Friday, October 05, 2012

Why isn't poverty an issue in America?

I didn't watch the American Presidential Debate the other night. But I did see the coverage and I was struck by how shallow most of the commentary seemed.

The first debate was about domestic issues but I didn't hear anything about poverty. It may have been raised, but it didn't grab the attention of the commentators or those writing about the debate.

It struck me as strange that a topic for which the President was so passionate about in his first presidential campaign - the plight of inner city children living in poverty - was not on his agenda any longer. But why not? Are the problems that were so prominent four years ago all better now? I doubt that.

This morning, I remembered seeing an article a few weeks ago about Chicago's inner city neighbourhoods - specifically two that Obama worked in as a community organizer. I had noted the article then, but sent it off to Instapaper without reading it and hadn't gotten back to it. So I went and looked it up.

The article is What Does Obama Really Believe In? from The New York Times Magazine.

It shares the tale of a youth worker who lives in the same area as Obama once worked in, and who is trying to help the children in his neighbourhood escape the poverty cycle they're trapped in. It's not a happy tale. Along the way, we learn a lot about the nature of extreme urban poverty and about how American thinking about helping the poor has evolved since LBJ's famous War on Poverty in the 1960s.

It's a fascinating, well-written piece, well worth the time it takes to read through. I still don't know why poverty is never mentioned these days on the campaign trail. But at least I know there are some very good people who are still dedicated to finding a way to alleviate it. There are no easy answers, which is probably why we don't hear more about it. Sound bites and extreme poverty don't go well together.

Link to What Does Obama Really Believe In?