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Old Jan 8, 2014, 04:26 PM   #1
MyMac1976
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wealth inequality in America is it really this bad?

http://www.upworthy.com/9-out-of-10-...ct-2?c=reccon1

I'm probably not the person to post this because I'm not in any sense of the word unbiased on this subject but is it really this bad?
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Old Jan 8, 2014, 04:35 PM   #2
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Apologies for the long post; the entirety of the linked article gets the point across.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MyMac1976 View Post
http://www.upworthy.com/9-out-of-10-...ct-2?c=reccon1

I'm probably not the person to post this because I'm not in any sense of the word unbiased on this subject but is it really this bad?

I was about to start a separate thread on this, but it directly relates to it.

funny you should ask this, the day of the 50th anniversary LBJ declaring an "unconditional war on poverty". So how far have we come? Have a look.

http://www.npr.org/2014/01/08/260151...till-struggles

Quote:
Kentucky County That Gave War On Poverty A Face Still Struggles
By Pam Fessler
January 08, 2014 3:29 AM

Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon Johnson stood before Congress and declared an "unconditional war on poverty in America." His arsenal included new programs: Medicaid, Medicare, Head Start, food stamps, more spending on education, and tax cuts to help create jobs.

At the time, 1 in 5 Americans was poor. Today, things are better, but tens of millions of Americans are still living at or below the poverty level. That raises the question: Did the war on poverty fail? In the coming year, NPR will explore this question and others about the impact and extent of poverty in the U.S., and what can be done to reduce it.

People in the isolated hills of Martin County, Ky., rarely saw outsiders, let alone a president. So when President Lyndon Johnson visited in 1964 to generate support for his proposed war on poverty, it was a big deal.

Lee Mueller, a young newspaper reporter at the time, recalls the crowds in downtown Inez, Ky., the county seat, waiting for the presidential party to arrive at an abandoned miniature golf course.

"It was just like a hayfield full of long grass. It looked like helicopters landing in Vietnam or something when they came over the ridge," he says.

Mueller says the locals didn't know their role in this new, domestic war. For the White House, though, coming to Martin County gave poverty a face — and a name.

"In this south-central mountain country, over a third of the population is faced with chronic unemployment," says a government film on Johnson's visit. "Typical of this group is Tom Fletcher, his wife and eight children. Fletcher, an unemployed sawmill operator, earned only $400 last year and has been able to find little employment in the last two years."

At the time, the poverty rate in this coal-mining area was more than 60 percent. Johnson visited the Fletchers on the porch of their home — a small wooden structure with fake brick siding. Photographers took what would become one of the iconic images of the war on poverty: the president crouched down, chatting with Tom Fletcher about the lack of jobs.

Fast-forward 50 years. The Fletcher cabin still stands along a windy road about 5 miles outside town. It now has wood siding and is painted orange. There's a metal fence with a "no trespassing" sign to keep out strangers. There are lots of small houses and trailers along this road, but also some new, bigger homes that could be found in any American suburb.

Today, the roads here are well-paved. People say the schools and hospitals are much better than they used to be. Still, Martin County remains one of the poorest counties in the country. Its poverty rate is 35 percent, more than twice the national average. Unemployment remains high. Only 9 percent of the adults have a college degree.

'I Would Be Homeless'

Much of the poverty today is tucked between the mountains in what are called "the hollers." That's where Norma Moore lives with her 8-year-old grandson, Brayden. She says his parents didn't want him. He was born with a rare blood disease and is severely disabled. "And they said he was dying, and then at 4 months I got him, and I've had him ever since," Moore says.

Brayden doesn't walk or talk. He's in constant motion, rolling on the floor of their double-wide trailer home, bumping into walls and doors.

There's no question that Moore's life is incredibly stressful. She says she gets by on her faith. But here's where the war on poverty has also made a big difference: Today, she gets food stamps and energy assistance to heat her home — programs with roots in Johnson's anti-poverty initiatives — as well as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for her grandson.

Moore shakes her head thinking about life without the help. "I would be homeless. I would be the one living on the street if it wasn't for that," she says. She looks down at her grandson on the floor. "He would probably be in a home somewhere."

Today, many people here rely on government aid. In fact, it's the largest source of income in Martin County. People say it has helped to reduce hunger, improve health care and give young families a boost, especially at a time when coal-mining jobs are disappearing by the hundreds.

Head Start is one of the signature programs of the war on poverty — helping low- and moderate-income children get ready for school. Budget cuts are always a concern. Some of the county's children get their only hot meals of the day at school.

Delsie Fletcher helps Head Start parents in Martin County with services, such as getting their high school diplomas. And yes, Delsie is one of those Fletchers, married to one of the children who stood on the porch with President Johnson.

So has the war on poverty helped her husband's family? Turns out, along with the famous photo, it's a sore topic.

"They don't like to talk about it, because they don't want to be known as the poorest family in Martin County," she says.

And she says they probably weren't. Most of the Fletchers have done OK for themselves. Still, it hasn't been easy. Her husband had some of his toes cut off when he worked in the sawmills, and now he's on disability. Work around here can be tough — and dangerous — which is why coal-mining jobs pay so well. But now they're scarce, and there's nothing to replace them. People are struggling to adjust.

'I Call It Abusing The System'

Thomas Vinson, a Martin County resident for 41 years, used to work in the coal fields, but he is currently unemployed. Vinson says he has a big house payment and three sons to raise. Times are tough, he says, but "we are making it."

One reason is that Vinson's wife got a job at a gear factory through a federally funded program to help unemployed miners. Vinson is grateful for the short-term help but worried about his future. In the big picture, he's disappointed in the war on poverty. He says he sees too many people around here just collecting checks.

"They call it poverty, but I call it abusing the system. Like, if you're going to file for SSI, you go in there and say the right things, you'll come out of there with a check," he says.

His feelings are widespread around here: What good are all these government programs if they don't get you a job?

Mike Howell runs the Big Sandy Area Community Action Program where the Vinsons went for help. The program is a direct result of the war on poverty. Howell agrees that the war has yet to achieve its goals, but says the reason is a lack of support. The burst of enthusiasm after President Johnson's visit has waned, he says. Every year, his program has to fight for funds.

"We've kind of let poverty go to the side," says Howell. "It's still way too high. Somebody asked me one time about the war on poverty, and I said, 'Well, it really wasn't a war — it was more of a skirmish.' And we need to declare war on poverty again."
The looks on the children in the first picture in Fletcher's cabin really hits home for me; innocence at that age and having no business being that poor. I don't know how much they knew about their situation, but it was indeed tragic.

One of the comments, while getting very political, hit home:

Quote:
“Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon Johnson stood before Congress and declared an "unconditional war on poverty in America." His arsenal included new programs: Medicaid, Medicare, Head Start, food stamps, more spending on education, and tax cuts to help create jobs.”

Fifty years later, Republicans stood before Congress and declared an unconditional war on the POOR in America. Republicans’ arsenal included: CUTS to Medicaid and food stamp, LESS spending on education, and tax cuts for the RICH to help send jobs overseas.
Is it really that bad? Romney and the 47% quote says a lot.

BL.
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Old Jan 9, 2014, 12:45 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by MyMac1976 View Post
is it really this bad?
In a word, yes.

I haven't verified every detail, but, I have verified some of it. I like the way he re-presents the same data further on, with more dramatic results. I think it is a good presentation of the actual data.
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Old Jan 9, 2014, 01:17 AM   #4
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I think it's possibly worse in actuality.

Growing up and playing countless games of the board game Monopoly taught me something the graphs are illustrating very well, that is, when all the money and property go to one person, it's game over.
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Old Jan 9, 2014, 05:48 AM   #5
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The problem is that we do not tax wealth. We tax income, and if the top 1% of Americans (or the top 1% of any country) make much more income after taxes than the rest of us, then that compounds over time and the rich become relatively more advantaged than the rest of us. That means they have disproportionate power, so they influence politics to protect their wanton and profligate way of life at the expense of the rest of us. The only thing that can stop this cycle is for Americans to start using the grey matter between their ears and start examining the quality of the evidence for and against various policies. They then need to vote. Unfortunately, my impression is that people are so alienated that they do not bother to engage in politics and they decline to vote. They view all politicians as equally corrupt, and they therefore fail to use their franchise to minimise the damage by electing the least horrible candidate.
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Old Jan 10, 2014, 10:52 AM   #6
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Why is it so difficult to understand that the outrageous disparity of wealth is a direct result of government and federal reserve bank policy?

Several Congresses and Administrations have passed legislation to enable the giant investment banks to borrow money at essentially zero interest and then invest it in various debt instruments at higher rates of interest. QE is providing the billions of dollars for these money games.

Expanding the number of dollars reduces the buying power. That's simple Economics 101. So, the buying power of the middle economic class has been in decline since the early 1970s.

Not only are we replacing high-pay jobs with low-pay jobs, we need ever-fewer workers to provide necessities. And automation also reduces the need for workers in the "I want it" non-necessity sectors. This leads to what an acquaintance labelled back some twenty years as "surplus people". Q: What do we do with and for these unneeded people?

I've yet to meet a conservative who was opposed to governmental safety net support of the truly unfortunate. I am among many who are concerned about the amount of money spent on "welfare" for those who could work but don't. At the same time, I'm aware of the "surplus people" problem, so there's a big "Damfino." But I see a lot of the spending as a mix of Danegeld and vote-buying.

Poverty? Sure, I know and have seen many truly poor people. But to me, poverty is a boy of eight or ten years asking, "Hey, you like my sister? Only five dollars..." Or people fighting over waxed cardboard containers, to use as building material. Or rioting and violence over abandoned lumber. I've seen that, so I have difficulty with the label "poverty" when applied to people with TVs, cell phones, cigarettes, booze, other toys, much availability of food--and the all-too-common obesity.

But as far as disparity of wealth, that will be an ongoing problem, regardless of who is elected to whatever level in government. It basically is official government policy, regardless of any electee's vote-hustling mouth music to the contrary.
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Old Jan 10, 2014, 08:39 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Desertrat View Post
Why is it so difficult to understand that the outrageous disparity of wealth is a direct result of government and federal reserve bank policy?

Several Congresses and Administrations have passed legislation to enable the giant investment banks to borrow money at essentially zero interest and then invest it in various debt instruments at higher rates of interest. QE is providing the billions of dollars for these money games.

Expanding the number of dollars reduces the buying power. That's simple Economics 101. So, the buying power of the middle economic class has been in decline since the early 1970s.

Not only are we replacing high-pay jobs with low-pay jobs, we need ever-fewer workers to provide necessities. And automation also reduces the need for workers in the "I want it" non-necessity sectors. This leads to what an acquaintance labelled back some twenty years as "surplus people". Q: What do we do with and for these unneeded people?

I've yet to meet a conservative who was opposed to governmental safety net support of the truly unfortunate. I am among many who are concerned about the amount of money spent on "welfare" for those who could work but don't. At the same time, I'm aware of the "surplus people" problem, so there's a big "Damfino." But I see a lot of the spending as a mix of Danegeld and vote-buying.

Poverty? Sure, I know and have seen many truly poor people. But to me, poverty is a boy of eight or ten years asking, "Hey, you like my sister? Only five dollars..." Or people fighting over waxed cardboard containers, to use as building material. Or rioting and violence over abandoned lumber. I've seen that, so I have difficulty with the label "poverty" when applied to people with TVs, cell phones, cigarettes, booze, other toys, much availability of food--and the all-too-common obesity.

But as far as disparity of wealth, that will be an ongoing problem, regardless of who is elected to whatever level in government. It basically is official government policy, regardless of any electee's vote-hustling mouth music to the contrary.
So in your mind definitions of class are absolute and bear no relation to the societies in which they exist?

I really can't agree with that. Wealth in the USA is truly a matter of government largesse, while poverty is a matter of government stinginess. All we have to do is look eastward to see that poverty can easily minimized. The problem is, many Americans over the age of 45 and those who came of age south of the mason-Dixon line view poverty as a moral issue.

BTW, glad to see you here again, hope allis well with you and yours.
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Old Jan 10, 2014, 10:32 PM   #8
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No, I don't think the definitions are at all absolute. And my preference is for a socio-economic structure which allows upward mobility.

What I'm saying is that official government policies of one sort or another--both monetary and legislative--have created this disparity. And I don't believe that those will change.

I"m making out okay. The old body is sorta tired, but at least the brain-box seems to be functioning okay. :-) Boss-Lady isn't doing all that well, but we're coping okay.
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Old Jan 11, 2014, 07:19 PM   #9
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High net worth people primarily invest in stocks and real estate because the long term capital gains rate is much lower than their standard tax rate. Regular folks, in low tax brackets, buy 1% CDs and annuities and get almost no income. Over time this makes a huge difference in wealth accumulation.
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Old Jan 12, 2014, 11:46 AM   #10
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What I'm saying is that official government policies of one sort or another--both monetary and legislative--have created this disparity. And I don't believe that those will change.
What this says to me is that those at the top are greedy and will take whatever they can unless a government policy stops them from doing so.

It's almost like saying "The teacher decided not to pay attention, so we all cheated on our exams. But, it's the teacher's fault for not enforcing the no-cheating rule."
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Old Jan 12, 2014, 10:48 PM   #11
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"What this says to me is that those at the top are greedy and will take whatever they can unless a government policy stops them from doing so."

And I don't for one moment believe that the government will do doodly-squat to change things. There will be no change in government policy. Goldman Sachs et al will continue to control monetary policy, as they have been doing for decades. Congress will continue its deficit spending. And we will continue to export our capital via our balance of payments deficit.
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Old Jan 13, 2014, 07:16 AM   #12
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....And we will continue to export our capital via our balance of payments deficit.
You forgot the recent boom in shale oil and natural gas. The US will be exporting energy resources soon.
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Old Jan 13, 2014, 09:00 AM   #13
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I would say a lot of it is down to the unions not really being a voice for the poor anymore.

Doing things like preventing teachers being sacked doesn't really achieve anything productive for the wider economy.
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Old Jan 13, 2014, 02:36 PM   #14
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VulchR, I doubt that our exports of oil and gas will be greater than our imports of "dang near everything"--including oil.

Eraserhead, my only direct experience with unions comes from fifty years ago: I guarantee you that the UAW and the Teamsters were not interested in the poor--regardless of any mouth-music to the contrary. That was then, and your "this is now" is just same-old same-old.
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Old Jan 13, 2014, 04:00 PM   #15
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Addendum: Here's an article from Zero Hedge on wealth disparity:

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-0...ever-explained
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Old Jan 13, 2014, 08:20 PM   #16
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Addendum: Here's an article from Zero Hedge on wealth disparity:

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-0...ever-explained
All excellent points in this article. It's manipulation of our money that is causing the disparity. Not the rich. The rich are just benefiting from it. Maybe they lobbied for it?

An easier way to explain this is to look at what money was exactly 50 years ago. In 1964, the minimum wage was $1.25 and gas was $0.25 a gallon. Today, the minimum wage is about $8 and gas is about $2.50. Hardly enough to keep up with inflation (read debasement of the dollar by the Fed).

But the difference is that in 1964, money was backed by silver and gold. So, if we stayed on the bimetallic standard, the minimum wage would be equal to $25 and gas would be $5. Silver is now $20 in 2014 vs. $1 in 1964. This tells me gas is actually cheaper than it was in 1964 but we feel poorer because our hourly wage is actually much less, in real terms. The minimum wage buys fewer gallons of gas than it did in 1964.

Would a $25 minimum wage fix a lot of the poverty issues we have in this country?
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Old Jan 14, 2014, 04:11 PM   #17
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An increase in the minimum wage always leads to an increase in unemployment. In good times, of course, it's relatively short term. Now? We already have people who have been out of work for years.

When you have minimum wage employees and the per-hour is increased, you also have to give raises to those just above minimum--or they get mad. The employer thus has more FICA to pay, higher unemployment compensation insuance premium and higher wages. A marginal business can easily go broke.
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Old Jan 14, 2014, 04:15 PM   #18
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An increase in the minimum wage always leads to an increase in unemployment. In good times, of course, it's relatively short term. Now? We already have people who have been out of work for years.

When you have minimum wage employees and the per-hour is increased, you also have to give raises to those just above minimum--or they get mad. The employer thus has more FICA to pay, higher unemployment compensation insuance premium and higher wages. A marginal business can easily go broke.
So you're telling me that a job that requires 50 people will suddenly require 40 if minimum wage is increased?

Edit: As for places going out of business, isn't that the vaunted free market at work? You have winners, you have losers.
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Old Jan 14, 2014, 04:24 PM   #19
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No, I'm saying that employers will lay off marginal employees and/or change the operation in order to maintain profitability. Cutting back from 50 to a more-likely 48 or 47 might not hurt output, and the cost saving could offset the otherwise higher overhead.
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Old Jan 14, 2014, 04:25 PM   #20
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VulchR, I doubt that our exports of oil and gas will be greater than our imports of "dang near everything"--including oil.

Eraserhead, my only direct experience with unions comes from fifty years ago: I guarantee you that the UAW and the Teamsters were not interested in the poor--regardless of any mouth-music to the contrary. That was then, and your "this is now" is just same-old same-old.
True, but the unions used to represent the poor and not just the upper middle class.
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Old Jan 14, 2014, 04:30 PM   #21
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"....the unions used to represent the poor and not just the upper middle class."

Maybe in the 1930s and possibly the 1940s. After that, unions' average wages became upper middle class, in many cases. Teamsters, UAW, steelworkers. Don't forget public employee unions, and look at the wage scales in Califolrnia.
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Old Jan 14, 2014, 06:14 PM   #22
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An increase in the minimum wage always leads to an increase in unemployment.
or not (pdf)
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Old Jan 15, 2014, 10:15 AM   #23
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An increase in the minimum wage always leads to an increase in unemployment. In good times, of course, it's relatively short term. Now? We already have people who have been out of work for years.

When you have minimum wage employees and the per-hour is increased, you also have to give raises to those just above minimum--or they get mad. The employer thus has more FICA to pay, higher unemployment compensation insuance premium and higher wages. A marginal business can easily go broke.
Always? Not true. Sometimes, a rise in minimum wage correlates with a rise in unemployment. Sometimes, it correlates with a drop in unemployment. A rise in minimum wage does not "always" lead to an increase in unemployment, at least historically. IN fact, it appears that the highest minimum wage of the last 65 years correlates with the lowest unemployment in the last 65 years. Of course, American thinking nowadays is quite different from years past. Nowadays, consistently rising and windfall profits are the only name of the game.

I've asked this on another forum, and it brought up some "lively" discussion. If some really large employers like Wal*Mart, Target, supermarket chains, etc were to raise their wages by $4/hour, how much would prices have to increase to absorb this change without affecting profits? I've heard people say constantly that a Big Mac will cost $15 and a gallon of milk will cost $10. But, how much would prices really have to change to solely cover the wage increase (not the "we should also pad our profits" increase). Note that I am asking about the large employers. I fully understand that smaller employers would have more trouble.
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Old Jan 16, 2014, 02:32 PM   #24
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http://www.businessweek.com/news/201...onomy-wef-says

Income Inequality Most Likely Threat to World Economy, World Economic Forum Says

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The widening divide in incomes between the poor and rich poses the most likely threat to the global economy over the next decade, according to the World Economic Forum.

Having surveyed 700 people including academics and executives ahead of its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, next week, the forum assessed 31 risks to global prosperity. Inequality in the wake of the international financial crisis and recession is proving a headache for governments worldwide as hiring and wage growth stay weak.
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Old Jan 16, 2014, 02:49 PM   #25
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http://www.upworthy.com/9-out-of-10-...ct-2?c=reccon1

I'm probably not the person to post this because I'm not in any sense of the word unbiased on this subject but is it really this bad?
It's pretty bad right now and getting worse. What's really sad is that a great number of Americans not only have no problem with extreme wealth inequality but actually feel like its justifies their privilege. Wealth equals virtue.

If we don't address this problem aggressively, things will start happening in this country that we used to think could only happen in the 3rd world. That being said, it's a complicated problem this isn't effectively dealt with in a partisan fashion.
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