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What about the poor?

Friday, October 15, 2004

What about the poor?

A NEW study of the working poor reveals that one in every five jobs in this nation pays less than it costs to lift a family of four out of poverty. But, during one of the most important and closest presidential elections in history, nobody seems to be talking about the state of the poor, much less what do to about it.

Politicians act as though they are unaware of the fact that the nation is full of people with low-paying jobs. Yet 39 million Americans are classified as members of low-income working families. That's more people than live in California, the nation's most populous state. The information comes from a nonpartisan operation called the Working Poor Families Project. The findings are based on 2002 Census Bureau data.

Sadly, that includes 20 million children, whose families are barely providing the basics: groceries, housing, and child care.

How can they be expected to put money aside to pay for a better home or fund their children's college education?

Indeed, the report suggests that states invest more in adult education and job training, increase the minimum wage, and expand subsidized child care for low-income parents. Yet nearly every state is financially strapped, so that seems unrealistic.

The fact is this: Both state and federal governments will have to invest to relieve these families. If they don't, those 20 million children will be an unemployable and an under- educated generation. Some will land in the prison system. That will cost society more than if they had been sent to Harvard.

Like the TV commercial said, we can pay now or we can pay later.

Isn't it better to guide the poor into positions where they can pay into the tax base, not drain it?

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