The causes, effects, and solutions of poverty in America.
Created by mikesik on Feb 15, 2011
Last updated: 02/21/11 at 04:49 PM
Tags: greatdepression mrkane period8
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One of the biggest concerns for those living in poverty is food. People living in poverty go for the cheapest food they can get, which is usually fast food. John Edel, the brain behind the Four Story Farm, wants to rebuild old buildings to transform them into "vertical farms" that can be used to grow cheap and healthy food. According to Edel, "the advantages are seductive: a year-round growing cycle, no weather-related crop failures, no agricultural runoff, no pests." The cost of a project like this is pretty great and there's no guarantee that it'll work. In the near future however these vertical farms might help out those living in poverty.
On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, a $787 billion economic stimulus package meant to help bring the economy out of the recession. He also introduced a new health care bill to give health care to all Americans. These and many other new laws are what America needs to close the gap between the rich and the poor. Without government intervention, poverty will not disappear, so this was a step in the right direction. If the government continues to find ways to close the gap between the rich and the poor, the amount of poverty will decrease and make America a better place to live in.
Distribution of wealth has been a big problem in America and the rest of the world for a long time. Former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young says that "if the gap between the rich and the poor is reduced, cities crippled by crime and violence will become much better places to live." Studies have shown that poverty is to blame for much of the crime in urban areas. Reducing this gap has been a challenge for many years now. At this point the gap is so large that 10% of US citizens own about 71% of all the wealth in America. The bottom 40% of the population owns less than 1%.
Wilson, a University of Chicago sociology professor, has seen "a direct link between growing joblessness and what he calls ghetto-related behavior and attitudes." As the old saying goes, desperate times call for desperate measures. People will often turn to crime to get what they need if there is no other way, and that's exactly what has been happening in poor parts of cities all around the world. Wilson proposes plans "for city-suburban collaboration, private-sector partnerships with public schools, national health insurance, and time limits on welfare for able-bodied recipients combined with guaranteed jobs in a public-works program modeled on the New Deal's Works Progress Administration."
According to the article Four Causes of Homelessness, "Experts debate the causes of homelessness, but most point to four interrelated factors: poverty, federal budget cuts, a lack of affordable housing, and inadequate care for the mentally ill." Back in 1981, and even today, the minimum wage just isn't enough to support a family and that is arguably the biggest cause of urban poverty in the world. In addition, the reduced focus on federal aid leaves thousands of families without anywhere to turn to. The unavailability of low-income housing also plays its role in the cause of homelessness and poverty.
The war on poverty led by Lyndon Johnson did not get America out of the Great Depression, although it did help a lot. However, many historians criticize Johnson's efforts and claim that they made the recession worse. The argument is that fighting poverty is not about increased government spending but through economic growth. In the decade following the anouncement of the beginning of the war on poverty, poverty rates dropped to the lowest rates since records began in 1958: from 17.3% to 11.1% in 1973 (they have remained between 11% and 15% ever since).
In 1963, Lyndon Johnson became the 36th president of the United States, succeeding JFK. In 1964, building upon the New Deal, he proposed the Revenue Act of 1964 which was passed by Congress. This plan created programs such as Head Start, food stamps, Work Study, Medicare and Medicaid, which still exist today. The amount of people living in poverty decreased by a fairly large percentage, especially among children.
In 1936, photographer Dorothea Lange took this photo of a family of Florence Thompson and her kids. They were living in extreme poverty, like millions of other Americans. At this time, jobs were very rare and the value of money went down dramatically. Because of this people did not buy products which in turn hurt the economy even further. Many could not afford housing and had to live in Hoovervilles, shanty towns named after the president of the time (Herbert Hoover). Disease was also a problem and healthcare was virtually unavailable at the time. Sicknesses that usually weren't a problem killed people because of how weak they were due to the lack of food, clean water, clothing, and housing.
In order to combat the Great Depression, new president FDR proposed the New Deal which focused on what historians called the 3 R's (relief, recovery, and reform). This was meant to give relief to the poor/unemployed, recover the economy to previous levels, and reform the financial system to prevent future recessions. The New Deal was a moderate success and many of the programs are still around today (Social Security Act of 1935, The Wagner Act, Fair Labor Standards Act, etc..) The New Deal did not end the Great Depression though. Unemployement rates, the value of money, and the amount of people living in poverty remained mostly the same.
On October 29, 1929, the US stock market crashed, leaving millions of people who relied on stocks without any money. In addition, banks all around America failed because they ran out of money to loan and people couldn't pay back previous loans. Other possible factors that contributed to the Great Depression are: failure within the free market, failure of the government to adjust interest rates, control of the money supply (deflation). Scholars and economists still to this day do not know the exact cause of this event. One of the most excepted theories is that it started as a regular depression (due to the nature of the business cycles) but due to the previously mentioned causes, got worse and spread throughout American and the world.