15 September 2011

Outside the Design Bubble: The Great Recession and Poverty in America

Please excuse me for focusing on the real world today. Sometimes, while looking at designs and products, I will be struck by the fact that I am fortunate to live in such a sheltered bubble.  But not all of us are so lucky and recently I was reminded of that.

One year while studying the Great Depression, students in my U.S. History classes spent a week bringing in cardboard, twine, duct-tape and other salvaged items for a group project.   At the end of the week each group constructed a shack -- creating our classroom version of a Hooverville.   

Sacramento Historical Society

My students thought it was a blast while I hoped they made the necessary historical connections to the desperate plight of many citizens during that era.  I thought I was teaching history, but as it turns out, I was preparing them to be the first generation expected to be financially worse off than their parents.  

The other day, my daughter and I were at a stop light when we spied a man holding a cardboard sign describing his family's plight of homelessness and his faith in God.  I gave him some cash and he thanked me saying, "God bless you."  I burst our crying.  How could this be happening in America?

Since then it seems that everywhere I look I am seeing signs of people in economic desperation.  Yesterday morning on my way to a doctor's appointment in a small city nearby, I saw a young woman pushing a grocery cart piled high with trash bags, a toddler in the seat, and another holding her hand. 

And at the grocery store I saw a mother putting some items back to reduce the total food bill to the screaming frustration of her young daughters.  What is going on here? 

The news talks about the rise of foreclosures in America and occasionally how it has affected the rising population of pets placed in animal shelters....

Many of our pets are better off than the poorest among us.

How about its affect on families and their children? 

The BBC World News reported that the U.S. Census showed poverty rose from 14.3% in 2009,  to  15.1% in 2010.  That translates to about 46.2 million of our fellow citizens living on less than $22,314 a year for a family of four. (BBC) That's $61.13 per day!  Imagine living on that!  And the bleak trend continues.  

It's unimaginable to me that one of the richest nations on the planet is so miserly toward its poorest citizens -- 22% of whom are children-- yet so generous to the richest.  
In the BBC article, they asked "the Children's Leadership Council, an advocacy group, about this trend.  The Council said: "The rising numbers of children living in poverty is a direct result of the choices made by political leaders who put billionaires before kids. America's children should be our top priority."  
Meanwhile, the media continues to focus on the Tea Party's notion of rugged individualism  effectively distracting us from the growing human tragedy that surrounds us as the American Dream becomes the American Nightmare for more and more of our fellow citizens.

Do you live in the bubble too?

Want more information?
Besides the links in my blog, here are links to other articles:  dailycal.org, and read about the disasterous effects on women here  at thedailybeast.com

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