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      Since the 1990s many advanced countries throughout the world have been producing what the philosopher Karl Marx referred to as the “lumpen proletariat” or what we call the “homeless”. Although homelessness has really been around for quite some time it reached unprecedented proportions over the past 3 decades in America. Marx said that this segment of the population is actually a by-product of rapid (unchecked) economic development in capitalist countries. A significant number of the homelessness consists of males who are of workforce age; they are not in school; not employed; and they are not eligible for retirement. There are now more men in prison, jail, or probation than are unemployed. 40% of homeless, unmarried men have passed through the criminal justice system.
     As many as 3.5 million U.S. citizens experience homelessness in any given year:
      • 40% are families with children – the fastest growing segment.
      • 39% are children under the age of 18.
      • 49% are African American (compared with 11% of general population).
      • 22% are considered seriously mentally ill or disabled.
      • 26% report acute health problems.
      • 27% were in foster care or institutions as children.
      • 54% were incarcerated at some point in their lives.
     The recent economic calamity with its impact on middle class home foreclosures will certainly exacerbate these numbers.
     The unemployment rate in America rose to 9.7% in March,’09, which is about 5.1% higher than what it was in March, ’08. The rate for African Americans is about 15%. Keep in mind that the Dept. of Labor considers part-time or “contingency” (temporary or consultant) work as full-time employment.
     There are more than half a million children in the U.S. foster care system, a 90% increase since 1987. Three of 10 of the nation’s homeless are former foster children. A recent study found that 12 – 18 months after leaving foster care 27% of the males and 10% of the females had been incarcerated. 37% had not finished high school and 50% were unemployed. 80% of prison inmates have been through the foster care system. Children are 11 times more likely to be abused in State care than they are in their own homes.
     47 people have died in 6 separate mass shootings in this country between March 10 and April, ’09. The perpetrators in most of these incidents were middle class men with no history of arrests. Meanwhile several gun owners have been stockpiling weapons in fear of the new Administration’s possible intention to place limits on gun ownership.
     The United States Dept. of Health and Human Services in a publication on prescription drug addiction has pinpointed those over the age of 60 as the group among whom prescription drug abuse is highest. They report that more than 17% of that group are addicted to or abuse pain killers. The publication reasons that medical insurance companies limit doctors’ ability to provide proper therapy thus, many doctors find it expedient to prescribe pain medicine.
     More than 1 of every 100 adults in America is behind bars. Among men the highest rate is with African Americans aged 20-34. One of every 9 African American men is incarcerated. For white men aged 18 or older, 1 in 106 are incarcerated. For black men 18 and older, 1 in 15 are incarcerated.




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 Tony VanSluytman - the Author

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