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Lovie Luckie
Professor Vyvial
English 1302
April 28, 2017

Poverty in America and the Need for Government Intervention

According to recent data and statistics posted by the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately

43.1 million which translates to 13.5% of Americans live in poverty (Proctor, et al). While 13%

are seniors and 10% are disabled, more than a third of the people who live in poverty are

children. Poverty is described as the state of being extremely poor or as others put it, the

inability to maintain the basic necessities in life such as food, clothing, and shelter.

Understanding that poverty should be a leading discussion among U.S. leaders, Robert Putnam, a

Harvard political scientist and expert of poverty advocates for children directly affected by the

opportunity gaps that are the root of this problem. One major concern is that more and more

children are navigating through “life without coaches, pastors, tutors, friend’s parents,

counselors, neighbors, community groups, parent’s co-works and family friends” (Badger),

causing them to feel lonely and abandoned. His solution is to invest more money in the areas of

early childhood education and the criminal justice system so more low-income men can find

work and raise their own babies. But, who will take responsibility and pay the bill to finance

these corrective measures? If we are a government for the people, by the people, then

government should provide for the people.

A solution to childhood poverty could come in several forms, but in order to address

poverty, one must understand the underlying basis first. There has been a decline in parental

involvement in the educational system, parents without medical insurance that have sick children

are unable to get medical attention or receive substandard medical care, children of poverty are
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suffering more physical and mental abuse, and homeless children are not receiving proper

nutrition. These are a few of the issues causing alarm because poverty is negatively affecting

society and America’s economy as a whole. Individuals are committing suicide from financially-

related stress and others are resorting to criminal matters to make ends meet.

A solution must be presented, but unfortunately, there is not a single solution to fix

poverty that is cheap, fast, or easy. Faced with the crisis of poverty, I propose that we place the

responsibility on government to support a balanced combination of strategies that plan, design,

and fund efficient programs, that at the least, decrease the number of impoverished individuals.

The need for a solution to the poverty crisis is evident. Consider my proposal of investing into

early childhood education, parental training, increased funding into proven non-profit programs,

restructuring and increasing benefits of The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

(SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, additional funding for Medicaid, and

increasing the minimum wage.

As Putnam suggests, investing more money in the areas of early childhood education

could play a significant role in decreasing poverty. It is a well-known fact that impoverished

children are already behind when they start school. They do not have early access to education

and some children never experience a simple story being read at night (Putnam). I propose that

we call on government to invest into quality programs that not only offer academic, but early

childhood skills such as sharing, negotiating, and reasoning with an underlying basis of high

expectations. Considering that one year of childcare costs more than a year of college in some

states. My proposal includes government investing more into non-profit programs such as Head

Start and the Child Care Development Black Grant. The outcome of this proposal should

provide students with a better education, allow them to live longer, earn more as responsible
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adults, be less likely to have early pregnancies, and less likely to commit crimes as statistics

show. This would be the first step in ending the poverty cycle for their own children.

Further, it is important to invest in the education of parents of impoverished children. I

propose that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides interventions that get

more parents involved in the education of their children, offer skills that focus more on the well-

being and improved development of their kids, and teach parents about being better role models.

As Putnam discussed, reforming the criminal justice system so more low-income men can find

work and raise their own babies could fall under this umbrella. Learning a simple trade for these

men could propel their families into a better future. I propose that the U.S. Department of Labor

assist these men with their reentry into society. Another proposal would be to provide more

money to other community-based mentoring programs such as Big Brothers Big Sisters that help

disadvantaged youth with no role models as Putnam discussed. Sadly, funding has recently been

cut from organizations such as this to fund other government policies (Bakst), even though they

have proven results that show a reduction in delinquent activities, a decrease in drug and alcohol

use, more self-confidence, and better performance in schools from participants.

It is a well-known fact that most low-income people spend a substantial portion of their

money on basic needs, but there are some households with half of the children owning a video

game system, such as an Xbox or PlayStation (Rector). Overall, one in five children live in

unstable households that have had difficulty providing enough food or have had their normal

eating disrupted due to lack of money. Because of these economic hardships, and being unable

to afford anything greater than their food and housing, government has back programs like

SNAP. The program assists lower income families with the monthly purchasing of food while

maintaining the goal of improving nutrition (Wiecha). While the dietary guidelines consider the
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size of teens and consider them adults, SNAP does not and the benefit calculations are

imbalanced sometimes leaving those teens to experience insufficient diets. My proposal is to

increase the maximum benefits, restructure the way maximum benefits are determined, and

consider the additional food needs of families with teenagers, all while considering the different

prices throughout the United States. Some areas have higher prices geographically and the

greater amount those individuals pay for the same items in another area should be considered.

Along with proper nutrition, government should focus on an opportunity for all Americans to

have insurance. Parents without medical insurance that have sick children will go without

medical attention or receive substandard medical care. I propose that Medicaid benefits be

increased as well. This will help individuals experiencing high levels of stress due to poverty-

related issues such as financial uncertainties and loss of employment. Higher incomes have

lower stress loads because they can afford more than the basics. In order words, the trend shows

that individuals with lower incomes experience more stress over time than those with high

incomes. As a result, they are less likes to experience some of the illnesses that stress can cause

like heart disease, obesity, depressions, anxiety, and even premature death.

Wage inequality has been a problem that does not allow low income families to escape

poverty or gain economic self-sufficiency. The minimum wage has not shifted with inflation

which means that an individual is able to purchase less for each hour of labor he works.

Ultimately, the worker must work more hours to stay above poverty. If not, they will still be

faced with the challenge to pay for their basic daily needs. Raising the minimum wage could

possibly result in businesses cutting back on their hiring or an increase in overall prices, but the

impact will not outweigh the benefits of raising wages for America’s lowest paid workers

(Kanopiadmin). I propose that state and local governments consider the cost of living increase
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and then set a minimum wage above the federal minimum. Increasing the minimum wage would

have positive economic benefits that lead to higher wages for the disadvantaged and lowering

poverty by approximately two million people.

Make no mistake, ending poverty is not in sight at all, but every effort should be made to

get America back on track and dramatically cut a sizable number of poverty-stricken individuals.

Not only is government involvement important, but outside organizations could help as well.

Investing in the future through educational programs, parental training, increased funding into

government and non-profit programs, and increasing the minimum wage will make an enormous

difference. Americans must unite with non-profit agencies, schools, churches, and any other

organization willing to help.
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Works Cited

Basnadger, Emily. "The Terrible Loneliness of Growing up Poor in Robert Putnam’s America."

The Washington Post. WP Company, 06 Mar. 2015. Web. 22 Apr. 2017.

Bakst, Daren. “Big Government Policies That Hurt the Poor and How to Address Them.” The

Heritage Foundation. The Heritage Foundation, 5 Apr. 2017. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.

Kanopiadmin. “How Minimum Wage Laws Increase Poverty.” Mises Institute. Mises Institute

Publications, 02 Apr. 2014. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.

Proctor, Bernadette D., Semega, Jessica L., Kollar, Melissa A. "Library." Income and Poverty in

the United States: 2015. U. S. Census Bureau, 13 Sept. 2016. Web. 22 Apr. 2017.

Rector, Robert, Rachel Sheffield. “15 Facts About U.S. Poverty the Government Hides.” The


Signal. The Heritage Foundation, 06 Feb. 2017. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.

“U.S. Government Initiative Reduces Hunger and Poverty for Millions." U.S. Agency for

International Development. U.S. Aid, 22 May 2014. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.

Wiecha, J. L., J. T. Dwyer, and M. Dunn-Strohecker. “Nutrition and Health Services Needs


the Homeless.” Public Health Reports 106.4 (1991): 364–374. Print.