Jeff Jacoby writes, “Affluence in America is dynamic, and our economic system is biased toward success” (“From the land of the Medicis to the land of opportunity,” Ideas, May 29). This blithe view ignores one of America’s greatest defects, its persistent poverty level that has increased over the past twenty-four years.
In 1990, the poverty rate was 13.5 percent. In 2000, it had briefly dropped to 11.3 percent, still quite high for a nation with so much wealth. In 2014, it had risen to 14.8 percent. In 2014, approximately 20 percent of school-aged children lived in families below the poverty level. These poverty levels are not the signs of an economic system “biased toward success.” Instead, it is an economic system that is persistently structured to maintain poverty, a system that guarantees that many cannot succeed.
I would agree with Jacoby’s implication that attacking the 1 percent is merely a popular focus that misses the point, but not because the wealthy members of the 1 percent will change, but because a more serious problem is that those in poverty suffer. Blaming poor individuals and welfare benefits for poverty is the callous route many take to avoid addressing America’s structural problem of increasing poverty.