In the aftermath of the Great Recession, too many of us are living on the outskirts of hope. As public companies boast about record profits and the Dow sets all-time highs, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that more than one out of seven Americans lives in poverty. More than seventeen million American children—23.5 percent of all the nation's children—live in families with incomes below the federal poverty line, $23,550 a year for a family of four. The National Center for Children in Poverty reports that, on average, families need an income of about twice that amount just to cover the necessities of life.
No less alarming, a survey commissioned by the Associated Press in 2013 found that four out of five American adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty, or reliance on welfare for at least some of their lives. They are collateral damage in any increasingly global economy that rewards the rich at the expense of the poor and no longer supports a robust manufacturing sector.
The tragedy of impoverished “sacrifice zones”—the post-industrial cities of Detroit, Michigan, and Camden, New Jersey, southern West Virginia's coal fields, and those native American reservations where the twin evils of unfettered expansion and unchecked exploitation keep old wounds unhealed—is spreading at an alarming pace throughout the nation.
But those who are born poor or fall into poverty needn't stay poor.
Breaking the cycle of poverty was once the exclusive ...