Judge the United States by the Way It Treats its Most Vulnerable

The United States is a great country in many ways. Unfortunately, how it treats its neediest is not one of those ways. Currently, even though we are one of the wealthiest societies, 18.5 million Americans live in extreme poverty. We have the highest income inequality in any Western country. The recent tax cuts worsened that inequality. So, in reality, if we are judged by how we treat the neediest, we should be judged harshly.

We criminalize being poor. The homeless are arrested for sleeping in public. In some cities, there are not enough facilities for the homeless population, yet they are arrested for public urination. Being arrested is just the beginning. The arrest follows with criminal records, making it harder to get a job, fines that most homeless cannot afford, creating more debt for them and other consequences.

The budgets of the federal government, state governments and even city governments are balanced by lower food subsidies, rent subsidies, and other basic necessities. Just recently, there was a push to shrink the SNAP (food stamp) budget and increase the rents of public housing tenants. There was almost no outpouring on social media against the proposals. We were largely silent. Why?

The United States is a great country in some ways, but in our treatment of the most vulnerable, we cannot say we are great.

- Laura Russell, Episcopal Network for Economic Justice


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