 16 Oct 2014
Posts: 2
Location: England

Post By the end of the 20th century Reply with quote
but has been decades in the making, the result of a tangle of conspiring forces:

New global economy: In 1962, 28 percent of jobs were in manufacturing. In 2011, that number was at 9 percent. Disappearing manufacturing jobs were replaced by lower-wage jobs in the service sector. That means more people have lower-paying jobs with fewer benefits. A recent report says that the typical American worker is twice as productive as in 1979, for essentially the same wages as 1979.

Welfare reform: In 1996, cash benefits that went to more than 5 million families were virtually eliminated. "Welfare" became Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF), received by 1.8 million families with children; 75 percent of those benefits go to children. That's about the same number of families that were receiving aid in 1964.

Political shifts: A turn in political climate, starting with the Reagan administration, began reversing the belief that government should play a role in improving people's lives, and earnestly began transferring powers back to the states, unwinding the direction of FDR's New Deal and other social-welfare programs. This "New Federalism" meant a steep cut to direct aid to cities for mass transit, public-service jobs, public works and economic development help.

Prison rates: By the end of the 20th century, the United States had locked up more of its people than any democracy in history. The number of people in the corrections system rose from 4.3 million in 1990 to 5.5 million in 1996. High rates of incarceration have created a large new class of the hard to employ - and many ex-offenders are banned from any kind of government help.

Reduce the number of jobs, pay less for the ones that are left, and decrease the help the government gives: You couldn't design a better set of forces to drive more and more people into poverty if you tried. Layer a brutal recession on top of this, with rising foreclosures and bankruptcies, and you end up with a country falling behind - not just in fully employed workers, but in the number of Americans who don't have enough to survive in one of the world's richest nations.

If you like, you can choose an easier way to understand poverty. It's a view favored, unfortunately, by many conservatives in Congress and elsewhere who believe that once upon a time, Americans had a strong work ethic that has since eroded into a nation of lazy spongers, indulged by an ever-growing government that provide benefits that discourage people from honest hard work. The more we give people, the more we discourage them from getting a job and pulling their weight. The jobs are there; you just have to get out there and get one.

As maddening as that view can be in the face of the facts, it's easy to see why someone would choose this easy set of assumptions. The reality is complex, daunting and frightening. It speaks

Thu Oct 23, 2014 5:03 am View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
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