Op-Ed: "Long Past Time to Address Poverty, Economic Justice"

Iowa Press-Citizen publishes op-ed by MPAC Board Member Shams Ghoneim

December 1, 2011

The Iowa Press-Citizen published an op-ed, "Long Past Time to Address Poverty, Economic Justice," by MPAC-Iowa chairperson Shams Ghoneim about the rise of poverty in America and the need for reform.

Read the full op-ed below:

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. poverty rate has climbed to an all-time high, with an estimated 49 million Americans living in poverty.

On Nov. 8, the federal government announced that even though the Great Recession technically ended in 2009, incomes continued to fall this year, poverty rose and the number of Americans without health insurance jumped again.

Many families in the U.S. have at least one member who has been unemployed for more than a year. The U.S. report also found a growing number of families are welcoming adult relatives and others into their homes. The number of households “doubled up” with an additional adult rose to 21.8 million, up 2 million since 2007.

“The news on economic well-being in the U.S. is not good,” Ron Haskins, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said in a statement. “Worse, children’s poverty increased for the fourth year in a row and at 22 percent is the highest since 1993. Child poverty has been higher than the 2010 level in only three years since the mid-1960s.”

Poverty increased among every racial and ethnic group except Asian Americans.

The Occupy Wall Street Movement that started in September with about 1,000 persons in New York City grew by leaps and spread all across the nation — including here in Iowa City. The growing city movements have lists of concerns and demands that cannot be ignored or trivialized. Their demands are simple and their grievances are legitimate.

From Washington to Wall Street and beyond, our representatives across the nation have failed to work together to help our country move away from this significant economic stalemate. Each party blames the other. It appears that all our respected senators and Congressional representatives want to do is to keep their fat checks and high-quality health insurance coverage while one in six Americans is starving and living in poverty.

Economic justice is absent in today’s America — yet hot button issues like anti-immigration rhetoric, anti-women’s reproductive rights, anti-marriage equality and anti-Mosque movements are center stage. These issues are used not only to divide us but also to divert our attention from the real issues facing our country and the majority of Americans.

Americans must stand together now and fight peacefully but steadily for the rights of all of us across all perceived differences. America, the richest country in the world, should not have 49 million citizens living in poverty. We all by now know the richest 1 percent of the nation owns more than one third of the nation’s net worth. The wealth distribution has been extremely concentrated throughout American history. With wealth comes power and power can corrupt. Wealth can influence politics and serves political agendas. Certain kinds of wealth, such as stocks, can also influence corporations having major potential impact on how society functions.

It is time for all Americans from all walks of life to put pressure on their representatives in Washington and in their respective states to start working for us not against us.Creating jobs, supporting education and ensuring we all have adequate and affordable healthcare must be center stage.

We all must stand united against corporate greed, again mass lobbying by the rich and powerful and against the dysfunction in the U.S. Congress.

We must stand for attempts to create new jobs, to secure good quality education of our children and to ensure affordable health care for all.



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