The US Census Bureau reports that the US population has grown to 308 million people. New Yorkers learned that our congressional delegation will shrink from 29 to 27 Members come 2013. And again, for the third decennial census, Rep. Jose Serrano’s (D-Bronx) South Bronx district ranks as the “poorest congressional district in America.”
See related: South Bronx No Longer Nation’s Poorest Congressional District — MichaelBenjamin2012 Blog
The Center for American Progress reports that over a quarter-million people in the South Bronx are living in poverty and one out of two children live in poverty. Many are unemployed and low-wage workers struggling to escape their poverty. Serrano says that his district “has always had poor people. It’s a refection of a lot of things, and the bad economic times have driven a lot of things up.”
Last year, the New York Times coined the term, “Bronx paradox” to describe the twin occurrence of high obesity rates and high levels of hunger in the South Bronx. City health statistics report a growing obesity epidemic among children and adults there. Rates of adult onset diabetes are also growing among poor children. South Bronx residents told pollsters that they went without a meal at least once a week. When asked about this paradox, Serrano answered that the district was a magnet community for the poor. Instead of calling for job creation, he called for more food pantries.
Somehow, the five most impoverished states of Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama and West Virginia are less poor than the South Bronx. There are places in those States that don’t have paved roads, sidewalks, medical centers, or public assistance. The New York Times should investigate that paradox.

Serrano & Chavez Unite For the South Bronx

The plight of the South Bronx has garnered the attention of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The populist dictator has directed the state-owned CITGO Oil and its Simon Bolivar Foundation (SBF) to offer free heating oil and grants-in-aid to South Bronx residents and community organizations. In 2008/2009, low-income residents living in buildings managed by nonprofit housing managers received discounted heating fuel from CITGO and small South Bronx organizations received grants from the SBF. Aid to a persistently poor American community is scoring propaganda points for a paranoid dictator who reviles Presidents Obama.
When Jesus said that the poor would always be among us, he didn’t mean letting them languish in poverty. President Reagan understood the meaning of the gospel when he suggested “giving a man a fish only feeds him for a day, but teaching that man to fish, feeds him for a lifetime.” Reagan well understood the empowering message of the gospel.
New York leaders should heed President Reagan by empowering the poor to break the shackles of poverty. Decades of federal transfer payments (i.e., ADC, food stamps, subsidized housing and Medicaid) have wrought little change. Expanding food pantries, taxing soda or barring the purchase of soda with food stamps do not address the root of the “paradox.” Accepting the assistance of Hugo Chavez is shortsighted and is little more than another government handout. Solid employment and innovative job development strategies are the only anti-poverty solutions capable of lifting families and their children out of poverty.
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