Impoverished American’s Living Like World Citizens

Here, CNN sensationalizes a few (relative to national numbers) American families that are living like the rest of the world. According to his post about 1.5 million families are living in exceptional poverty on par with $2 a day per person. He does not define how many members per family or how many people total. He says the numbers include over 2.8 million children. The only concrete number we are given is that 46 million people are living below the Federal Poverty Line. 

According to The federal poverty line is $11,000 a year income for a family of 1 or about $23,000 a year for a family of four. My daughter and I slide in at just under 175% of the poverty level for our tiny family of two. And I find it tough to get by. I don’t live in a luxurious apartment and I have a used car that is more than ten years old. I don’t even have a dishwasher or my own washing machine.  We do eat primarily organic food, but we also eat mostly vegetarian. We use public transit and walk or bike more than we drive. And we love what little we have. But, we have a really really hard time getting by.

Our rent alone takes up 61% of my monthly income. Child care takes up 38% of my monthly income. Leaving 1% of my income for food, clothing, utilities, gas, car insurance, medical care, EVERYTHING ELSE! Yes, I could live in a cheaper place and that would mean living closer to burglaries, assaults, thefts, rapes, and murders. I could send my daughter to a cheaper school, but that would mean sending her to school with a demographic with a different set of priorities, such as teachers that are not properly trained, fellow students that do not care about being in school, in fact it probably wouldn’t even be a school, it would be a daycare. And in that daycare, the teachers may be fresh out of high school making minimum wage, too high on ratio with a 14 (3 year olds) to 1 (18 year old). And the other parents will likely not have the parenting philosophy that I have and so soon, I’ll be battling with my daughter over hitting and swearing and explaining why we don’t have cable and no she won’t be getting that new Disney princess toy because she doesn’t NEED it. I’ve worked in low cost child care settings and sorry to sound elitist, I believe that all kids (including mine) deserve better. So, I’ve been accused of milking the system to purchase organic food for my child while wearing the Nike’s that were a birthday gift 6 years ago and the Columbia jacket I bought at Goodwill while sporting the Vera Bradley bag, I got off ebay. But even without the organic food and the $22 I spent on my “look” over a two year period,  I wouldn’t be able to live off McDonald’s on my 1% left over. 

This $2 a day statistic is designed to strike a cord with the fact that some of the world’s poorest countries have this as a standard of living. According to, Zambia comes in at the highest  population (with about 92%) living on less than $2 a day. India is around 80%, Nepal slides in at 68% and our poor neighbor to the south, Mexico reigns in about 20% of the population, all earning less than $2 per person. Of course, one should consider that the cost of living in most of India, Nepal, and Mexico is much less than the cost of living in the United States. So for a person to be living on less than $2 in the US is going to be MUCH MUCH harder than a person living in countries like those found in the third world. 

I am more than a statistic. I do not live on $2 a day and I’m not under the national poverty line, but I am one of those single parent households. I’m not one of those mothers that some Republicans claim are abusing the system having child after child to get more from the government. No, I started my daughter’s life in two parent household. And then my partner believed that drugs, alcohol, and partying were more important so that when I stood up to him, I was physically, emotionally, and verbally abused. And I decided that the only way to break the cycle was to move out on my own, bite the bullet on accepting public assistance, and teaching my daughter than no one is worth suffering your self worth for. 

So, yes, Jack Cafferty I am one of those 1 in 6 Americans on a public assistance program. Yes, I am a single parent. I am female (one nearly 51% of US population).  I am white (1 of nearly 74% of US population). And, I will not apologize. What else am I? I am a college graduate (1 of nearly 28% of the US population). I am a teacher. I am a volunteer. I am a voter. I am an advocate for something better. I believe that nothing is more important than my child and the children of our country and I’m not alone. These statistics are misrepresented and unfortunately do little to help move our country forward. Why aren’t we discussing how this small percentage of the American population is experiencing how it is in the world? Instead of griping about how much public money goes to paying for these lives, think about what it would take to help them grow out of it. 

Lets analyze how many of those single women were victims of abuse last year? How about how many of the children were victims?  How many of the parents in extreme poverty began life in extreme poverty? How many had access to quality affordable education? When we look at their communities, look at the stress the community itself is under. What is the crime rate in those regions? What are the police demographics vs. public demographic. Before I moved, I lived in a city where over half the population was black, but only a handful of officers were black. Unfortunately, this disparity leads to racial segregation of resources. This is a fancy way to say, if you were black and needed help, guess what, the white guy in the wealthier part of town was more likely to get a response than you were. 

Lets look at the legislative bodies overseeing these communities? How many women are on the local city and county councils or boards? What about their state legislatures? How many of their representatives can identify with their plights? Lets look at the national stage were our congress is arguing over limited access to health options ONLY FOR WOMEN! And lets look at the fact that our children are growing up in a world where minimum wages and single parenthood is the norm for large communities.

And instead of saying, look at these few are suffering, look at the bigger picture of look at the true cost of living and look how few can really survive it. And then ask yourself, how could the picture be brighter? 


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