Understanding the politics of poverty

Poverty is something that is currently in the headlines of daily news all around the nation, and with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics declaring an unemployment rate of 9.1 percent as of August 2011, we have to ask ourselves who is really at fault for this? Is poverty a cause of a person’s lack of effort, circumstances beyond their control or a combination of both?

This question tends to be the focal point of arguments about the issue of poverty, and I tend to be a believer in the fact that it is a combination of lack of effort and circumstances beyond a person’s control.

Some make the argument that capitalism is a big factor that causes people to be poor. Capitalism is what has created wealth over the last 200 years in the United States. However, there is currently a lack of job opportunities in our country, and that I feel, is keeping people in poverty.

A lack of jobs is a problem caused by many different things; high fuel and other energy costs, too much government bureaucracy, the costs of keeping a business in production and limited disposable income are all current issues that are leaving consumers with less to spend. High tax burdens and a very complex taxation system tend to pose other problems as well, which is slowing down the U.S. economy, which in reality reduces job growth.

Others make the argument that the welfare system makes people lazy, which allows them to get government funding handed to them. They argue that those who are in poverty are there primarily because of their decisions and behaviors, such as drug abuse, dropping out, teen pregnancy and thriving off of their welfare checks each month. Believers of this concept argue that the previously mentioned issues are those that keep the impoverished, in poverty.

Almost anyone can achieve in America if they choose to and apply themselves. They further claim that welfare and other socialist programs help in the short term, but in the long term they drain the initiative and motivation from those who should be fighting for their future.

Of course there is always the inclusion of the mentally and/or physically ill in this grouping, but these individuals have absolutely no control over their disorders, so I cannot help but to wonder why they are included in this group.

Personally I don’t believe you can “blame” poverty on anyone or anything specifically; poverty is a condition that 9.1 percent of the population is in. The individual causes for each case are wide and varying, and no government policy or charity effort is going to directly cause poverty to rise or fall. There will always be a portion of the population that is bottom level poor, but who is to blame will always be debated. I firmly believe that we can change poverty if we come together to face it dead on.

We, as a nation, need to stop pretending it is something that is “bad” and turn the other cheek. We need to realize how incredibly terrible this issue is and really do something that will save peoples lives.

I say if we want the poverty rate to be lowered, that we have to put forth more of an effort to actually get rid of it, instead of just talking about taking action. It is not fair that we just follow the “people are lazy stereotype, so it is their fault that they are in poverty” concept; we should not just sit around and let people be victims of circumstance, nor should we let people who are quite capable of keeping a job, live off of welfare.

This debate is cause for both moral and ethical dilemmas as to how to handle the situation, but I think that the answer is quite simple–do something. Whether for a group or organization, just take that first step.