Magliano: How can the U.S. let people live in poverty? - Catholic Courier

Magliano: How can the U.S. let people live in poverty?

The unfolding banking problems facing the U.S. in particular are proof that the market cannot be trusted to take care of itself — or us. Careless, greedy banking decisions have led to the worst U.S. financial crisis since the Great Depression.

The hands-off mentality of government deregulation adopted by the Bush administration and Congress is going to cost us over $700 billion and will make fixing America’s chronic problems less likely.

The fact that bank meltdowns, huge job losses and record home foreclosures have hit many middle-class Americans during an election year is a principle reason why the Bush administration and Congress have decided to take bold, expensive actions.

But there’s another more serious economic crisis that the poor face every day. But they will get no bailouts. Since they do not have the educational, organizational and financial resources to get the attention of those in power, America’s poor must settle for weak, inadequate responses from government leaders.

How can the richest nation in history allow over 37 million of its people — 13 million of them children — to live in poverty?

Some years back, I worked at a Catholic parish in Appalachia. I remember visiting families who lived in broken-down shacks with dirt floors.

One woman who helped with our special education class said that for several frigid, snowy winters her family lived in a very small, unheated trailer in the mountains that had no running water or inside toilet.

But as needy as America’s poor are, the poor in developing nations are far worse off. Over 1.1 billion fellow human beings struggle to survive on less than $1 a day. Over 8 million of them die each year, too poor to live.

Everyday approximately 26,000 of the world’s children die from malnutrition and preventable, treatable diseases.

Doesn’t that break your heart?

Another time in my life I witnessed some of the worst poverty on earth. I lived for a couple of months in India at a Jesuit-run hospital for people with Hansen’s disease. People with the disease often suffer facial disfigurement and the loss of toes and fingers. These poor souls totally rejected by society are reduced to begging.

The Jesuit hospital — and two group hostels where children of Hansen’s disease patients get an education and learn a trade to make their way out of poverty — still is a tremendous blessing.

This much-needed ministry to patients with Hansen’s disease and their children could sure use your help. Kindly consider sending a donation to Jesuit Missions, c/o Father Joe Lacey, S.J., St. Alphonsus Rodriguez Church, 10800 Old Court Road, Woodstock, Md. 21163. Please make your check payable to "Damien Social Welfare Centre."

You could also help the world’s poor by e-mailing or calling your two U.S. senators and congressperson (U.S. Capitol: 202-224-3121), urging them to push for an increase in poverty-reduction funding to 0.7 percent of our gross domestic product (the total value of all goods and services produced in our nation’s borders) as promised by our government.

If we can spend hundreds of billions of dollars bailing out financial giants, we can certainly give 70 cents of every $100 of our wealth to the poor.

The nation’s leaders are committed to adequately addressing America’s recent highly publicized economic problems. But the economic crisis endured by the poor will continue to go largely unnoticed unless U.S. Christians make a tireless commitment to end it.

Tony Magliano is a columnist for Catholic News Service.

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