My Take: Five misconceptions about poverty in America
Bread for the World President David Beckmann explores five poverty myths.
September 23rd, 2011
12:29 PM ET

My Take: Five misconceptions about poverty in America

Editor's Note: Rev. David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World and the Alliance to End Hunger. He is the 2010 World Food Prize laureate.

By David Beckmann, Special to CNN

(CNN) - In the midst of a ballooning deficit, an unbalanced federal budget and the upcoming presidential election, Congress doesn’t need to be worried about poverty in America, right?


Poverty is an all-too-familiar struggle for many Americans, and they have a stake in how these issues play out over the next months.

I believe God is calling us to change the politics that render our friends, neighbors and co-workers hungry and poor. To do so, we have to first tackle some common misconceptions about poverty.

1. “Poverty doesn’t exist in the United States.”

Although poverty often appears less extreme in the United States than in other countries, it is nonetheless real. There are 46.2 million Americans living in poverty, according to data released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The poverty rate increased to 15.1% in 2010, from 14.3% in 2009. That's nearly one out of every six Americans — the highest rate since the Census began tracking poverty data in 1959.

Children and multicultural groups were hit hardest. The poverty rate increased for those under 18, from 20.7% in 2009 to 22% in 2010. Among Hispanics, the rate went to 26.6% in 2010 from 25.3% in 2009. And for African-Americans, the rate soared to 27.4% in 2010 from 25.8% in 2009.

2. “There is no such thing as extreme poverty in America.”

If you don’t believe poverty exists in this country, you’ll be hard-pressed to understand that there are people in America living in “deep poverty.”

Deep poverty means living below 50% of the poverty line, which would be an income of $11,157 for a family of four and $5,672 for a non-elderly person living alone.

Many think this level of poverty is exclusive to people living in developing countries, but the number of people in America living in extreme poverty has reached a record high: 20.5 million in 2010.

3. “If you live above the federal poverty line, you’re doing just fine.”

$23,000 a year is too little for most two-person households to live comfortably in America, let alone a family of four. Most people don’t understand that having a job doesn’t mean you’ve made it out of poverty.

In fact, working full-time at minimum wage earns you only $14,000 a year. But there are also millions of Americans living above the federal poverty line who are struggling to make ends meet.

Why is it so easy for us to overlook poverty in the United States? Because to a certain extent, it is being managed by federally funded safety-net programs that help families make ends meet when times are tough.

4. “These so-called safety-net programs cost American taxpayers money when we need to be focused on balancing our budget.”

Neither SNAP benefits (what used to be called food stamps) nor refundable tax credits such as the earned income tax credit is accounted for in the census poverty figures.

If these benefits were included, they would show that SNAP lifted 3.9 million people above the poverty line in 2010, and the tax credit lifted 5.4 million people above the poverty line in 2010.

Programs like these can mean the difference between getting by and going hungry.

For example, despite increases in poverty, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's recently released hunger data shows that the percentage of families struggling to put food on the table remained unchanged for the third consecutive year.

This means that nutrition programs such as SNAP and school meals are keeping hunger at bay.

5. “Fifty percent of all Americans do not pay taxes.”

This is a powerful point that some members of Congress like to argue, without providing any context.

By context, I mean that many Americans do not earn enough to pay taxes. For those who do, when payroll taxes are taken into account, really only about 15% of Americans did not pay taxes in 2010 (excluding Social Security recipients, who do not pay taxes on their Social Security benefits), and this still fails to account for state and local taxes.

Everyone pays taxes in some way or another.

At the end of the day, Matthew 25 teaches us that what we do unto the “least of these,” we do unto God.

It is clear that the needs of hungry and poor people are at the center of the congressional budget debates, whether we want to acknowledge them or not.

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction has until November 23 to identify $1.2 trillion in funds to reduce our nation’s deficit. We pray that the needs of hungry and poor people are at the center of their decisions.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Food • Politics

soundoff (902 Responses)
  1. Brick

    It is crazy that people have to write articles to remind American's of this. If you didn't already know this you are either a child or completely self involved.

    September 23, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  2. martinipaul

    At the moment, jobs and education are delusional solutions.

    September 23, 2011 at 6:00 pm |

      education in this country is a joke

      im currently in college and i cant believe its legal for them to charge money for these classes

      they teach nothing

      they make us write papers and call it critical thinking

      all anyone needs is common sense and you get good grades

      you dont need to be intelligent by any means to get a degree and all these companies out there scream about how they want to hire people with degrees

      its because the hiring managers wasted their time getting a degree and believe others should suffer through wasting thir time in school as well

      September 23, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • martinipaul

      If eduation is the key to furture American greatness and prosperity, it should be inexpensive. I worked with a very intelligent kid who simply could not tolerate sitting in a classroom. College should not be grade school. It should be flexible enough to meet the needs of any man or woman with ability and a sharp mind. Sorry to rant but this is a special peeve of mine.

      September 23, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • John Richardson

      How can quality education be inexpensive? You need a large number of quality teachers and professors, good libraries, good facilities, etc, etc.

      Or when you say it should be inexpensive, do you mean that someone other than the students and/or their families should pay for most of it?

      September 23, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • martinipaul

      Private school or state school? Private schools can charge whatever they want. If a school takes state or federal money then they should provide an affordable education. If that requires state or federal aid, so be it. As for 'quality' professors, I perhaps do not share your admiration. The teaching profession is much like the army. It is so standardized that even an idiot should be able to do it. You don't need to be a genius to teach a genius. By the way, I assume that no professor is paid with state of federal money. If they are, what objection do you have for the state or federal government to do the same for a student?

      September 23, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • Eric TN


      You said, "At the moment, jobs and education are delusional solutions."

      Could you explain why they are "delusional solutions" ? Jobs and education are two of the most effective ways to help people live together in peace. Without paying jobs, we would still have to do things to survive. Without education, we would not be any better than animals without knowledge of any sort.
      Are you just trolling? You sound like you might be a reasonable person, but this original post of yours is ridiculous.

      September 23, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Poor little Brownie. He has to write papers! Oh, the humanity. Grow a pair, dingus. Life is full of tedium. Get over it.

      September 23, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
  3. Cid Mendez

    Hmm. Well everyone's forgotten or has conveniently left out my perspective based on personal observation. That there's a wonderfully large segment of the population who deliberately CHOOSE NOT to grow, evolve, and assume personal responsibility over their lives. Our government subsidizes this ill mentality with good intentioned programs fraught with abuse, fraud and negligence. The scope of government social services should be limited to providing the same quality health care afforded the War lords in Congress, and a life long support for higher education for every tax payer, regardless of age. With these two subsidies, the tax base would grow in leaps and bounds. The U. S. would rise to its glory days of the Apollo Mission, poverty and crime would be dealt a crushing blow and ignorance would become a thing of the past. If we got trillions and trillions of dollars for short sighted selfish warring ventures, then we've got money to put down on a vision worth pursuing for a change.

    September 23, 2011 at 5:53 pm |

    poverty is a widespread problem

    about 1 billion people are starving if you dont believe me look up the statistics

    the united states wastes about 50 percent of the food that it produces

    england wastes roughly the same amount of food per capita

    i am not making up these numbers

    logistically speaking some would argue that feeding the worlds hungry isnt possible

    but thats not true

    the amount of money wasted on trash piles for this food could be used to get this food to starving people

    and at the same time create jobs for people who would get it to them

    that is just for the problem of people starving

    as for people living on welfare because theyre too lazy to work thats another story

    and im not saying all welfare people are lazy

    we all know that there are always people out there trying to work the system any way they can

    September 23, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Great job, Brownie! Your entire post says absolutely nothing whatsoever.

      September 23, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
  5. David Johnson

    @Barry G.

    Schools need to teach the kids, what they will need to survive in life.

    We show them how to swim, without drowning. Why don't we show them how to have $ex without having a baby or contracting an STD?

    Why not tell them how to deal with an unwanted pregnancy, before it results in a child?

    School should deal in realities. Most people will have $ex sometime in life. Most will have more than one partner. That is reality. Let's help the women to not "collect" a kid from each relationship they have.

    Any moral issues, should be dealt with in the home or church. Religion has no place in school. Our schools should be reserved for life skills. Not superst_ition.


    September 23, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • Barry G.


      What you said is true, but what do we do when the home fails to fulfill its duty, and when people don't attend nor adhere to the teachings of the Church?

      The answer: Society is compelled to step in and address the problem, for society can't ignore the problem–at least, not a just and sensible one.

      Society will be (is) burdened with an abundance of trouble, and the cost in terms of crime and other social ills will be (and alreacy is) staggering.

      We ignore this, to our own detriment.

      Like the old Amaco commercial used to say: You can pay me now, or pay me later.

      (Because You certainly will pay.)

      September 23, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
    • Rock

      Ok, so are schools going to get more funds to do this job better? Nope...we cannot complain about our educational system when we do not invest money in ourselves and our future.

      September 23, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • leasez fair

      Barry G., are you saying that we are adhering less to the teachings of the church? That would be wonderful good news if true. The church is a bastion of organized evil and evil instruction.

      September 23, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  6. ArchiedeBunker

    "We as a society have a moral obligation to see that everyone is fed and clothed. The government is the best vehicle for this, just as it is for defense and infrastructure building." llmb

    Do the poor people have any moral obligations at all? Or are they free to just hang around and accept money the government gives them without any effort to better themselves?

    Actually the government is the WORST possible vehicle for getting people out of poverty. The government is the most inefficient means possible of trying to feed the poor. As can clearly be seen from the history of our government's move into socialism (which began in earnest with LBJ's War On Prosperity back in 1964) up to now, the government's actions have increased poverty and have done far more to harm people than they have to help. The fact that the poverty rate has continued to grow since 1964 is DUE TO THE GOVERNMENT'S actions, not in spite of them, as the writer of this article would like you to believe. No person in the U. S. should ever be given a dime unless they are required to do something to earn it. Of course this isn't true of people who are too sick or disabled to work, but those folks make up only a small portion of the people who are now on welfare. If you don't require people to earn welfare when they get it, then the lazy, unmotivated ones will flock to the troughs (as they have done) like a bunch of pigs at feeding time, and they will procreate without any thought of the morality of such procreation.

    September 23, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • catherine Colletta

      OMG – Do I ever agree with this post. My moral obligations are determined by me. Kindly stop with the "our moral obligation is..". Many of our so called starving in this country do nothing to help themselves except whine that the government does not do enough for them. Instead of the government giving out the taxpayers money to these "takers", a bartering system should be put in place. Every able bodied welfare recipeint should be expected to volunteer time and efforts to the country that is supporting them.

      September 23, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • Eric TN

      Wow, you sound really jealous of those terrible wastrels! You denounce people having se.x, yet everyone is born with some sort of se.x organs. It's part of your body. When's the last time YOU had se.x? Bitter and jealous much? Hating poor people who cannot get a job because people like you refuse to hire poor people?
      And what of the disabled, the mentally ill, the unemployable people? You are jealous that in their suffering they might find five minutes of entertainment or physical pleasure that you are going to mention it like they are doing something wrong by having se.x?
      Are you completely out of your mind?

      September 23, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
  7. Larry L

    The term "class warfare" is the Republican to describe the anger people feel as they see the gap increasing between the rich and everybody else. As I understand the President's proposal he would require the wealthy to pay at least the same "rate" as the middle class. Ostensibly this would include some mechanism to capture the income from capital gains and other types of non-salary income. He would also close certain loopholes to keep corporations from dodging taxes and to eliminate sweetheart deals like tax exemptions for corporate jets etc. This does not seem like "class warfare" when the rich are paying less taxes now than any time in the past thirty years.

    It's important to note that a tax of 15% to a family making $80,000 is $1,000 per month. This may require them to eat out less, not buy expensive toys, drive a less expensive car, and not live in an expensive home. Although a family with a $1,000,000 annual income would pay the outrageous sum of $150.000, they'd not be required to make any real sacrifices in standard of living. Their children would still go to private schools and they'd still have all of the expensive toys, fancy home, and several luxury cars. This doesn't mean they don't deserve these things, but rather an observbation about sacrifice. So if a poor family making $16,000 per year paid 15% ($200 per month) they may not have enough to eat, couldn't buy health insurance, would drive an old clunker with poor milage and low reliability, and couldn't even consider a college fund for the kids.

    Here's my point – it's not about "class warfare" it's about reality and sacrifice. For whatever reason the wealthy have reaped the benefits of living in America. We give examples of self-made millionaires but the most common method of obtaining wealth is to inherit it from your parents. The cycle of poverty is hard to break but the cycle of wealth is also fairly reliable. People will always envy the rich and it's normal to expect the wealthy to make a greater contribution to running the country. Their sacrifice will never be felt like it's felt by the rest of the population, but it needs to at least represent the same percentage as that of the middle class.

    September 23, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • Eric TN

      They only call it "class warfare" when we fight back. They never say a word when they've been doing it for millenia themselves.

      September 23, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
  8. JeremyD

    I'm athiest as well... but beyond that, i don't understand why people are wasting energy bickering over religion. Aren't we talking about people starving? if these comments were a social experiment, it shows the blinding problem with most everyone in this country and possibly around the world. Dispite this writers religious comments, the main subject is what's really important. I spent only about... 4 months in "deep " poverty i guess. I took a box of food from a church and i'm thankful for their help. It's supposed to be about people helping people, not this race or that race or this belief or that belief. The idea of people not disserving or wasting their chances away... is an easy way to throw away any responsibility people might feel in helping others. sure some may have done just that, but you can't lump everyone together. Are you ok with someone wrongfully found guilty of a crime spending life in prison or being sentenced to death? If so... then you probably shouldn't even be reading... anything. I know i didn't give any kind of solution, but i'm not in a position to know what would fix all this countries problems. I hope i at least gave people something to think about and reflect on.

    September 23, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  9. Scubadave

    Rev. David Beckmann, check your info again. Social Security is taxable.

    September 23, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  10. Joseph T.

    So what's the exit strategy for the War on Poverty?

    If we've already spent trillions combating poverty, and we're getting more poverty than ever, then . . . Go on, you the gentle reader are smart enough to connect the dots. Compare what happened in East Germany to West Germany. North Korea to South Korea. U.S.S.R. to the U.S. You're smart enough to draw some conclusions. Too bad that too few of our Congressmen and our president are not that smart.

    September 23, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  11. Reality

    It is always interesting to see what the directors/founders of "non-profits" pay themselves. For example, the Rev. Beckman president of the Bread for the World, the Bread for the World Insti-tute and the Alliance to End Hunger as per IRS Form 990 (www.guidestar.org) pulls in $263,802/yr. To say the least, he has not taken a vow of poverty. Please do not contribute to his groups. There are groups serving the poor with significantly lower overheads to include local, state and federal government agencies.


    September 23, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  12. erich2112x

    It's called trade school, Joker. We're the ones who build stuff. We live a hard life, but we're Americans too. We'll still be here long after your so called politicians have born and died, making room for the next batch of derelict minority who feel that we, the real American people, living in the real world, have the time to sit and give a sht about who won an election.

    September 23, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  13. Will

    And here we have another example of why liberalism has lost its purchase on the American conscience. An entire article that talks about the terrible reality of poverty, yet not a word is said about the need for the poor to take responsibility for that part of their situation they own and to do something about it.

    I'll be the first person to admit that SOME of the reason why there is poverty is structural. Once in, it's tough to get out. But a lot of the people who write articles like this only know the poor as an abstraction, and usually from the comfortable distance of their college campus or NPR-listening upper-middle-class white neighborhood. But if they'd get to know the poor personally, they'd see a lot of controllable and empoverishing irresponsibility. People who claim not to be able to buy food can somehow afford cigarettes and drugs and alcohol. They drive nicer cars than I have, with spinning rims to boot. They wear bling and designer clothing and gold jewelry. They get their hair and nails done at the salon on a regular basis. They purchase gold decorations for their teeth. They have cars that bounce. And they have child after child after child.

    If the poor would be more responsible–if they would do everything they reasonably can to help themselves and THEN hold out their hand for help–you'd have a lot more Americans willing to help them. But if you won't do what you can to help yourself, why should anyone do anything for you? That's what millions of Americans are saying.

    September 23, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • chris

      oh, so according to you, ALL the poor really are just lazy job dodgers who are living it up? you paint the poor with a broad brush and it's you who need to get to know the poor, not just your local drug dealers which it sounds like who you are talking about mainly with all that rims talk. you're just another loud-mouthed know nothing thinking you are the final word...

      September 23, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • ReadMoreCarefully

      You are salving your conscience and trying to escape the biblical mandate to help those less fortunate by constructing a false stereotype for poverty. Sure there are people out there who do not take care of the resources they have, but there are a lot of mothers and fathers out there with limited resources trying to keep food on the table.

      Regarding the "child after child" that is where abstinence only "education" and cuts to planned parenthood will get you.

      September 23, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • CosmoChick

      But what makes you think that the type of poor people you know are the ONLY type of poor people out there. what about those who were doing fine, supported their family and everything, and then one day, lost their job and haven't been able to find another one. what about those who have to live with serious disabilities their whole lives?

      and yes, i'm sure that even amongst THOSE people, there are those that take advantage of the system too.

      i mean... i guess this is the nature of blogs and comments... that everyone wants to scream out their point of view... "me, me, me!!" i'm right...

      but the world is NOT black and white. there are some people that are genuinly disenfranchised, are trying to find a job (or a 2nd job or a night job), or who have a job but with a salary that just won't cover it all...

      if i experienced what you say you've experienced, seeing all those smoochers abusing the system, i guess maybe i would as strongly as you do, but since when has such a stark opinion ever lead to anything constructive?

      September 23, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • Will

      I don't think either of you actually know or spend any time with the poor, or you'd know what I'm talking about. To you, they are an abstraction. But I come from poverty. I've lived it. And as I said, yes there are structural issues that contribute to poverty, and we should work to solve those. But to not insist that an enormous part of the solution is to demand that the poor own responsibility for the things they can control is a subtle manifestation of prejudice.

      It's not I who have a low estimation of the poor. I think them equal to the challenge of responsible citizenship (I was). I just believe that in many cases, they're making impovershing choices and should knock it off. You, apparently, subscribe to the liberal–and incredibly insulting–belief that without the intervention and guidance of their betters, they can't achieve anything. Patting them on the head might make your guilty liberal souls feel better, but it won't solve the problem.

      Growing up, my family struggled tremendously to get by. But the whole time my father worried about the lights being shut off, and watching my mother bring home government cheese, he also found the money to get drunk night after night. And smoke cigarettes. And gamble. And any number of other excesses. These were CHOICES he made that contributed to our poverty. Today, I am a father and I CHOOSE not to do those things and any number of others because I owe it to my family to be a good steward of our finances. Anyone–ANYONE–can do likewise.

      The poor are not mentally handicapped, and they're not children. You do them–and our society–a disservice to act as if they were.

      September 23, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  14. martinipaul

    Yeah, screw the lazy welfare queens. But what are you going to do about the children? Screw them, too?

    September 23, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
  15. Think......

    All of the finger pointing and name calling about pregnant welfare queens and fat cat yacht owners solves nothing and in fact makes the argument more difficult because everyone gets emotionally entrenched. The very simple facts are:
    1) The US Federal Government (and, in fact most of the states) spend far more money than they take in.
    2) The only way to spend more than you have is to borrow.
    3) If you borrow enough, sooner or later the lender is not only going to stop lending but look for some return.
    4) The current situation is unsustainable.
    5) It may cause argument but the general consensus is that even huge tax increases on 'the rich' will not make a signifigant impact on the deficit. It may feel good but it won't fix the problem. As a matter of opinon many people believe increasing taxes is an economic decelerator and while making a minor improvement in the deficit it would have a severe negative impact on econimic recovery.
    6) The Keynsian economic therory that argues for government spending to stimulate the economy may or may not be accurate or effective but the fact is that increased government spending now adds to the deficit debt problem. Even if stimulus was effective it adds to the debt that is quickly becoming a global problem.
    7) Since the 1930's Federal spending as a percentage of GDP has remained relatively constant (except for the WWII years) but the percentage of the Federal budget that is dedicated to social programs has skewed dramatically. No numbers or finger pointing here. Do the research and make up your own mind. As a point of fact, Medicare, Medicaid and Social security did not exist in the 1930's so the portion of the Federal budget consumed by these programs has to come from somewhere.

    It doesn't matter who is wrong or right or whose fault everything is, or even who is the most greedy or the most compassionate. If we as people do not find a way to move forward we have a hard road ahead.

    September 23, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • Think harder.....

      Current defense spending for 2011 is $706,000,000,000.00. The wars cost 170,000,000,000. This does not include spending that can not be disclosed for reasons of national security. Figures are from the CBO. Eisenhower, former General and President of the United States warned of the potential for abuse coming from the meshing of military, political and industrial interests. This is why the deficit is astronomical, and it mystifies me why no one talks about it. Congress can't agree on funding the FAA, but they pass military budgets with almost zero debate. You don't spend nearly a trillion dollars a year on weapons to not use them. Iraq and Afghanistan are just the beginning.

      September 23, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • JeremyD

      you might want to take a deeper look at that defense budget. Majority is for paychecks... and the military is another program that keeps people out of poverty. Not that i agree with everything the military does, but if you're young enough and don't have any kind of serious physical or mental problems they WILL hire you and give you a strong chance at a good life.

      September 23, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • ReadMoreCarefully

      People keep saying this sort of thing but the facts don't back it up.

      The interest rate at which the Federal Government can borrow money has never been lower and the percentage of the GDP represented by the budget or the debt is only slightly outside historical and international norms.

      The problem right now is that no one is spending. The current 1.9% T-Bill rate is basically begging the US Federal Government to spend, but the false panic that Fox News and the GOP have created has tied their hands.

      September 23, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
  16. RapierPoint

    Talk about out of context...every time I've heard that "50% of Americans don't pay taxes" by politicians, it's always been "50% of Americans don't pay federal income taxes". The context is pretty clear to me. I usually only see the generic version in articles like this or people posting comments on articles like this.

    September 23, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
  17. AJ

    The more advanced and intricate civilizations become, the less room the have for compassion. It's a sad thing in my eyes.

    September 23, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • RapierPoint

      I think, in the American society, it's because the government has become the nanny and been given (right or wrongly) the role of taking care of those in need when before it was friends, family, the church, etc that did it. Since it's no longer an integral part of life for most of us, many people are less compassionate.

      September 23, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • David

      Amen brother..you are not alone. Hard to believe by reading this board that there are some good hearted Americans out here, and we are the majority. Press on , and vote to. Need more sane voters to vote.

      September 23, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  18. Lou

    I saw a day laborer in front of Home Depot texting on a smartphone.

    September 23, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • Karen Ellis

      oh really! maybe he was an executive out of work that became a day laborer...but that wouldn't fit your stereotype would it?

      September 23, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • Question everything

      Wow! He's living the dream, isn't he?

      September 23, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • David

      Its a shmae we have raised Americans that think like Lou. Thats the real shame. I would like to smack him in the mouth with a bat, for basically spitting on the less fortunate in a country me and all my brothers fought, are fighting, and died for.

      September 23, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • Thinker

      What is your point ? Do you even know for a fact it was his ?

      September 23, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • Scot B

      There are programs out there where the states subsidize cell phones and cell phone service to people living on food stamps. I wife has even seen people buying iPhones with their SNAP card. I have written my Congressman to confirm that the states are subsidizing and providing free cell service to people "in poverty", and I just can't fathom what the nutritional value of an iPhone is...

      September 23, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • JeremyD

      ok... a cell phone may not be food... but you can't tell me that a person who may not be able to afford internet couldn't benefit from it in trying to get a job. Nvm that you can buy used phones for dirt cheap as well. Just from the way i've seen people i work with go through phones, every other month some one is talking switching providers, upgrading. There are certain things that are actually more necessity than luxury.

      September 23, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
    • ReadMoreCarefully

      ScottB: Try holding down a job, taking care of your kids, or getting medical care without a phone and get back to me.

      September 23, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
    • Bob's comment

      You can get cellphones for 10-20 bucks. Prepay cards means you pay for only the minutes you use, not a bloated monthly rate.
      I guess you'd be mad if the guy was buying soap or aspirin or any medication when you are in the "Donut Hole" and having to pay for everything while your insurance company sits back and laughs at what they did to our country. Laughing all the way to the bank because they bribed the U.S. Congress Republican majority during the Bush Administration and got to WRITE THEIR OWN LAW GIVING THEM WHATEVER THEY WANTED.

      Now tell me that anyone who lost everything because of that "Donut Hole" the Repubicans put in gives them any right to SNEER at their VICTIMS?

      September 23, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
    • Bob's comment

      *Now tell anyone who lost everything because of that "Donut Hole" the Repubicans put in that that gives anyone the right to SNEER at their VICTIMS?

      September 23, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
  19. Justin Hamaker

    May comments on here are blasting people living in poverty for having more kids when they can't afford what they already have. Here's something to consider: people living in poverty often don't have access to resources for sound family planning. Maybe instead of simply blasting them for having more kids, we should attempt to educate them on why they should stop having kids, and provide the resources to prevent unwanted pregnancy. While blasting the poor for having too many kids, do you also criticize Obama for mandating insurance companies provide free birth control?

    September 23, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Um, I am not sure how old you are, but there are alternative acts that eliminate the pregnancy risk.

      And I suspect even someone with a fourth grade education could explain.

      There is an underclass that will ALWAYS mooch.

      Identify them and exclude them. Makes sense right? In fact it made sense back in the 70's, and now the GRAND children of the old school mooches are still on the dole because we failed to throw them off.

      September 23, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • Lou

      BS, rubbers are cheap.

      September 23, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • Justin Hamaker

      Essentially what you're saying is you would "exclude" children based on the poor decisions of their parents. You would set them up for almost certain failure and a life of poverty because their parents were not smart enough to stop having kids. Yeah, that makes perfect sense. Sure, the parents should know better than to have kids they can't afford, but we know that doesn't happen. And people like you want to simply throw the resulting children on the trash heap. Or worse, allow the government to force the parents to give them away.

      September 23, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • Robert Dennis

      Oh No! God forbid we try to use education and counseling as a real solution to what really amounts to a marginal problem. Yes there are women who have a baby just to get more aid, but I suspect that is not the norm. The real solution is to have the resources available for young people in poverty to get an education and break the cycle. I grew up poor and "pulled myself up by my own bootstraps" and make a good living but it shouldn't have to be a heroic effort to do it. We cut back on education, after school services, and yes music and art and then expect the kids who don't have resources to try to make something of themselves. Educational funding for post secondary education (college, trade schools, intern programs, etc) would be a huge investment in breaking the cycle pf poverty.

      September 23, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • Robert Dennis

      ... and so would learing to type.

      September 23, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • Will

      ...or the liberals could stop treating the poor in the patronizing way you do. The subtext of your posting is that the poor are all too stupid, lazy and inferior for anyone to demand that they act as responsible citizens. Do you even KNOW any poor people? Ten minutes in the inner city would show you the pervasively irresponsible CHOICES that greatly contribute to the poverty they endure. First, the poor have to clean up their act. THEN they can ask for help. But if you're going to spend the dollar I give you on a cigarette, why should I give you any dollars at all?

      September 23, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • JeremyD

      Another element to having many kids in poverty can be attributed to desperation in working single mothers. It's hard to blame a woman, trying hard and slowly failing to take care of her kid or kids trying to please a man in a way that a man may stay with her and there by help in raising and providing for her kids. I'd guess that it doesn't work majority of the time... and the chance of having yet another child increases. how poverty occurs is a messy deal and people hopefully understand there's no cut and dry solution or explanation for how everyone got to where they are.

      September 23, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Robert Dennis

      And yet, the Republicans would cut back on aid to the young people who want to go to college. The Tea Baggers don't like education. Probably because education leads to the realization that there are no gods.

      Only the rich will be able to send their kids to college. The poor and middle class will have to settle for Hamburger University.


      September 23, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • AGuest9

      @Lou, they are even free from planned parenthood, although they usually broke. Name-brand is much cheaper than a child, especially at 19.

      September 23, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
  20. Barry G.

    Dear David Johnson:

    The solution must be acceptable to all families, and the only one that was found acceptable was education (academic instruction). This was the only solution that prevented subsequent teenage pregnancy, to which families did not object.

    No other solution was found to be acceptable.

    Pregnant teens tended to drop out of school, become dependent upon social support programs, and have subsequent pregnancies, unless they were required to return to and complete high school.

    The problem is how do we develop schools that are capable of serving this population, given our current spending priorties and the resistance of educators to attempts to make improvements?

    September 23, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Barry G.

      Schools need to teach the kids, what they will need to survive in life.

      We show them how to swim, without drowning. Why don't we show them how to have $ex without having a baby or contracting an STD?

      Why not tell them how to deal with an unwanted pregnancy, before it results in a child?

      School should deal in realities. Most people will have $ex sometime in life. Most will have more than one partner. That is reality. Let's help the women to not "collect" a kid from each relationship they have.

      Any moral issues, should be dealt with in the home or church. Religion has no place in school. Our schools should be reserved for life skills. Not superst_ition.


      September 23, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I'd be happy if someone taught you how to punctuate a sentence correctly.

      September 23, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.