McMullen: Economy and the Chiefs - both are suffering

September 16, 2011

I thought things were looking up.

Temperatures are going down and the perpetrator of this year’s Sedalia bank robbery has been caught. And, of course, America’s favorite distraction has finally returned: Football is here.

Though that’s a little bittersweet for local fans of the Kansas City Chiefs, who saw the defending champions of the AFC West get absolutely thrashed by the perennial AFC East bottom-dwelling Buffalo Bills in their own stadium. It was brutal and hearts were broken all over Missouri as people realized that the chances of a second consecutive divisional championship were slim. They will be lucky to escape the season with a winning record, and they have almost no chance of beating the Detroit Lions this weekend.

But a football team that isn’t living up to its potential is a very small problem compared to the problem that we’re now facing: According to recently released Census information, there was a record number of people living in poverty in America in 2010.

Some 46.2 million Americans are living in poverty. You can rest assured that some of them might have escaped that status in 2011, but you can also rest assured that number ultimately went up again this year. It looks like we’re going to keep setting records in the coming years.

I used to think that the economy was recovering fairly well. I used to think that things were looking up. But this is the third annual increase of the poverty rate in America and if the economy is getting on the right track it is doing so on the backs of the disadvantaged.

Who cares if this barely-tangible thing called “the economy” is working again, if it sucks us all dry in the process? Any system that has to drag millions into poverty just to sustain itself clearly isn’t working all that well.

And there’s nothing but hostility: between the rich and the poor, the red and the blue, the Raider and the Chief — we’re still at each other’s throats and the Americans who have found themselves below the poverty line aren’t receiving a warm welcome.

It seems more and more that poverty is turning into something akin to a crime in the minds of many. The poor are poor because they choose to be poor, right? They’re lazy and they’re dragging down the economy with them, right?

Notions like that are insulting and I don’t see how anyone can feel that way in a country where more and more fall under that line each day. I don’t see how you can blame the victims for the crime and I don’t see how you can despise your fellow man because their job wasn’t as secure as yours.

In a time like this, it is important that we support our fellow man. No matter what they’ve done, or how much money they have, or who their friends are. Everyone can recover and everyone will recover but smothering them with disdain or talking down to them isn’t going to help.

The recovery of the “economy” shouldn’t be our goal here. The health of the economy is tied directly to the health of the personal economies of the American people. When the people have jobs that they can live on, and when they can afford to start spending money on more than just the essentials — that’s when the economy will come back. A recovery that comes at the cost of the comfortable lives of millions is a false recovery.

And as far as the Kansas City Chiefs are concerned, well, the outlook isn’t good. But even if you continue to be the laughing stock of the National Football League, I don’t want to hear a bit of it. Because if you can afford to watch the game on television, or look up the score on the Internet later, then you might just be better off than some other people.

And here’s my advice to you: Don’t add to the poverty numbers by betting your money on the Chiefs.