The Problem of Rural Poverty in America

A small boy tugs at his mother’s coat and exclaims, “Mom! Mom! There’s the fire truck I wanted!” as he gazes through the glass showcase to the toy store. The mother looks down at the toy and sees the price, she pulls her son away and walks him in the opposite direction. Calmly she spoke, “I know honey, just not today. Maybe when Mommy has extra money to spend”. The truth was they had no extra money. The two shared a one-bedroom apartment with six others, and between the six they split the rent. That was where their money went every month. This scenario is not uncommon; poverty in the United States is a serious issue that is growing across the nation.

In “Rural Poverty in America”, published in The Nation Forum, Wayne Flynt discusses how people envision “rural poverty” and attempts to change their perspective. He says, “Around each crater is a high rim. Stretching away from the rims is a vast plain. The craters represent the nation’s inner cities. The plain represents rural America, in many ways the most complex vista. The rims represent the nation’s suburbs” (1). He includes how many people in America believe the poor in their country are in highly populated areas such as the city, yet the most concentrated regions with poverty are rural. Flynt elaborates on how rural poverty is not caused by laziness or lack of motivation. Moreover, he explains how most rural poor families have two or more family members who work. The limitations on highly paid jobs available in these areas are the key cause of rural poverty. However, he describes how many families or individuals decide to stay in rural areas because of traditional ties, churches or communities. Flynt says the bad quality of the education system in the rural areas is another contributor because it continues the cycle of low-incomes. In addition, he discusses the health factors in rural poverty. He says because of the low-income in many families, they tend to buy unhealthy cheap foods, which leads to obesity and excessive health problems. Finally, Flynt explains that people who suffer from rural poverty will lack health care because most are uninsured. He adds how many facilities are not available to them because of the changes in Medicaid and Medicare payment. Overall, Flynt concludes that Americans need to have a better understanding of rural poverty and stop the “American cultural stereotyping” (3) on the topic of poverty and become more informed on the issue.

On the other hand, in “Public Welfare in America”, published in the Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies, Dick Armey discusses the status of welfare in the US and its efforts to reform. Armey begins his article by stating that an attempt to reform welfare must start by recognizing that the current system is unreasonable. He describes how the current system is supporting poverty because it has created a cycle from generation to generation trapping recipients into poverty by taking advantage of the system. Armey calls the lack of educational aspiration, increase of single parents and illegitimacy “behavioral poverty” (1). In addition, Armey argues that the higher the welfare benefit, the larger decrease in work effort along with individuals becoming dependent on welfare. He expands his thoughts by explaining how this would be a bad example for children because it will affect their life prospects. Additionally, Armey continues by describing how children raised on welfare will be more likely to fail in school, commit crimes, etc. However, he states that in order for welfare to have positive results in these situations, it should be revaluated to prevent the negative effects in society. Armey concludes that welfare is promoting unemployment and encourages single parenthood; therefore, forcing policy-makers to correct welfare programs to avoid drawing families deeper into poverty when finding the solution.

I wonder if it is difficult to make enough significant changes in one’s life to overcome poverty. Some people may think as long as one tries, it is an easy transition to get out of poverty, however it can be difficult to make changes to overcome poverty for a number of reasons. People believe poverty is caused from an individual’s own actions. Yet, many are in poverty because of uncontrollable circumstances.

Flynt’s article is directed towards the higher educated public because it is published in The National Forum, a center for the study of colleges. He includes high vocabulary and uses a formal way of writing. His purpose is to change the audience’s cultural stereotype on specifically rural poverty. Flynt includes statics and percentages, which support his thoughts on the topic. He alludes to personal human values by saying others must move on from popular American cultural stereotyping and “need a restoration of that traditional American idea of the commonweal, the general good” (3). By this, Flynt is expressing that Americans need to come together, have a different view on social issues and a “renewed commitment to Biblical notions of justice and democratic ideas of equal opportunity for all” (3). Flynt is a creditable author because he is a University Professor at Auburn University and a lifelong resident of Alabama, which has many rural areas. This makes him knowledgeable on rural poverty because he has witnessed it first hand.

Flynt is opened minded in his representation of where, why and how poverty exists in the US. His article breaks the stereotype of poverty and changes one’s perspectives on the overall situation people are dealing with. He elaborates on how low-come areas will be affected community wise. After reading Flynt’s article, people will realize the seriousness of poverty and how common it is becoming in the States.

Armey’s article is directed towards people who are knowledgeable or are interested in economical, social or political events, relating to where his article is published: Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies. Because of his well-educated audience, Armey uses a formal language by not including “you” or “I”. His purpose is to discuss the status of welfare in America and its potential negative effects. Armey supports his ideas with studies and statistics, “More than 20 percent of the children born in the late 1960’s have spent at least one year on welfare” (1). In this quote, he discusses how the welfare system teaches children to have an increase in dependence therefore they may follow their parents footsteps into receiving welfare. Armey is a credible author because he correctly cites his work and is a verified author in many publications such as The Wall Street Journal.

Although Armey provides studies supporting his views on how welfare is not a functional system to help people out of poverty, this is not the case. To categorize everyone who receives DSHS assistance into one group is an ignorant thing to do. Many people are in these situations because of uncontrollable circumstances, such as becoming laid off suddenly or becoming disabled. Armey believes poverty is an easy situation to get out of, “the federal government spends more than $240 billion on welfare annually, which is more than twice the money needed to raise every person on welfare out of poverty” (3). Instead of blaming the people on why they are in poverty, Armey should look towards what the government is currently doing. As he said in the previous statement, the money the government spends on welfare could raise every person on welfare out of poverty, why hasn’t it yet? There are some individuals who take advantage of the benefits, however many people are trying to get back on their feet again. The lack of available, well-paying jobs to support a family is hard to find without a degree. Therefore, Armey’s argument on recipients abusing welfare’s benefits does not include everyone who is receiving assistance.

Although it is difficult to completely eliminate poverty in the United States, a closer step to eliminate poverty would be by improving the economy and having more jobs available in America. To make enough significant changes in one’s life to overcome poverty is hard because in order to have a well-paid job, extra schooling is required. Flynt discusses how rural poverty is not caused from laziness nor lack of self-motivation. In fact, the average household includes at least two family members who work a full time job and they continue to be in poverty. A well-paid job is almost rare to find without a college degree and in this economy, college is not affordable to many. Unless an individual is extremely wealthy or receives a full scholarship, they will most likely fall into debt with student loans. After all this work in college to get a decent job, many are slapped in the face with big tuition fines to pay. It gets worse, unless you pick certain degrees, there is no guarantee there will be a job available right away. Bills pile up and more people go into debt.

Furthermore, in the past few decades, many jobs did not require special certifications or diplomas. As long as a person knew some skills such as farming, mechanics, or just owning a small business they were successful and could find employment. Nonetheless, this is challenging today, with extra schooling costs and big corporation making it extremely difficult for small local businesses to thrive. Shopping at a local business can be more expensive and have limited inventory but by doing so it is ensured that more money will stay in the community, therefore supporting the local economy.

The number of jobs available is slowly decreasing. Because of companies moving their factories to different countries, and corporations making billions only paying minimum wage, have fed the low economy and poverty rate. It is proven that minimum wage cannot support to pay rent of a one-bedroom apartment so people still struggle in poverty. Therefore, higher minimum wage can help support more individuals in need. When companies move their factories to other countries such as China, this can be great for their own investment producing more money, cheaper manufacturing costs, and higher production levels. However, little do these companies realize, those jobs they are sending out to foreign countries, could be benefiting the US. More people can become employed and receive better pay from the improving economy and less families and individuals will become victims of poverty. However without a change, the gap between the wealthy and poor will become wider and the “middle class” will decline.

Correspondingly, welfare is an argued topic of what it has actually accomplished. DSHS assistance is a beneficial, but needs some revising. For example, if an individual loses their job or gets injured and has nothing to fall back on, DSHS can support them until they can get back on their feet. Without this assistance, many can become homeless and suffer more than they already are. However, to improve the system even more there should be a few revisions. Relating to Armey’s statement, recipients are taking advantage of the benefits, but I believe this is only a small percentage. To find a solution to the system abuse, hiring more employees to oversee these issues would be the case. Yes, this would cost more money, but in the end this would be successful because it will put more people to work, therefore decreasing the unemployment rate and fix the system abuse. The abuse of welfare is occurring because there are not enough workers who care or workers in the departments in charge to accurately ensure that the individuals receiving the benefits are actually in need.

In conclusion, I believe it is difficult to make significant changes in one’s life to overcome poverty because of America’s economic state. The decrease of available jobs due to manufactures moving jobs to other countries and the expenses of a higher education are both contributors to poverty. However, DSHS assistance is an extremely beneficial system for people in need and helps them get out of poverty with the right revisions. By all counts, and with proven results there is no question why the United States is struggling with poverty. Therefore, having a boost in the economy, changes in receiving higher education costs and DSHS assistance is the next step to the solution.

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