While Governor Daniels and his Republican allies move forward with ramming their service-cutting budget down the throats of the working families of Indiana, a budget that State Senator John Broden said "almost turns into an anti-stimulus package", it is clear that poverty is becoming the hallmark of the state's inhabitants.
As has been documented in another post on this blog, roughly 40% of children state-wide are living in dire straits.
Mark Heckler in the Post-Tribune today highlights the worsening poverty in the NW Indiana region and calls for a united effort in response.
Some facts from the article:
Approximately 1.4 billion people live in poverty, which the World Bank defines as per capita incomes of between $1.25 and $2 per day.
In 2007, the U.S. Census Bureau defined poverty for a family of four at an annual income level of $21,027. According to the soon-to-be-released 2008 Quality of Life Council Indicators Report, 14 people out of 100 fall within this category in Northwest Indiana. This is up substantially from the 9 percent poverty rate for our region in 2005.
Northwest Indiana's children fare far worse. Among children under the age of 18, nearly one in four children in our communities lives in poverty.
As the article points out, these statistics put numbers to a stark, devestating, and harsh reality that NW Indiana working and poor families face; a reality that includes homelessness, hunger, joblessness, and the inability to meet the basic needs of survival for one's family.
And these statistics date from 2007, prior to the current financial crisis which is exascerbating the problems.
The article encourages action along the following lines:
-- volunteer time to support organizations fighting poverty
-- give money and food to those who cook meals and maintain food pantries to feed the hungry
-- support economic development efforts to attract, keep and diversify businesses in our region
-- bring more affordable housing online
These are excellent steps in a positive direction, but larger scale responses are needed as well.
President-elect Obama's plans to put people back to work are a good step.
A massive federal/state jointly funded program to build low-cost quality housing in NW Indiana would put many to work and provided living space for people living in bad conditions or homeless today.
A single-payer national health care system similar to Canada's would help everyone financially by relieving them of the devestating health care expenses that either prevent people from getting care or drive many into bankruptcy.
Winning the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) would go a long way toward helping to ensure that working people got paid a living wage, and would help to lift many now living in poverty to a better life.
Peace and an end to the massive military expenditures that undermine our economy, our position in the world, and create so much unjust and unneeded death and destruction would help us meet our domestic needs.
Hope is in the minds of many as we near the inauguration day and President-elect Obama gets closer to taking office. While a tempered outlook is required due to the political realities that the President-elect faces, there is every reason to hope that help in terms of job programs and an economic stimulus will make a positive difference to the lives of the working people of Indiana.
We have the right to expect that our Governor create a budget that augments the direction that President-elect Obama is charting rather than attempting to undermine it, and to voice that expectation to the Governor.
Finally, many are asking what is wrong with capitalism itself, as a system. Was it greed that created the current crisis, and will increased transparency and regulation ensure that this never happens again? These are good questions that deserve to be asked and explored further.