Poverty and Deprivation in the United States: The Plight of Two-Fifths of a Nation

Poverty and Deprivation in the United States: The Plight of Two-Fifths of a Nation

Poverty and Deprivation in the United States: The Plight of Two-Fifths of a Nation

Poverty and Deprivation in the United States: The Plight of Two-Fifths of a Nation

Excerpt

President Kennedy has recently stated our top domestic problem for the 1960's. It is to prevent the swiftly advancing technology and automation from continuing to cause--with periodic ups and downs--a long term rising volume of unemployed workers and idle plants. This problem is the same as that of maintaining a high enough rate of national economic growth to utilize fully the constant upsurge in our productive powers.

But while all thinking people agree about the urgency of this problem, small progress has been made toward its solution. Our economic growth during the past nine years has been little better than half the needed rate. The current economic recovery is now slowing down, even before reducing idle manpower and plant anywhere near as much as they were reduced in equivalent time periods during previous recoveries since World War II. Unless we quickly determine to do much better, and adopt programs realistically suited to this purpose, the conversion of the new technology and automation into a Frankenstein rather than a blessing will mount in the years shortly ahead.

Economic growth and social progress are inseparable in America

Satisfactory economic growth depends upon distribution keeping pace with our ever-growing productive powers. This requires expansion of both private consumption and public programs devoted to the general welfare--which means serving unmet human needs.

The most obvious unmet needs in the United States are concentrated among the more than two-fifths of a nation who still live in poverty or deprivation. They need better education, health services, and housing; vastly liberalized social security; further improvements in minimum wage standards; and release from the burden of unemployment which hits them with special force. Above all, they need opportunity to earn much higher incomes through the enlarged job opportunities, the general upgrading, and the more rapid advance of real wages which result from high economic growth and maximum employment and production. A quickening sense of our obligation to meet these human needs is the key to the dilemma posed by a "second industrial revolution" in the United States.

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