The latest poverty numbers have been released and they are pretty discouraging. I thought the economy was getting better. The stock market has doubled in the past 4 years, housing prices are rebounding in many sections of the country, foreclosures have dropped significantly, and retail sales are up for many stores.
But 22% of all children, about 16 million live in poverty. And for African-American children its 39% and Latino children its 34%. Women are 34% more likely to live in poverty than men. 28% of all workers make poverty level wages. Those receiving food stamps is at all time high. And the number that bothers me the most is 50% of all jobs in the US pay $34,000 or less!! Many states have created new jobs but many of them are minimum wage or close to it, and don't have any or minimal benefits. How can you support a family on wages like that? How can you save to buy a house or condo? And every two houses bought in the country, creates at least 1 job.
So what can we do about this? Well, short-term or tactically, we can donate our time and money to soup kitchens, food pantries, food banks and places like the Salvation Army. If each one of us put 2 pennies a day into a jar, that's $7.30 a year. In my hometown there are over 17,000 people. If we all put those pennies in a jar for one year, that's $124,000 a year. And thats just one town. Imagine if every town in Massachusetts did that? There are over 300 towns in the state. That's close to $37 million a year. Hey, those pennies add up.
Long term and more strategically, we need everyone to get a good education and not just get jobs, but get careers. So how are we going to do this? Right now 25-30% of all students who enter 9th grade in this country do not graduate. And in some of the inner cities, its 50-70%. What happens to all those young adults? If they find work, it will probably be a minimum wage job. Some will turn to drugs, some of the girls will get pregnant, some will go to jail for various crimes. And the US has close to 2 million people incarcerated, the highest rate in the civilized world. And it costs close to $80,000 a year to keep someone in prison. And more than this, what bothers me the most is that out of all these young adults that drop out of school, all that unfulfilled potential is lost. Who would have been the next great statesman, the next great artist, or senator, or writer or even president?
So we have to keep these students in school. We have to give them Hope and Inspiration, to help many of them get through tough family situations. We have to help them develop a Vision for their lives and the Goals to reach that Vision. We have to give them a road map on how to succeed in life and teach them the life skills they will need to reach that success. We have to reach out to them. We need everyone in the country to think about this and give back and develop all the ways to eliminate poverty in the United States in our lifetimes and indeed "to make gentle the life of this world."