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McCamy Taylor Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-29-11 09:05 PM
Original message
The Disease Called Being Poor in America
Just the facts, Maam

Since some of my readers want less drama and more facts, here are the facts. Class, open your books to chapter eight. Which book, you ask? The Social Determinants of Health edited by Wilkinson and Marmot. If you didnt bring your copy, you can share. Or open your laptops and go to Google eBooks. You can read most of the chapter online.

First, a point of clarification. While poverty is a disease that has many associated ills, today we are talking about something worse than poverty. The topic today is wealth disparity. What is worse for your health than being poor? Being poor in an affluent country.

Yes, yes, I know it sounds unlikely. What about trickle down economics? The poor folks in a rich nation will surely notice the good health of their more affluent neighbors and they will attempt to follow their model by joining a health club and eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. They will have fresh sea food at least three times a week and drink a glass of red wine with dinner. They will move away from polluted areas near petrochemical refineries and find themselves a nice little enclave far from the city, preferably gated, because then they wont have to worry about crime. When they feel their stress level rising, they will see a therapist. Or maybe they will try yoga or biofeedback. A trip to a spa can do wonderful things for the blood pressure. The poor will see that the rich have abandoned tobacco products and they will follow suit, because they want to be rich and successful, too.

Thats the way it ought to be. But it aint.

Lets consider one of the leading causes of death of young people, homicide. Turn to the graph on page 157. Notice how high homicide rates are in the states with the highest degree of wealth disparity and how low they are in places where money in distributed more equally. Whats that? You say these statistics indicate that the poor are killing the rich in order to get their money? Nice thought, but the evidence does not bear it out. Turn the page.

A boy brought up in Harlem has less chance of living to 65 years old than a boy in Bangledesh. For men and women under the age of 65, relative risks in Harlem compared to the rest of the United States were highest for drug deaths, homicide, alcohol deaths and chirrosisin that order.


When there is a huge gap between the haves and the have-nots, it is the have-nots that die at an increased rate. And they die of medical problems that are directly related to the stress, depression and self loathing that comes from being poor in a land of plenty. When everyone in your country is hungry, you feel the hunger pangs, but you do not blame yourself for being hungry. You know that there is a larger problem, one that your society needs to address. If you and your kids go to bed hungry while the guy down the road throws uneaten steak to his dog, you feel like a failure. You know that the rich guys kids laugh at your kids for having torn up shoes. You know that in your town, you are called Poor white trash or Welfare Queen depending upon whether you are Black or white. When your kids ask for a computer so they can do their homework, your heart breaks a little inside even as you answer gruffly We dont need that kind of silliness. And the children ---those kids that you love enough to throw yourself in the path of a moving car in order to save them----they look at you and think Mom is mad at me But you arent angry at the children. You are angry at yourself. Because you havent done enough for them.

When folks internalize their anger, they start looking for ways to ease the pain. Alcohol helps---temporarily. The same goes for drugs. Cigarettes can be your best friend if you feel friendless. And so what if you are cutting short your life by smoking? You are worthless. Worse than worthless. You are a drag on society, a parasite, an ugly blight that no one wants to see. When the anger gets to be too much to bear, you lash out at anyone who gets near---including your spouse and your kids. Eventually, all that stress leads to depression. You are tired all the time. You find it hard to get motivated. Yes, you could go back to school, but with what money? Yes, there are government grants, but they would probably just laugh at you. Those of you who have never seen the world through the deep grey tinted lenses of major depression can not understand how debilitating the disease is and how difficult it can be to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps when you can not even see your own bootstraps through the fog---

Yes, I know. I am getting emotional. Lets back away from our own countrys ills and study a land on the other side of the ocean, Great Britain. Everyone remembers Margaret Thatcher, right?

During the 1980s income differences widened more rapidly than they had ever been recorded to have done before, and more rapidly than they had in any other developed country---


Thats on page 158. On page 159:

The widening of income differences during the later 1980s was accompanied by a slowing down in the rate of improvement in national mortality rates among age groups below 45 years old and by the widening of differences in death rates between the richer and poorer areas of the country.


Thats just Great Britains crappy socialized medicine? Nice try. The same thing has happened in the United States, the land with the best health care system on earth. Take out the assigned article from the New York Times

In 1980-82, Dr. Singh said, people in the most affluent group could expect to live 2.8 years longer than people in the most deprived group (75.8 versus 73 years). By 1998-2000, the difference in life expectancy had increased to 4.5 years (79.2 versus 74.7 years), and it continues to grow, he said.

After 20 years, the lowest socioeconomic group lagged further behind the most affluent, Dr. Singh said, noting that life expectancy was higher for the most affluent in 1980 than for the most deprived group in 2000.


http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/23/us/23health.html

The second article is even scarier. From 2008

For the first time since the Spanish influenza of 1918, life expectancy is falling for a significant number of American women.The downward trend is evident in places in the Deep South, Appalachia, the lower Midwest and in one county in Maine. It is not limited to one race or ethnicity but it is more common in rural and low-income areas. The most dramatic change occurred in two areas in southwestern Virginia (Radford City and Pulaski County), where women's life expectancy has decreased by more than five years since 1983.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/20...

Poor women in poor counties are actually living shorter lives than they did 20 years ago. The article blames smoking and obesity. Those who believe in Welfare Queens will tell you that these women have been eating too much steak and sitting in their Easy Boy recliners, watching too much cable television while squandering their SSI on cigarettes and booze and crack cocaine or meth. However, sloth and gluttony are not necessarily to blame. The poor tend to live in heavily polluted areas where it is impossible to go outdoors to exercise. They can not do what their more affluent neighbors do, i.e. join a health club. The poor have to make a limited food budget stretch, and the cheapest, most filling foods are high in fat. Women have an especially hard time quitting smoking, because of the stigma that is attached to being overweight. If they put on ten pounds when they try to quit, they feel worse about themselves, rather than better. And, of course, they lack health insurance, so there is no supportive health care practitioner---a nurse practitioner or a family physician---to coax them into making healthy lifestyle choices. Yes, they know what they are supposed to eat. But there is a big difference between knowing and doing when it comes to healthy living. Factors that encourage healthy lifestyles include a sense of self determination---I yam what I yam---a sense of being part of a community effort and the conviction that the lifestyle change will do some good. If your days are filled with regret and self loathing and despair, it is hard to imagine that anything you do can make a difference.

I can see from your frowns that you still do not understand. It is mighty hard to put yourself in the shoes of someone who has no shoes if you have never been forced to go barefoot yourself. So, Im going to switch gears for a moment. Lets put aside the textbooks and the scientific studies and read some fiction that was not entirely fiction.

There was a brief time in Americas history when the poor were not reviled. Their plight could not be ignored, because everyone was either poor or knew someone who was poor or both. And there was a government in Washington that did not try to dress up the numbers to make it appear that they were bringing prosperity. The federal government went out of its way to give the voiceless a voice. It hired photographers to record the faces of people who would never have been able to afford a family portrait. It showed that poverty and suffering have a human face---a face just like yours and mine, except etched with worry.

During that national disaster, that epidemic of poverty, John Steinbeck did more than quote statistics. He made it impossible for Americans to look away from the pain of being poor in a land of plenty. He did this by getting inside their heads, letting us live their hopes and their despairs. From the Grapes of Wrath----Yes, I know its not on your syllabus. So Ill read a passage to you aloud.

People gonna have a look in their eye. They gonna look at you an their face says I dont like you, you son of a bitch. Gonna be deputy sheriffs, an theyll push you aroun. You camp on the roadside an theyll move you on. You gonna see in peoples face how they hate you. An---Ill tell you somepin. They hate you cause theyre scairt. They know a hungry fellow gonna get food even if he got to take it. They know that fallow lans a sin an somebody gonna take it. What the hell! You never been called Okie yet.

Tom said Okie? Whats that?

Well. Okie use ta mean you was from Oklahoma. Now it means youre a dirty son-of-a-bitch. Okie means youe scum. But I cant tell you nothin. You got to go there.


You got to go there. You have to see it for yourself. Sadly, the press today is more interested in the sex lives of wealthy debutantes than in the day to day suffering of our countrys poor. Thats why I encourage nonprofessional writers (like me) to tell these stories. Because the first step to treating the disease is to acknowledge that it is real.
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Fumesucker Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-29-11 09:09 PM
Response to Original message
1. Well said, thanks for posting, recced.. n/t
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FirstLight Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-29-11 09:29 PM
Response to Original message
2. omg, this is heartbreaking,...... and the story of my life

"When folks internalize their anger, they start looking for ways to ease the pain. Alcohol helps---temporarily. The same goes for drugs. Cigarettes can be your best friend if you feel friendless. And so what if you are cutting short your life by smoking? You are worthless. Worse than worthless. You are a drag on society, a parasite, an ugly blight that no one wants to see...."

I may not be lashing out so much, but the tiredness, motivation issues, depression etc...all there.

Still trying to make healthier choices every day, and it is an uphill battle.... :( that's all i can say right now
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Kennah Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-29-11 11:42 PM
Response to Reply #2
11. I live this story
Lashing out, tired, lack of motivation, dejected from all the direct and indirect rejections from jobs to which I've applied.

Figured when I got laid off, I'd have plenty of time to catch up on stuff I've been wanting to do. That ain't been happening.
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Cleita Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-29-11 09:34 PM
Response to Original message
3. Someone said we are heading into being a third world
country with the decimation of the middle class and unemployment and poverty increasing. Where we are unique is that we are still a very wealthy country. So we have a third world country economy in the midst of being extravagantly wealthy and being one of the wealthiest countries in the world. That's nothing to be proud of.
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RKP5637 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-29-11 09:45 PM
Response to Reply #3
5. Exactly what is happening, and as you say, "That's nothing to be proud of." n/t
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RKP5637 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-29-11 09:42 PM
Response to Original message
4. K&R !!! n/t
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w0nderer Donating Member (430 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-29-11 09:48 PM
Response to Original message
6. k&r n/t
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truedelphi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-29-11 09:56 PM
Response to Original message
7. Very good OP.
Covers a lot of main points.

And of course, poverty when everyone was poor, and yet everyone was for the most part civilized, is very different than being poor in areas where no one is civilized.

I remember working with some teens in my very first job out of HS. one of them was talking about how some months before, her apartment in one of Chicago's worst ghettos had been robbed. And the thieves had stolen everything, even the trash containers. I would overhear discussions of which friends were in jail, and which friends had been shot.

That is a totally different type of poverty that what the older generations had experienced during the Depression.
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Arctic Dave Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-29-11 10:04 PM
Response to Original message
8. Mr. or Ms. Taylor, this post is why I come to DU.
Your words force me to think and get me out of my comfort zone of how I see our world.

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GreenPartyVoter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-29-11 10:27 PM
Response to Original message
9. Thank you for bringing this up.
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Tuesday Afternoon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-29-11 10:27 PM
Response to Original message
10. k&r
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cutlassmama Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-30-11 01:01 AM
Response to Original message
12. KandR
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OneGrassRoot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-30-11 01:08 AM
Response to Original message
13. I can't tell you how much I appreciate this series...
You hit upon so many points in a succinct way that I haven't seen anywhere else, and you do it so eloquently and clearly.

K&R

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StarsInHerHair Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-30-11 02:09 AM
Response to Original message
14. story of the Forgotten Man, the only difference between a bum & a regular
man(& woman) is a job (that pays middle class wages)
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handmade34 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-30-11 03:21 PM
Response to Reply #14
23. hmm
reminds me... I worked for a bit as a Correctional Officer and chatting with a co-worker one day, he truthfully stated "the difference between us and them, is they got caught"
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StarsInHerHair Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-30-11 04:18 PM
Response to Reply #23
26. I was quoting a line from "My Man Godfrey" from the 1930s...
Edited on Tue Aug-30-11 04:22 PM by StarsInHerHair
how you jumped to "getting caught"-at what, a job?-is beyond me


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jIofWwupLA from "Gold Diggers of 1933"
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Arctic Dave Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-30-11 09:12 AM
Response to Original message
15. K&R
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madamesilverspurs Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-30-11 10:08 AM
Response to Original message
16. Wish this had been available a few days ago.
It would have made a powerful handout for those in attendance at a showing of the film Food Stamped. After the film several people spoke about attendant issues. Given my firsthand experience I spoke about some of the realities of relying on food stamps. I mentioned that Reagan had proclaimed my "queen" status and that I'm still waiting for my damn throne. I also noted that those who will deprive you of jobs and resources will then accuse you of being poor and hungry.

Thanks for writing this, I'm going to share it with many people who are working hard to make positive changes.
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SoapBox Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-30-11 10:35 AM
Response to Original message
17. K & R! n/t
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TBF Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-30-11 10:42 AM
Response to Original message
18. That part about everyone knowing someone who was poor -
that ain't just depression-era history. That is right now in the United States of America. Folks fool themselves and call themselves (and each other) "middle" class ... but what are their actual income levels? How much does 46K buy you in this country today? Can those at 46K pay their medical bills - or are they simply paying their mortgage/rent and holding on? How many actually have savings? How many are unemployed? How many are hungry? How many are a paycheck or two away from being kicked out of their home?

I see a lot of denial going on ... thank you for the excellent OP.
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OhioChick Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-30-11 10:50 AM
Response to Original message
19. K&R n/t
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Demeter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-30-11 12:46 PM
Response to Original message
20. Relative Poverty is the Tertiary (3rd Level) Disease
The primary diseases are Greed and Stupidity, which cause some to look down on others as sub-human and unworthy, simply based on relative economic standing.

The Secondary disease is Growing Wealth Inequality, as the Haves seek to become Have Mores and pursue a "beggar thy neighbor" policy in all forms of discrimination: resource allocation, hiring, voting, regulating, enforcing...

and finally comes the Relative Poverty, the end result of a whole lot of putative Christians ignoring their Teacher's lessons....

Mental Illness, and Moral Illness.
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Melinda Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-30-11 01:01 PM
Response to Original message
21. .....
Thank you. :cry: :cry: :cry: :cry: :cry:
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DaveJ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-30-11 02:56 PM
Response to Original message
22. K&R
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handmade34 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-30-11 03:26 PM
Response to Original message
24. thought provoking...
good stuff... inspires me to write my story some day. I was struck mostly by the sentiment of "being poor in an affluent society"... poor is relative and truth be known, my best times were had when I was poor

BUT,... there is much tragicness about what is happening in our society right now and it is a crime that we have poor in this affluent society... I see the harm it does everyday
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bvar22 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-30-11 04:05 PM
Response to Original message
25. John Edwards (warts & all) at LEAST was willing to priortize this issue.
The LAST time "The Poor" and "Poverty" were spoken about in Campaign 2008
was the day Edwards dropped out.

"Poverty" should ALWAYS be a Front Burner PLATFORM ISSUE for the "Democratic Party".
When was the last time you heard a Democratic Party Official speak about Poverty in America?
When was the last time you heard a someone in the Democratic Party Leadership
prioritize Poverty Reduction.?

LBJ's War on Poverty
"Forty years ago today in his first State of the Union speech, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a "War On Poverty." Johnson's declaration came just weeks after succeeding to the White House upon the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Making poverty a national concern set in motion a series of bills and acts, creating programs such as Head Start, food stamps, work study, Medicare and Medicaid, which still exist today. The programs initiated under Johnson brought about real results, reducing rates of poverty and improved living standards for America's poor.

But the poverty rate has remained steady since the 1970s and today, Americans have allowed poverty to fall off the national agenda, says Sheldon Danziger, a professor of public policy at the University of Michigan."

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=15...


THAT was the "Democratic Party" I joined in 1964.
I would FIGHT & DIE for those principles.

I don't even recognize what calls itself the Democratic Party today.
It certainly is NOT the party I joined so long ago.

How far we have fallen.
GOD!... I MISS that Party.
:cry:


You will know them by their WORKS,
not by their excuses.

Solidarity!
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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JANdad Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-30-11 05:50 PM
Response to Reply #25
28. But but but...
we gotta make history and go for Hope and Change....
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McCamy Taylor Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-30-11 08:24 PM
Response to Reply #25
30. Edwwards was shot down early by the MSM, because he would have been
a successful president during the engineered recession. I am convinced that Obama was selected by the MSM because the banksters knew his cool, intellectual style would not reassure Americans who were out of work, homeless and hungry.
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bvar22 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-30-11 09:25 PM
Response to Reply #30
31. I STILL remeber when he placed 2nd to Hillary's 3rd in Iowa,
and the next day, his name was NOT MENTIONED in ANY media, even MSNBC.
It was like they "disappeared" him.
They ALL ignored his 2nd Place and insisted that the results showed a "horse race" between Obama & Hillary.
I mean, WTF? :shrug:



Solidarity!


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


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Dont call me Shirley Donating Member (396 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-01-11 02:53 PM
Response to Reply #25
33. That's why he was smeared and continues to be so, "Two Americas"
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mdmc Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-30-11 05:29 PM
Response to Original message
27. for the Grace of God go I
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Auggie Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-30-11 06:46 PM
Response to Original message
29. K&R
Edited on Tue Aug-30-11 06:48 PM by Auggie
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desertrat777 Donating Member (54 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-30-11 09:31 PM
Response to Original message
32. The truth about poverty
Thank you for being truthful in a land - America, land of the brave, home of the free - where we have been taught that poverty is "your own damn fault!" The neocon's propaganda regarding "rugged individualism" have not helped, either.

Indeed, poverty is a disease - a disease, not just of the individuals involved, but of a diseased economy, a diseased government, and a diseased set of national values. But it is more than just a disease. It is a construct, a result of the hegemony of the uber rich and their sycophants over the rest of us.

In native cultures, such as those of tribes in South America and elsewhere, greed is seen as a disease. How about that! A person who accumulates wealth far beyond those around him or her is seen as having a disease.

I'd like to take your line of thought a bit further, then.

It is time that we start being truthful about the uber rich, about the members of the global oligarchy who rig the sails so that money flows to them at the expense of the many. These billionaires also have a disease, as inordinate wealth is a disease.

And right now we are suffering an epidemic of both diseases, poverty and extreme wealth. Perhaps, by curing one, we can cure the other?
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Dont call me Shirley Donating Member (396 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-01-11 03:02 PM
Response to Original message
34. Poverty is the disease caused by the rich and rich only.
The rich are mentally ill criminals. They lack the higher emotions of compassion, empathy, sharing, community. They will lie, steal, abuse, kill to get whatever they desire. Complete control over others is is a highly coveted feature of the rich. They suck every bit of life out of every life they touch. The story of Dracula is the story of the rich, for that is who they are, parasites.
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tooeyeten Donating Member (441 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-01-11 05:46 PM
Response to Original message
35. poverty
has benefited law enforcement and all their business suppliers and prison builders.
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Blue_Tires Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-01-11 05:49 PM
Response to Original message
36. thanks for this...
kick
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TheBigotBasher Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-01-11 05:50 PM
Response to Original message
37. Thank you for this
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