Wednesday, January 8, 2014

What war on poverty? -by Susan Greenbaum @ajam January 8, 2014


A woman who identified herself as Jessica sits next to the tent she lives in on August 21, 2013 in Camden, New Jersey. Camden has at least three "tent cities," where many of the homeless in the Southern New Jersey region live.Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Shortly after New Year's I drove through a distressed Tampa, Fla., neighborhood I have known for many years. It was gray and cold, and a light rain pelted my windshield. The streets I traveled looked terrible; every fourth house boarded up, with lots filled with debris and weeds. On the curb by a house that looked pretty good, furniture and assorted belongings were piled -- a familiar sign of recent eviction. Two women with shopping carts were picking through the stuff, pulling out items of value.

This neighborhood has had the highest foreclosure rate of any in the city. Since the Great Recession, poverty in the area has climbed from 43 percent to 52 percent. Statistics like that attract nonprofits, some of which have received small grants from Bank of America for things like classes for parenting and financial literacy. These are rather small prices to pay in return for the very profitable predatory loans that helped create the misery on display.

I wondered how we as a nation got to this point. Today marks the 50th anniversary of the start of the so-called war on poverty, the day in 1964 when President Lyndon Johnson gave his first State of the Union address and announced his proposals for fighting poverty. Congress is marking the anniversary byunemployment benefits for 1.3 million people who have been out of work for more than a year andfood stamps for 47 million people who rely on them to eat. At 15 percent, the poverty rate is the same today as it was in 1965, a year after the so-called war began.

The war appears to be over. Poor people lost.

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