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Poverty in Your Backyard

Jim Neal –About Jim Posted: 10/27/11 06:02 PM ET

Yet more numbing news about the breadth and depth of the impoverished in America, a cohort whose numbers have skyrocketed as a consequence of the Great Recession. An article in the New York Times profiles how profoundly poverty is spreading beyond inner city and rural communities which most Americans associate with the poor.

There are those who say and do so frequently that poverty is a phenomena created of and by residents of the inner city (Read: black single welfare mothers living in public housing that drive fancy cars and watch cable television all day while scamming the hard-earned income of Mom and Apple Pie taxpayers… ) It wasn’t long ago that Joseph Goebbels observed if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. And as it turns out those Mom and Apple pie taxpayers are increasingly trapped. Poverty is surging across suburbia, the once utopian preserve of the middle class.

The largest rises have occurred in metros like my hometown of Greensboro, N.C. and Colorado Springs, CO. These are both communities where voters continue to support conservative economic policies that are contrary to their condition, emblematic of the paradox of the poor man and woman who vote against their own condition.

Despite the surging poverty rate a recent Gallup Poll confirms that Americans barely cite poverty as amongst the most important problems facing our nation. That’s despite the reality that more Americans are living in poverty today than at any time in U.S. history since the Census Bureau began reporting poverty data.

Who cares, do you care? What are you doing to help in your community — hunger programs, homeless shelters, food banks, mentoring programs — they need Democrats and Republicans and conservatives and liberals and Christians and atheists and people of all races, genders and sexual orientations to lend a hand. The best prescription for mending the animosity across partisan and class divides might begin with something as simple as lending a hand, making a difference in someone else’s life. You might be surprised who is volunteering beside you.

A man was walking on a deserted beach. He came upon a young boy who was picking up starfish that had washed up on the beach and, one at a time he was throwing them back into the ocean.

The man asked the boy what he was doing and the boy replied, “I’m throwing the starfish back into the ocean so they won’t die.” “But” said the man “you can’t possibly save them all, there are thousands on this beach alone. You can’t possibly make a difference.”

The boy bent down and picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea. He turned to the man and smiled. “I made a huge difference to that one.”

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