Since the colonies were formed, there has been poverty in this country and a vigorous struggle to overcome it. In those days, poverty simply did not have the same meaning as it does today. Back then if someone needed a little help, they were able to get it with relative ease from their family, a neighbor, their church, etc. Today on the other hand, dealing with poverty is substantially different and a much more complicated proposition. Certainly, some people would argue that dealing with poverty should be as simple as it was hundreds of years ago.
People who are living in poverty should be able to seek assistance from their family, their church, etc. Still others would say that poverty is so extensive that it cannot be helped by a neighbor, a church, or even an entire community. Those people believe that poverty can only be addressed by the entire country. And more specifically, only the government is capable of organizing such an enormous undertaking. When making an argument for engaging the government to work toward improving poverty, one obvious avenue would be to show the enormous size and cost of the problem.
Statistics gathered by the U. S. Census Bureau in 2007 showed that 12. 3% of the population lived below the poverty line (2007). That number represents over 36 million people who were not able to generate enough income on their own to support themselves and or their families. Anyone would be able to assume that providing assistance to such a large number of people would represent a very substantial sum of money, approximately $434 billion in 2000 according to The Heritage Foundation (Rector).
Therefore, fixing a problem that effects such a large number of people and costs such a large sum of money to keep from spinning out of control would be impossible if left in the hands of individuals or even individual states. The only solution would be to allow the government to raise the funds necessary to cover the costs of the many programs it would take to fight a problem of such magnitude. However, those same Census Bureau numbers can also be used to support an opposing position that the government should not be involved in fighting poverty.
When compared over time, the numbers speak for themselves and paint a rather bleak picture of the government’s lack of success making a difference in poverty. While the U. S. Census numbers show fluctuations from year to year, the percentage of the population living in poverty has not changed substantially in the last 30 years. Poverty was 12. 6% of the population in 1970, and it was 12. 3% just two years ago (2007). So, the government spent untold billions of tax dollars on a staggering number of programs and initiatives. And after more than 30 years, the American people are are in basically the same position.
Works Cited Rector, Robert E. March 7, 2001 Means-Tested Welfare Spending: Past and Future Growth by Robert E. Rector The Heritage Foundation Source: U. S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplements. Poverty and Health Statistics Branch/HHES Division 2007 Bishaw, Alemayehu and Jessica Semega, U. S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey Reports, ACS-09, Income, Earnings, and Poverty Data From the 2007 American Community Survey, U. S. Government Printing Offi ce, Washington, DC, 2008.