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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?

Wrong.

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. Fuyuko

    Can I not pay taxes and excuse it by saying" "I pay taxes in one way or another?" Paying taxes is part of being a citizen. Everone should pay taxes, even it if it just a little.

    September 23, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • llmb

      Everyone does pay taxes unless they live completely off the grid.

      September 23, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  2. Barry G.

    I wonder how much of a role teen pregnancy has in causing poverty.

    I recall reading that the U.S. has teen pregnancy rates that rival that of some developing countries.

    I also recall that evidence shows that teen pregnancy is the main (root) cause of juvenile delinquency and other serious societal problems.

    What do we do to address this root cause?

    September 23, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • gayjesus

      Teach abstinence, obviously

      September 23, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Barry G.

      That's easy.

      1. Real $ex education in our schools. Not abstinence only. It doesn't work.

      2. Make contraceptives available. Obamacare has made contraceptives "free". This is a big step.

      3. Abortion should be a part of every family planning toolbox.

      Cheers!

      September 23, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • PhillyRN

      If we continue to pay people to have kids, they will have kids for a paycheck. I see this in Philly. These moms too often don't want kids and have no joy in raising them, but it's a paycheck. The kids do poorly in life and repeat the cycle. We have to have lifetime federal limits on welfare and public housing. It's time.

      September 23, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @PhillyRN

      Yep, having babies to get a raise is most definitely a problem. But, what do you do if a child is born? It must be fed and housed and clothed and educated. You can't penalize the wee ones.

      I have suggested we force women on welfare, to abort any further children, until they are off public assistance.

      Oddly, some people find my suggestion unacceptable.
      Cheers!

      September 23, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Sean

      @David Johnson

      No need to abort. My suggestion: If you get prego on welfare you lose your handout..period. You’d see an unprecedented drop off of pregnancy’s from ‘low income family’s”.

      September 23, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • gayjesus

      Or a huge increase in crime. Do you then give them prophylactics or birth control pills or just expect people to not have s e x?

      September 23, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  3. Amanda

    If everyone shared we'd all have enough of what we need.

    September 23, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • Barry G.

      We should share what we have with those in need; but, those who can work, should. And they should work hard.

      The Apostle Paul wrote in one of his New Testament epistles, that if a person won't work, they shouldn't eat.

      Genesis tells us that when God put man in the Garden of Eden, he put them to work; and, this was before the Fall of Gen. 3, so we can't say God's initial plan wasn't for us to work.

      September 23, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      But since that is not human nature, we are stuck actually solving the problem to the best of our ability.

      To those that seem to believe the sharing model is viable. See USSR and Republic of China. You may note that they more resemble Capitalist societies than they do Communist. It does not work.

      September 23, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • David Johnson

      Odd, how Republicans choose to base their morals on 1 letter written to a group who had listened to and believed Jesus when He said He would be back in the 1st Century.

      Jesus had a lot to say about the rich and about caring for the p_oor. Republicans ignore Jesus and embrace Paul, because Paul suits their needs.

      Republicans in general and Tea baggers in particular, are scu_m.

      Cheers!

      September 23, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • gayjesus

      How come christians worship paul.

      I guess paul > jesus

      September 23, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • CB

      That's a ridiculous solution for a capitalist society like ours. We reward those who work hard and go to school for a quarter of their lives to earn more money than those that drop out of high school to work dead end jobs. To "share," as you put it, with those who work the bare minimum would create no incentives for anyone to work harder than they have to.

      September 23, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • Jared

      What is this, Barney?

      September 23, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  4. ELH

    I think the federal poverty limits are suspect. I and my wife live on our Social Security benefit plus a small pension that total a net $34,300 annually. We own a three-bedroom home in a fairly affluent suburb, have two cars, both new( we trade every three years), travel by auto or air three-four times a year, dine out twice a week, and do not want for anything. Our medical insurance (Medicare Advantage Plan) is $300/month and our prescription drugs cost about $200/month (thanks to the Part D Drug plan).

    If we were forced to live on $23,000/year, I am sure it would be doable. One car, no new one every 3 years, no unnecessary travel, no dining out. We would have to be much more frugal as to non-necessities, no splurging on new clothes or frivolities. No lawn service, no car washes, change my own oil, minimum maintenance on the home. Baring a catastrophic illness, we could live, not well, but not starving on the streets either.

    September 23, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • cb

      Add two more people and the cost of food, clothing. healthcare and how would you be doing?
      That $23,000 poverty level is for a family of four. Where you live also makes a huge difference in how well you would do.

      September 23, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • gayjesus

      You own your house with no mortgage? How much would your mortgage be if you bought your house in the last 5-10 years? If it is $1000 then take 12K out of your money. I am willing to bet it would be more than that since that would mean you only would pay $140K for your three bedroom house. You also don't pay taxes on your Social Security checks and I bet you have money saved up since you are retired and live in a "fairly affluent" neighborhood.

      Way to compare yourself to the poor. How out of touch are you?

      September 23, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      And make those two people children with constant new clothes, etc.
      So remove $10,000 a year and raise two kids. Oh yeah, you are young and do not own your home, you rent.

      September 23, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • CMW

      Maybe 2 people who own their home could live comfortably on $24,000. Unfortunately you need to be supporting 2 children also, as that number is for a family of 4. So the question becomes, would you and your wife be so comfortable on $12,000/yr? That is the number for 2 people. Poverty is not comfortable in any way. Unless you've been there you might consider not commenting on realitive comfort.

      September 23, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • csdavis

      But eventually you'll need to replace worn/torn clothing, fix a car that's broken down, go out to eat for someone's birthday, pay for an unexpected injury, etc. You might be able to get by on $23K, but life doesn't always go according to plan. You also have to consider cost of living. $23K eliminates being able to live in a handful of places in the US.

      September 23, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @ELH

      Yep, if you tighten your belt enough, you can avoid living on the street in a cardboard box.

      The Billionaires will thankfully add to their pile of money. Let's all be grateful for that.

      Cheers!

      September 23, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • Melissa

      I think you and your wife are of a generation which saw far less expensive higher education costs, lower house costs, and that odd thing you call... a pension. The location where you live plays heavily into how much you can afford, too. You're speaking as someone of the older baby boomer or silent generation, and not from the viewpoint of a twenty or thirty-something person with a spouse and a couple of kids who are trying to get their lives going.

      September 23, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • Cindy

      I have a family of 3 and we made 26K last year. I have been on unemployment and we do fortunately own our own home. However, with food, electric, water, basic cable, car/home insurance, garbage, we have very little left. I buy no extras at all, never eat out, can't afford to travel. We have no emergency fund and no medical insurance. And according to reports for a family of 3, poverty level is 21K. I can't even imagine people living like this. I feel for them all and will pray for them. If I had some extra $$$, I would help if I could.

      September 23, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • Kelcy, Colorado

      Sorry but I don`t believe a word you are saying. Might have bought it until you said you replace your two cars every three years and travel by air or car three to four times a year. You live in an affluent neighborhood so your house must be worth something so you are still paying property taxes of a few thousand a year. You note your medicare part B and part D expenses, which actually seem a bit low for two of you based on the implied monthly social security which seems to be above the lowest amount so to pay the lowest in medicare would seem a bit odd (and that is $96/mo). You probably have two medicare supplemental policies in the mix to cover the co-pays and such. You could be living on risk though but then you better pray neither of you have any health issues that necessitate lenghty hospitalizations because you would still be responsible for the 20% not covered by any part of medicare. Mom's hospitalization ten years ago (which she survived) resulted in medicare "allowing" $200K. Her supplemental covered the $40K not paid by medicare otherwises the parents would have had to pay that off themselves.

      Of course, semantics do matter and you said your Net income was $34K. Possibly true but that would be when the Gross was something much higher and you subtracted all your expenses like taxes, utilities, medical supplemental insurance or the medical co-pays etc.

      September 23, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  5. RobinSoCal

    The only way to solve this issue is to create programs that give people the skills they need to go beyond making minimum wage. Simply throwing goverment assistance in terms of cash will help in the short term but it is not a long term fix. The old phrase "Give a man food, feed him for a day. Teach him to farm, feed him for a lifetime." has real merit. Too often we look to bandaid a problem which only makes people reliant on the goverment and not self-reliant.

    Here is an idea- For those who have children and make less than $25k/year, we will provide you supplimental income for food and subsidized rent for 2 years. During that time, we will provide work and career training. You must attend and pass for the benefits to continue for one additional year, at which time you should have the tools to provide for yourself. Otherwise, you will be cut off from all but the basic government assistance. There is significant damand out there for certain skilled trades. We just need to provide a menthod to give people those skills. I have a problem with my tax money going to individual who simply take advantage of the system. I have no problem with my tax dollars contributing to the benefit of citizens willing to put in the effort to provide for thier families.

    September 23, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Or we can cut education spending like we are doing to make sure fewer people are able to earn a real living.

      September 23, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • Pam

      Robin,

      I am for your idea or some form of your idea. I used services, (reduced lunches, earned income credit, and reduced housing costs- I still paid $700) while I was a single mother trying to raise two children and go to college. I managed to get by and the all of the aid I received really helped. I got my degree and work as a scientist and my new husband and I are in a high tax bracket. I succeeded because of the help I received. I also have a friend who did the same thing and is now an attorney. She also is a facilitator for a young parents program. We have discussed how frustrated she gets because many of the young parents don't want to give anything up. They won't clip coupons, cook real meals (only prepared crap!), and want to be handed everything. She gets frustrated because when she was in their shoes she did something about it and made something of her life. Limited services would force them to be productive in society instead of feeding their mouth while watching t.v. while their kids are in school.

      September 23, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  6. Steve

    If organized religion spent as much on the poor and needy as they do on themselves and molestation settlements, the world really would be a better place.

    September 23, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • W247

      Then when we spend the money on the poor and needy ( not even going to address the molestation statement in this), you will complain that we are just trying to "brain wash" people. We are kind of in a lose-lose situation here. We either do too much or not enough.

      September 23, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • munchma cuchi

      @w247: martyr much?

      September 25, 2011 at 12:27 am |
  7. Randall12

    GOP and Tea Party are Modern Day Pharisees. Dems aren't much better.

    September 23, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
  8. CoffeeClue

    I've placed several help wanted ads recently on Craigslist. Not a minimum wage type work, but "gig" part time work that pays very well on a per project basis. I received very few responses. A year ago I did the same thing and my mail box was full. Looks like unemployment is not as bad as everyone is making it out to be.

    September 23, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • DrNoVa

      It's amazing to me that when my colleagues and I have gotten together to research "true unemployment" we will comb over thousands of pieces of government and industry data, along with surveys, etc. And we make conclusions based upon this data collection, analysis, and subsequent collaboration between a group of PhDs.

      You on the other hand put an ad on Craiglist, and people didn't respond this year, and thus you have been able to gauge the level of unemployment in the U.S.

      Amazing work.

      September 23, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • Ashley

      I think people are more cautious about jobs that seem "too good to be true" in this economy, especially posted on Craigs List. To say that you believe unemployment mustn't be as bad as everyone is making it out to be is a gross misstatement.

      September 23, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • CoffeeClue

      I'm simply going by common sense. No PHd required on this one. The ad is there, offering work for $20/hr. I can't find anyone to take it. The ad is for semi trailer repair. Skills required are welding and carpentry. I don't know if this is too good to be true, but what conclusion would you draw?

      September 23, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • JRYDAF

      There are tons of jobs on craigslist. All you have to do is take $5,000 to Western Union...

      September 23, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • CoffeeClue

      OK... I don't know how much more clear I can be. No $5000 needed, no western union. Just show up and do the work.

      http://minneapolis.craigslist.org/dak/trd/2605461493.html

      September 23, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • It's easy

      CoffeeClue – JRYDAF's point is that there are often more scams than legitimate offers on craigslist, and that would be why you're getting fewer interested people. Most people have moved on from craigslist as it is an unreliable source of legitimate work, and a wonderful source of getting your email address sold to every spammer on the continent.

      September 23, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • gayjesus

      Maybe your reefer trailer sounds like you want a drug mule.

      Seriously, though. Making a generalized statement about nationwide unemployment from your lame craigslist ad is very michelle bachman of you. If people were smart maybe they got out of the armpit that is minneapolis

      September 23, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • munchma cuchi

      I answered the ad and it made my daughter retarded.

      September 25, 2011 at 12:30 am |
  9. Bernard

    Finally, a voice of reason!

    September 23, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • PhillyRN

      Folks, I have to be honest with you living in Philly, seeing people use Access cards and EBTs, SNAP, TANF, and public housing, you can't just accept a nice article from a preacher without investigating for yourselves how much rampant waste and abuse there is in cities like Philly.

      No one wants to check or do audits. The check out girl can't be the police for use of welfare benefits. Almost every time I shop at a big discount grocery store and liquor store or corner store in Philly, I see use of the Access welfare electronic benefit card to buy 1. alcohol. 2. junk food and soda 3. drugs 4. toiletries, kitchen utensils and more.

      Every salon in the inner city takes the gray market cards for hair and nails. Tattoo parlors take them. Corner stores and carry outs take them for hot food. Check cashing stores illegally cash in the whole card for a high percentage cut, and the person walks right out, and then often buys drugs from the dealers perched right outside of the every check cashing store in Philly, virtually. Drugs and check cashing stores go together, and the "checks" they cash are taxpayer funded benefits for the most part.

      Why do you think people don't have bank accounts and don't want bank accounts? They're not stupid. They just know that a bank won't participate in the welfare black market.

      The Phila. Housing Authority is a huge source of blight and drugs. Where there is PHA housing, there is a higher concentration of crime. Imagine your tax dollars going to harbor drugs and blight. That's what goes on.

      I wish the state and federal administrators were as conscientious with your money as the preacher would be. But they are not. There is no political gain or career-enhancing moves to be had from pointing out that these programs are BILKED.

      There was a LIHEAP scandal that is still under investigation it was so broad. The grand jury has been convened for two years. That's low income heat assistance. Two dozen people already went to jail.

      The cost savings are going to come from being honest - cut the waste. Control the abuse. Do regular normal audits like any business. And prosecute fraud. Make it easy for the community to help with this. Right now it's very hard to report fraud in subsidy programs. This makes sure that public confidence stays low, and cuts are more likely.

      September 23, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • llmb

      PhillyRN –hope I never get sick in your bailiwick. You will be judging everything about me while I lay dying.

      September 23, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  10. DonaGen

    Christians - we share God's love and blessings because you're unable (read Matthew 25:35-40) .

    September 23, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  11. It's easy

    It's easy enough to demonize the poor as lazy leeches and bums who give nothing to society, and always have their hands out. It provides a great way to focus people's attention away from those who have so much in excess that they *could* help, but chose not to.

    As Ghandi famously said: "A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members."

    September 23, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • PhillyRN

      These are all high-minded sentiments, but just throwing money at the problem doesn't help people. If the money is not well spent, it just rewards dysfunctional behaviors.

      No one is going to get "credit" from the almighty for supporting people doing drugs and drinking so much their kids have fetal alcohol effects, but this is exactly what is going on in areas where welfare use is high.

      September 23, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • gayjesus

      @PhillyRN

      Source? Or did you pull that from your behind?

      September 23, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • munchma cuchi

      @PhillyRN: So we're all goin' to skydaddy jail for tryin' to help the "poor"?

      September 25, 2011 at 12:34 am |
    • munchma cuchi

      Which obviously don't exist anyway.

      September 25, 2011 at 12:35 am |
  12. Cameron Poe

    Hey Zach,
    Please tell me when the "RICH" have exploited you? Was it when they were giving you a job? Was it when they were paying your welfare benefits? Or was it when they were paying into your social security? Or did you think you earned all of these wonderful things from sitting on your couch collecting a check? What if those so called "RICH" people came out and said, "you know what we don't care how you poor people feel! We are done with this. Get by on your own." How would you feed your family then Zach? Maybe next time you should keep your mouth shut and don't bite the hand that feeds you.

    September 23, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • gayjesus

      Rich people collapsed our economy with shady business practices and no one went to jail.

      September 23, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • janetlaw

      Well, first of all, the "rich" do not pay in to social security at all. Its called the income cap, and after you make 107,000 you DO NOT PAY INTO THE SYSTEM which is a CROCK. So, get your facts straight.

      September 23, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • Cameron Poe

      Janetlaw,
      You are ridiculous. Who told you this? And what about all the years those people making over $107,000 worked and paid into the system until their hard work and dedication paid off and they became more successful? You know who doesn't pay into social security? The people sitting on their couches doing nothing but collecting a check. Why dont you get your facts straight. Or better yet get a JOB!

      September 23, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • EdNv

      There is NO wealth without labor.. So yes the rich exploit the rest of us since the laborers are never the ones who are rich!

      September 23, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • MrAnonymous

      "Sorry boss, but there's only two men I trust. One of them's me. The other's not you. "

      September 23, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Cameron Poe

      Oh and by the way gayjesus,
      Part of the problem with the housing crisis was people living outside their means. Just because the bank offers you $300,000 for a home does not mean you have to buy a $300,000 home. You buy what you can afford. If you are making minimum wage then you buy what you can afford. Basic economics DON'T SPEND IT IF YOU DON'T HAVE IT! Yes some shady individuals took advantage the system and now the majority is paying for it. But do not forget there are 2 sides to every coin. Where was the personal responsibility of the people asking for the loans?

      September 23, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • gayjesus

      Basic economics:

      Give loans to people who can't afford them and tell them they can.

      Bundle bad loans in a package, get it rated as good credit and sell it to another company.

      Short company that you sold bad debt to.

      Get rich and complain about taxes and helping the poor!!!!

      September 23, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • munchma cuchi

      Forgive me father for I have sinned. I have bitten the hand that feeds me false hope and a carrot on a stick kept just out of reach.

      September 25, 2011 at 12:39 am |
  13. Oz

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

    God does not balance a budget. That is up to us lesser mortals.

    September 23, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
  14. omega

    I agree that we have to care fore the countries poor. Even as an athiest its common sence.

    September 23, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
  15. LiberalNN

    49% of US residence do NOT pay INCOME tax, something CNN reported on last year.

    September 23, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • dd

      They can 'report' whatever they like. Any report is only as valid as the information from which it is sourced...

      September 23, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • omega

      Just because you dont pay federal income tax does not meen you dont pay taxes. Every working american makes payments to medicare and social security nomatter what their income is. There are taxes on goods and services such as gas, tobacco and alcohol. And im sure there are other taxes that I am not aware of.

      September 23, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • munchma cuchi

      Did you read the article. Even if not it is common sense that, not only does everyone pay tax in one form or another, there are those out there, and a lot of 'em (48% or so) that don't pull in enough scratch to do the federal income tax thing. The poor's net worth is around 2 trillion dollars. that's 25% or so of the population. Think about it half a sec and get back to me with some other claptrap.

      September 25, 2011 at 12:43 am |
  16. rebel_angel

    Now maybe everyone truly understands what the south was trying to accomplish with the Civil War. It wasn't so much the slavery issue as it was trying to stop TOO MUCH GOVERNMENT INVOLVEMENT

    September 23, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • gayjesus

      lol wut?

      Government involvement in not allowing people to own slaves

      September 23, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • Billy

      Did you not read point #4? Over 9 million people lifted above the poverty line with the HELP of the government.

      September 23, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • Nick

      If you believe that, I have beachfront property in the Mojave to sell you. That is what the Confederate Gov't claimed to 1: Recruit the poor working class into the Rebel Army, and 2: Gain assistance from Great Britain (which, by the way, had already banned slavery) by paining their cause as fighting against government "tyranny". (Since when is a gov't supporting human rights "tyrannical?") To illustrate, how many wealthy Southerners avoided fighting? Most wealthy planters continued to plant tobacco and cotton for sale rather than food for their own starving armies. The wealthy never actually believed it was about "states rights." It was a lie to get everyone else to fight for "their cause."

      September 23, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • Mercker

      Stop trying to change history! The war was about slavery. Look yours and my ancestors were lazy greedy racist. Let it go... Don't try to make a modern day point about government control using that as an example.

      September 23, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • GinnyinNC

      Mercker – you need a primer on American history. The Civil War was NOT about slavery. Thank you, public education system.... gesh.

      September 23, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • gayjesus

      Emancipation proclamation followed by secession.

      Nope. Obviously not about slavery. It was about all those black slaves getting free room and board...just another government handout.

      September 23, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • yeahalright

      Too much government involvement...in trying to end slavery! If I'm a slave I'm pretty happy with that kind of government involvement. Bet you wish the south won so you could own and beat some people eh? That's real freedom right there, the freedom to own brown people! Frankly I wish the south freed the slaves and then won. So you could be the backwater wasteland still stuck in the 18th century without all the tax money coming from northern, successful states to prop you up and drag you kicking and screaming into the 20th...and eventually 21st.

      September 23, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • munchma cuchi

      Well, it wasn't really about slavery; that was a secondary phenomenon, kinda like matter in our Universe.

      September 25, 2011 at 12:46 am |
  17. SCOTO

    The 6th misconception is that we need a "God" to call us to action on this.

    September 23, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  18. Penguinishka

    I'm glad you all decided to read and discuss this article 😀 I especially appreciate points 3 and 5, two facts I think a lot of people generally overlook. Thanks!

    September 23, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  19. csnord

    Some context for the tax statement. The statistic is that 50 percent of WAGE EARNERS pay no INCOME TAX after filing. That is the claim, and it is accurate. They still pay the employee contribution to Social Security and Medicare, and, of course, everyone pays the incidental, non-income taxes like vehicle license tax, sales tax, and municipal fees. Also, all wage earners have income tax withheld from their paychecks, but after filing and applying all applicable credits, 50 percent receive all of their income tax payments back, which means no tax. Again, they DO NOT get the Social Security and Medicare part back. The statement the author makes is just as wrong as the statement he is refuting – that 50 percent pay no tax.

    September 23, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • FenceSitter

      Retirees who make more than 26,000 a year from other sources of incomes DO pay federal tax on their Social Security benefits. Many states exempt SSN benefits from state taxes. Just clarifying the a statement in the article.

      September 23, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  20. Republican Richard

    Poor people made poor decisions. I'm sick of paying for everyone else to live better than I do. I go to work so they can stay home and collect welfare and food stamps. Republicans, we work hard so you don't have to!

    September 23, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • Sadtosay

      The idea that everyone or even anyone ends up somewhere in life based soley on decisions they made is moronic. You really think every poor person is lazy or every rich person got to be that way by working hard?

      Half of all people born never made it to the age of one. Do you think that was because they made poor decisions?

      September 23, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • Nikki

      @Republican Richard, I have a master's degree which SHOULD give me a stable, high paying job. But that isn't the case. The economy is bad, which means little no to jobs, which means I'm poor. I live pay check to pay check temping part time. I'm unmarried and have no children and try to save when I can afford to and I have a master's degree, yet I am poor. So, please, tell me what poor decisions I made?

      September 23, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • janetlaw

      Yup – typical response. The poor deserve it, right? They must have a defect because they are poor. Try telling that to a hard-working parent who works 3 jobs and lives in poverty. Let's see yoiu have a spouse/child/parent get cancer, try to pay the bills and see how long you make it without health insurance. You will be homeless pretty dang quick.

      September 23, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • paganguy

      Yes Richard; your leaders Republican G W Bush / Dick Cheney dragged us into a foolish war costing us adout 2 trillion dollars and many dead and injured for life that will cost us many more billions to take care of.
      Stupid programs like "No child left behind" doesn't make kids smarter. It only teaches them how to pass a test.
      Most rich guys either are born into money or marry it. What is your excuse?

      September 23, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • NOo..oON

      @Nikki,
      "I have a master's degree which SHOULD give me a stable, high paying job."
      Not that I agree with Republican Dick, but a degree only provides a better chance at a job, not a guarantee. The type of degree is also very important; a Master's in Impressionist Painters of the 1920s just isn't that useful to most people.

      September 23, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Cameron Poe

      Richard,
      It is fools like you giving the rest of us a bad name. People can not help the situation they are born into. Nor can they prevent every bad thing that happens to them. Do you honestly think the majority of poor people woke up one morning and decided to make decisions based strictly on keeping themselves down? No they did not. Some folks get dealt a bad hand and sometimes it does take the others to help you back up. The ones that are poor and deserve to stay that way are the ones who are presented with opportunity, chance for better, or some outside help and they decide to not turn their life around and take advantage of said opportunity. Come on Richard you cant fight a battle against stereotypes if you yourself adhere to the same principal.

      September 23, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • marion

      To Nikki: What did you DECIDE to get your master in? A master's degree in "public administration" is going to college and taking only generals because you don't know what you want to do.

      September 23, 2011 at 4:33 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.