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Public Health Crisis 2020: Poverty


Southwest Acupuncture College Public Health: Epidemiology December 7, 2020


While the United States is a worldwide leader in many areas of commerce and lifestyle, there is an ongoing epidemic that underlies the worldwide pandemic. COVID-19 has crippled our lives, has crippled our country, and has crippled our society. The pandemic of COVID is front page news every day. However, the epidemic of poverty that underlies the COVID pandemic has continued to spread without much attention whatsoever. The psychological impact on our country’s children is heartbreaking and devastating as well but, this presentation is on poverty. The epidemic of poverty and its many dangerous side effects have not gained the social momentum that other movements have. For example, social campaigns for Black Lives Matter (BLM) have gained so much momentum and attention that even televised national sports have the emblem painted on the playing fields, the athletes wear uniforms with the BLM emblem, and many athletes kneel during our anthem. All Americans have been subjected to these televised events promoting BLM because in our country the freedom of speech is a sacred right. While I agree that Black lives matter, my unease with the movement is due to the divisiveness that the name implies. I see the movement as singling out one race and separating that one race out of the one human race of which we are all a part of. Black Lives Matter began in 2013 and has since become a mighty force within the political system in the United States. The level of awareness that this movement has gained in such a short amount of time is impressive. My admiration for this movement is in its ability to have gained such widespread social acceptance and to become so rooted in our impenetrable political system so quickly. My prayer is that poverty would someday gain national notoriety and gain the high level of societal awareness that this movement has been able to achieve. Poverty affects the entire human race from corner to corner in our country. In our country, every generation has had its own set of doomsayers and its own set of social activism that embodies that generation. Historically, several generations of doomsayers have taken to the streets in civil protests regarding the environment, abortion rights, civil rights, human rights, sexual preference rights, religious rights, and now with racial inequality concerns. The racial inequality concerns today are not to be compared to the racial inequality concerns 2

raised by Gandhi against the British nor are they to be compared to our Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. who gave his life for the effort of racial inequality. The subjects being protested by the civil groups seem to mirror each other through the generations yet somehow each generation sees the same issues as unique and find ways to frame them differently and according to that generation’s perspective. The common points are that the planet always seems to be on the brink of destruction as well as the human population being on the brink of extinction. Another common point amongst the generations is the need to help those in need, those facing poverty. Generation after generation there are politically motivated unrest groups urging Americans to come together on a wide variety of issues. The most successful that I’ve witnessed in my lifetime is the BLM movement. While every country in the world could always improve on its societal and governmental structure, I am at a loss as to why the subject of poverty and food insecurity in American homes has never gained this type of social acceptance and momentum. Food insecurity is one of the many disturbing effects of poverty. According to PovertyUsa.org, The USDA estimated that 11.1% of US households were food insecure in 2018. This means that approximately 14.3 million households had difficulty providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources. Rates of food insecurity were substantially higher than the national average for households with incomes near or below the Federal poverty line.​ Why is poverty not a very real concern for Americans when ​In 2018, 16.2% of all children (11.9 million kids) lived in Poverty—that’s almost 1 in every 6 children​. Also, 9.7% American seniors were reported to be in poverty in 2018 by the census. ​The Supplemental Poverty Measure, which accounts for expenses such as the rising costs of healthcare, raises the senior poverty rate to 14.1%.​ (​https://www.povertyusa.org/facts​) These statistics are from povertyusa.org and the federal census. Seniors in poverty due to rising healthcare costs and prescription costs have made it to the news a handful of times but no real movement has taken root. Pictures of seniors with large duffle bags taking busses to the Mexican and Canadian borders to have their yearly subscriptions fulfilled 3

are sights that will make anyone’s eyes water. Seniors have also been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Heartbreaking as this truth is, the fact is that COVID-19 has affected more Americans financially than it has lethally. An underlying epidemic of COVID-19 is poverty. With the COVID-19 pandemic reporting alarming rises in cases, it seems millions of American households must figure out a manner in which to continue surviving the current economy. Surviving without falling under the poverty line seems to be a challenge many of us are falling victims to. The change in poverty lines is depicted in ​Appendix A’s​ graphs 1 and 2. The graphs are published yearly by the census. The staggering rate at which Americans have fallen under the poverty line since 1954 is not a topic of social justice warriors nor of the mainstream media. Social justice warriors have ignored morality and ethical responsibility by failing to address how the most powerful country in the world can possess the most feared and lethal military power on the planet yet also fail at taking care of its most vulnerable populations. Poverty is a subject that transcends political affiliations, racial stigma, and personal biases. However, one look at any of the mainstream media channels and Americans are only informed of COVID-19 death forecasts, death tolls, how much worse the deaths will continue to be, rioters that have been setting America on fire, and there’s of course the puppet show of a Presidential race that has no end in sight. Poverty is no puppet show. Poverty is not entertaining. There is nothing to be proud of when seeing a homeless individual at a stop light begging for money. Inevitably the vehicle passengers engage in a conversation of whether the homeless individual will use the cash for drugs, for smokes, for alcohol, or for other illicit purposes. Many times the conversation ends abruptly with the change of the light with the Americans in the vehicle going on with their lives without feeling affected by our fellow Americans’ situation. Day after day, year after year very few Americans are aware of the alarming statistics of our poverty rates, yet nothing changes. According to my research Americans’ standard of living continues to decline. 4

In order to understand how poverty has become what it is today, some understanding of the British Poor Laws is needed. In the early days of the United States, the colonies imported these laws which consisted of caseworkers visiting the poor and providing training and preparedness to enter the workforce. These programs were in effect during the 1880s and 1890s. It was President Franklin D. Roosevelt who signed the Social Security Act in 1935. The welfare program in the United States along with the Social Security Act of President Franklin D. Roosevelt were transformational events in American history. The welfare programs in the United States are intended for the disabled, the elderyly, single women with children at home and children but anyone can apply. All federal welfare programs are based on income levels. In the year 2000 the federal poverty income level for a single adult was $8,791. An individual had to earn less than that amount in order to qualify for government welfare programs. In the year 2017, the poverty income level for a single adult was increased to $12,488 per year. In those 17 years the number of Americans qualifying for the poverty federal income guidelines increased by almost 30%, even with the increase of $3,697 allotment. The numbers of single individuals and families who qualify for welfare are alarming. Federal income poverty lines have a direct correlation with individual’s income. Appendix B has two graphs. The first graph depicts the number of Americans living in poverty and poverty rates. Notice the sharp increase in poverty levels during the prior federal administration and notice the decline after the 2015 election. The chart is not politically motivated. The chart is a depiction rendered by census information gathered of American income levels. The second chart in Appendix B details the historical median income between 1967 and 2019. Again, the same trend appears during the current and prior government administrations. The median income went on a downward spiral, as the prior administration was in office for eight years. The slope of the line after the 2015 election demonstrates the high economic growth Americans felt in their paychecks during the current Presidential administration. Appendix C has charts labeled Figure 5 and Figure 6. The graphs are divided into male and female earnings. I will point to the earnings increase in males compared to females historically. 5

Because the charts include statistics from 1959 through 2019, relative slopes can be compared. The total earning wages can also be appreciated. It is clearly appreciated that the United States was experiencing a historical increase in wages and leveling off poverty prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of deaths due to COVID-19 is unfortunate, devastating and will have a permanent emotional impact in American’s psyche for generations. Some Americans have lost loved ones to COVID-19 and might also be facing financial difficulties as well. The financial difficulties faced by so many Americans in 2020 will inevitably impact the poverty levels in the United States dramatically. These impacts will be clearly depicted in the next statistical report. Poverty is an epidemic that affects us all and unites us all. Children or elderly living in poverty, without access to proper nutrition is not a statistic, it is a travesty. A personal travesty in 2012 shaped my life’s views on doomsayers and political activism. It is unfortunate that only after personal life changing events I became interested in policy making and politics in general. Growing up in a political household, the last thing I wanted was more politics in my life. Now I realize just how important policy making is. I realize how important it is to vote. I now realize how important it is to continue financially supporting causes dear to me and to continue my volunteer hours. I have also realized that giving money and volunteering hours will not change the political structure that has created the current situation that I am passionate about. The political structure will continue to thrive in absolute corruption until we make a difference ourselves. Poverty is not something that happens to less fortunate Americans. Poverty is something that affects all Americans. Thank you. 6

Bibliography

  1. Census.gov. 2019. ​Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010​. https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/visualizations/2020/demo/p60-270/F igure7.pdf

  2. Durden, T. (2020, December 5). ​Chief Medical Officer Says Canadians Who Refuse Vaccine, “Won’t Have Freedom to Move Around”.​ ZeroHedge. [Video] https://www.zerohedge.com/political/chief-medical-officer-says-canadians-who-refuse-v accine-wont-have-freedom-move-around

  3. Grace. [reallygraceful]. (2020, October 15) ​The Greatest Transfer of Wealth in History.​ [Video]. ​https://youtu.be/G_SQ72u60c8​. YouTube.

  4. JakeCoco. (2020, December 4 3:51PM). Sherman Oaks, CA Bar Owner. [Video] Retrieved from: ​https://twitter.com/jakecoco/status/1334993874276786178

  5. Kraemer, B. (2020, December 4). ​Former Democratic Congressman Proposes $1,500 Stimulus Check As Incentive to Get COVID-19 Vaccine. ​Just The News​.​ [Video] Retrieved from: https://justthenews.com/politics-policy/health/some-say-they-wont-get-vaccine-1500-sti mulus-check-proposed-hefty-incentive

  6. PovertyUSA.org. The Population of Poverty USA. 2020. https://www.povertyusa.org/facts

  7. WelfareInfo.org. 2019. The History of Welfare. ​https://www.welfareinfo.org/history/​.

  8. Wikipedia.org. Welfare. Last edited Oct. 1, 2020. ​https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welfare


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