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Disgusting: 7 Million Kids and Mothers Suffer Extreme Poverty in the Richest Country in the World

Despite being the richest country in the world, our poverty rate is one of the highest among highly developed nations.

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There’s a paradox here. We need to see poverty in both non-racial terms and racial terms at the same time. Whites are the largest group in poverty. Remedies about jobs and income help more whites than people of color. Getting that point across is important politically. But it’s still true that blacks, Latinos and Native Americans are disproportionately poor. We need to lift that up and confront it.

We face a particular challenge about concentrated poverty, whether in inner cities or rural areas. Here we get into multiplied problems -- the schools, the criminal justice system, the need for a mental health system to deal with depression, the need to deal with drugs and alcohol, the need for strong interventions against domestic violence to make children and women safer, and the need for legal services to confront threatened evictions and many other problems. We need to deal with all of those issues, and well as issues of personal responsibility.

Do I see the possibility of progress in the coming decade? The task now is to hold on to what we have. The Paul Ryans of this world continue their attack, and with rhetoric that just stands the problem on its head. Their argument continues to be that we have hurt people by helping them. It’s mind-boggling. Let’s remember and remind people that the programs and policies we have are keeping something like 40 million people out of poverty. The 46 million people who are poor now is shocking enough. It would be far worse if we hadn’t done what we’ve done.


Karen Dolan is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington D.C. and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus . She directs the Institute's Cities for Progress project.

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