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Homelessness, Poverty and Politics in America

At no time in American history is the poverty and homelessness problem more salient than it is now. Jabs and insults are hurled at political opponents like dirty bombs are hurled during war. Words like “food stamps” and “working poor” and “47%” become a regular part of the national rhetoric and almost seamlessly, they enter the ugly arena of bad words that people use to denigrate and demean. Meanwhile, the nameless and faceless majority of people living at or significantly below the poverty line still yearn for a voice. In days past, impolite rhetoric was covered up with a thin shroud of political correctness, today, there’s no such need as social media opens the floodgates for frankness and politics gets dirtier and uglier than ever. And still, the homeless men, women and children in America have no voice. On the left, President Obama’s administration reminds America that the 47% of people who rely on government programs of some kind and who legitimately need assistance are a group of people forgotten by the right. On the right, Governor Romney’s obsession with cuts and reductions on everything from taxes (paid by the top 1%) to government programs (that benefit everyone else) sound a lot like the fiscal policies espoused by President Bush and President Reagan three decades before that. Reagan has been credited with exploding the homeless problem in the United States (BBC News, 2004; Kengor, 2012) and yet there are many whose policies lie to the right of center and whose policies have been credited with destroying a once-robust middle class. Is the politics of pandering a recipe for disaster for the nation’s homeless or is there some value in supply-side economics that benefit the nation’s wealthy? Most importantly, why hasn’t there been more said and done by both parties to directly address homeless, hunger and poverty in America (Garofalo, 2012; Burt, 2004)?

      Many have asked the question: has enough been...

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