“The politicians will remain stuck on the middle class, because poor people for the most part don’t vote in their mind. And second, both are tied to Wall Street, and Wall Street has a classic indifference when it comes to most poor people. We Americans should be ashamed when we look at the level of poverty among our fellow citizens … But poverty has always been high in America …. That means not that we’ve lost our soul that means we want to able to do something about it but our political system is so broken that the will of the people cannot filter through. It’s dominated by big money, big banks and big corporations who have their way…”–Cornel West.
With the 2012 presidential election now days away, candidates have only briefly touched on the number of Americans on food stamps and those out of work. The subject of poverty has yet to rear its head during the presidential debates or on the campaign trails.
According to a 2012 report by the US Census Bureau, the nation’s official poverty rate for 2011 was 15.0%, estimating that 46.2
million Americans live in poverty, which has no statistical difference from 2010 following a three consecutive year increase. Furthermore, the percentage of families in poverty is 11.8%, an estimated 9.5 million families; 6.2% of married-couple families, 31.2% families with female householders and 16.1% of families with a male householder are living in poverty.
According to an eye-opening study by FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting), with such an alarming poverty rate being reported by the US Census Bureau, the issue of poverty has been an invisible subject to the US media in their coverage of the 2012 election. Furthermore, the study found that poverty has barely registered as a campaign issue. Only 17 out of the 10,489 campaign stories considered the problem of poverty in any remotely substantial way.
This conscious decision by the US media and presidential candidates to ignore the problem of poverty has come at a critical moment when more and more Americans are moving towards the poverty threshold or already below it. It is unclear why politicians ignore or fail to discuss an issue that is affecting millions of Americans. However, if politicians were to discuss such an issue it would receive a great deal of attention and perhaps be bombarded with the accusation of class warfare.
Moreover, there is a great perception among politicians that the poor do not vote in large numbers. However, according to a recent Gallup poll 50% of people below the poverty threshold are registered as Independents, 32% Democrats and 15% Republicans. It is further perceived that the poor give little or no contribution to campaigns or the super PACs, leaving the voice of the poor as a mere murmur, while our politicians focus on more ‘important’ factors such as votes and media ratings or hits.
The concern over poverty in this great nation seems to be a nonexistent political issue in this upcoming election. It is as if people with no resources or food security are overlooked by a country that seems to have other priorities.
Furthermore, neither candidate has attempted to make poverty even a minor issue on their campaign trail. Such stands by our leaders demote millions of struggling Americans to mere invisibility.
In this election where the economy and foreign policy are among the most important issues, despite concerning facts by the Brooking Institute who predicted approximately 10 million people and 6 million children being forced into poverty by 2014. Our leaders must show concern that the US has more people in poverty than any other developed nation.
What can be done you ask?
Nothing, unless our leaders decide to at least address an issue that concerns us all.
Other reports: Brookings Institute – Simulating the Effect of the ‘Great Recession’ on Poverty