Are there still poor people in America?
First topic? Health care, and whether America even needs the health care reform Congress is so busily working on.
Cunningham makes an outrageous claim: “There are no dirt poor people in America.”
Take a look:
“To be poor in America means you’re probably morbidly obese. You have a cell phone. You have big screen TVs. You own your own home. You might own your own car, and you have charge accounts. There are no dirt poor Americans in this country.”
Bold claim, isn’t it? The shouting match alone made me want to turn off that video clip (I would rather dot myself in the eye than watch this show), but this is an argument I hear all the time.
No one is poor in America.
What do you think?
Here’s my answer, Bill:
Poor people are morbidly obese because good, nutritious food is more expensive than cheap, high calorie junk food. Eating well is a luxury.
Poor people have cell phones because they’re cheaper than land lines, and they often have the pay-as-you-go plans, which means they’re shut off every other month when they can’t afford to pay anymore.
Yes, many poor people do have big screen TVs. But one, many poor people rent their TVs and appliances from places like Rent-A-Center because they rarely have enough cash on hand to make a big purchase. Rent-A-Center doesn’t rent out little economical TVs. Who wants to rent that? Second, upward mobility is so lousy in this country for certain groups of people that many people believe they’ll never be rich, so they might as well enjoy themselves now, rather than saving for the future. It might seem silly to you, but when you live paycheck to paycheck, you have a different attitude about the future.
Pretty much anyone who is poor in America and did own their own home are now in foreclosure. Like the TVs, some have fancy cars that they “own,” (and by own, I mean make the payments on until they can’t and the bank repossesses it), but many, many more take the bus.
Are there still “dirt poor” people in America? Hell yes, there are. Talk to homeless families and undocumented immigrants, living on the street. Talk to desperate families in rural America, killing squirrels and raccoons for food. Talk to families who live in rat-infested, moldy, rotten conditions because they have nowhere else to go.
If we’ve reduced poverty over the last 50 years, isn’t that a reason to celebrate and keep moving forward – not a reason to give up? The health care crisis is real. Even with medicaid, many poor and low-income families are in dire need of medical attention and preventative care.
So, that’s my argument. What’s yours?