Pell Center

The Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy at Salve Regina is a multidisciplinary research center focused at the intersection of politics, policies and ideas.

Who Are We As a People?

Poverty in the United States is destroying lives and making this great nation weaker.

In Maryland this past week, Rodney Todd, a single, working-father of seven died, along with all of his children, from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in their home.  Investigators found a generator in the kitchen that was out of gas.  Several days earlier, the local utility had disconnected power to the home because a stolen electric meter was discovered there.  The generator, authorities believe, had been used to provide light and heat on a cold spring evening.

Mr. Todd, we know, worked in food service at a university near his home.  He began working there after leaving prison for an assault conviction and gaining custody of his children.  He made $10 per hour when he started in 2012.  We don’t know if he received any type of public assistance, but several news outlets reported that, in previous years, Mr. Todd had sought and received assistance with his utility bills.  This year he did not for reasons that are still unclear.

There are details about the lives and deaths of Mr. Todd and his children that we will never know with certainty, but by all evidence, poverty and a cold night claimed those eight souls this past week in the richest nation on Earth.

In Kansas, and other places around the country, it’s not enough to be poor.  Some elected officials would like to humiliate you, too.  They do so by passing laws prohibiting users of food-stamps from buying lobster or filet mignon.  It’s a modern twist on the “Welfare Queen” myth a generation ago.  It’s ugly.  We should be better than this.

But we’re not, sadly.  Worse still, other countries are out-pacing us in important ways.  The Social Progress Index for 2015 ranks the United States as 16th in the World—just ahead of Belgium and Portugal, but behind Japan and Germany and a slew of our allies.  The decisive issue according to the authors of the report is not income equality, but the depths of poverty.  In the United States, we invest in our military—the finest in the world—but we under-invest in our schools, in our infrastructure, and in our people.

We’re the wealthiest nation on Earth.  When will we act like it?

Enjoying the Low Life? | The New York Times

The rush to humiliate the poor | The Washington Post

Carbon monoxide blamed after father his 7 children die in their sleep | The Washington Post

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