Anthony W. Orlando: Lecturer in the College of Business and Economics at California State University, Los Angeles – Posted: 08/25/2013 6:26 pm
In 1904, half the population of New York City lived below the poverty line.
Half. Can you imagine? The poor were so numerous that they nearly outnumbered everyone else.
Today, less than 20 percent of New Yorkers live in poverty. That’s still a serious problem, but it’s a far cry from 50 percent.
Clearly, we did something right.
But in today’s political arena, we don’t talk about what we did right. We talk about what we’re doing wrong. We spend so much time talking about our problems and failures that we seem to have forgotten our nation’s great victories.
This historical amnesia is a dangerous mistake. It poisons our hearts with pessimism. It blinds us to the lessons and solutions we need. Most New Yorkers have no idea how prevalent poverty used to be — or how their predecessors made it go away.
And they’re not the only ones. “We have spent $15 trillion from the federal government fighting poverty,” said Rep. Paul Ryan on Fox News last month, “and look at where we are, the highest poverty rates in a generation, 15 percent of Americans live in poverty.”