This morning’s comes from the Durham Herald-Sun:
“Opening eyes to povertyState lawmaker George Cleveland’s statement last week on extreme poverty is stomach-churning.
“We have no one in the state of North Carolina living in extreme poverty,” he said in the course of discussion about funding for the state’s early childhood education program.. “Poverty is you’re out there living on a dollar and half a day. I don’t think we have anybody in North Carolina doing that.”
We’re not sure what world Cleveland is living in, but poverty is an all too common sight in ours.
So what qualifies as extreme poverty? Globally, the World Bank defines extreme poverty as subsisting on less than the equivalent of $1.25 U.S. currency. More than a billion people around the world live in extreme poverty, by that definition.
Closer to home? Our country’s definition is a bit more generous on poverty. A family of four earning $22,350 or less in 2011 would have been defined by the federal government as living below the poverty line.
That would mean each person in that family would get $15.31 cents per day to cover rent, food, heating costs, medical bills and transportation. Never mind buying clothes or shoes, or for services like Laundromats.
The U.S. Census Bureau found that from 2006-2010, 15.5 percent of people in North Carolina fell within that range, while 13.8 percent met that threshold nationally. Durham was higher than the state average, with a 17.9 percent of people living in poverty.
Poverty spans all races, all ages. The Census Bureau holds a wealth of information to paint a picture of who constitutes the very poor.
We can come armed with a suitcase of statistics, but what it comes down to is this: People should not go to bed hungry. People should have a safe environment in which to live that doesn’t include roaches falling from the ceiling.
If we as a country are serious about seeing to fruition Cleveland’s premature vision of no one living in extreme poverty, then we need to see the problem and, as a nation, address it. Early childhood education is one of the ways to do that – the very thing Cleveland’s committee was debating when he made his comments. We doubt Cleveland will see the problem, even if he’s staring it in the face. But the rest of us need to have clearer vision and more compassion than that.”