Bush remains silent on nation’s poverty

As any person who has watched television past midnight on any given night can testify, there are a slew of late night television ads that cajole viewers to contribute money to charitable organizations fighting poverty in such exotic locales as Gambia and Bangladesh. The routine in these ads is always the same: Doleful children who lack food and basic health care stand mutely in front of cameras as some former celebrity tries to guilt viewers into giving money. If recent economic trends continue, the exotic locales for such ads might become as mundane as Chicago or New York.

Over the last few weeks the U.S. Census Bureau has released a batch of depressing reports regarding the basic wealth and health of Americans. In 2001 the number of Americans in poverty as designated by the federal government increased for the first time in four years. Specifically, the poverty rate was 11.7 percent in 2001, which translates to approximately 32.9 million poor Americans. These official poverty numbers have certainly increased over the last year due to the national economic slowdown. Further, one could argue the official estimate of poverty in the United States is conservative, considering the poverty line for a single adult with two children is currently $13,423. Given the lack of affordable housing, day care and transportation in this country, especially in urban areas, this minimum income level appears too austere for even the most parsimonious family.

Other recent statistics that indicate worsening economic conditions for many Americans includes a 1.4 million jump in the number of medically uninsured from 2000-01 and a sharp increase in abortions among poorer women. For women below the poverty line, the abortion rate rose 25 percent from 1994-2000. It climbed 23 percent among women making less than twice that level over the same time period.

Despite these recent depressing revelations, the Iraq issue has dominated the news of the last few weeks. The President George W. Bush administration contends that Saddam Hussein’s regime is a threat to our national security and prosperity, and that the threat posed by Hussein is worth most of our national energy and attention. While people might argue over the level of threat that Iraq possesses, almost all Americans would agree the role of the federal government is to protect our national security. Most also would view rising poverty levels as a threat to our national security and prosperity. So why has the Bush administration been completely silent on economic issues over the last few months given their concentration on national security issues? Is it because they don’t view worsening economic trends are serious threats to our national health and well-being or is it because they have no real answers for deteriorating economic conditions? Unfortunately, it seems the latter clause is the reason for the deafening silence on national economic problems emanating from the White House.