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The Wolf at the Door

August 11, 2013

“...[A] wolf of the deserts shall destroy them…” (Jeremiah 5: 6).

Riots were feared this summer when Pope Francis chose to visit a slum in northern Rio de Janeiro during a trip to Argentina.  Despite an $85 billion auto bailout from Washington, Motown has filed for bankruptcy.  More municipal bankruptcies are likely, effecting city services, bonds, and government pension funds.

Survey data [1] exclusive to the Associated Press now indicates 4 in every 5 Americans will, at some point in their lives, face “economic insecurity”.  Most of us will, in other words, have to confront extended joblessness, reliance on government aid and/or incomes below the poverty line.  One in 10 American children already lives in a neighborhood with a poverty rate of 30% or more.

Poverty in America is not news.  It has not though been so pervasive in recent memory.  While the overall number of poor remains at 46.2 million or 15% of the total population, the risk of becoming poor has increased sharply in certain segments of the population [2].  For those aged 35-45, that risk has risen from 17% to 23%; for those aged 45-55, it has risen from 11.8% to 17.7%.

Of course, if municipalities fail, thousands of elderly retirees dependent on government pensions will be heavily impacted, at a time in life they are unlikely to find gainful employment. Meanwhile, the number of single mothers continues to increase, guaranteeing that still more of America’s sons and daughters will spend their childhoods in poverty [3][4].

Globalization, sold to us as the enlightened way forward, spawned outsourcing.  Outsourcing [5] – a corporate goldmine blessed by Congress – was vigorously pursued.  The evisceration of America’s manufacturing jobs was virtually fore-ordained.

The wolf at the door has a remarkable way of sharpening our focus.  Poverty is no longer an anonymous “them” but an all too real “us”.  One way or another, the wolf must be fed.  Poverty must be better addressed or further millions will be crushed in its maw.

Daily the gap between rich and poor widens.  May we wake from our stupor in time.


[1]  The poverty statistics cited here were drawn from AP “Exclusive: 4 in 5 in US face near-poverty, no work,”, Hope Yen (7/28/13).

[2]  As above.

[3]  US Census Bureau, “Profile America: Facts for Features”, (3/17/11).

[4]  Population Reference Bureau (PRB), “US Children in Single Mother Families”, (5/10).

[5] Daily Kos, “US Manufacturing: Off-shoring (1979) to Re-shoring (2013)”,, Bud Meyers (6/13/13).


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