In Brief: Two Paragraphs That Show You What It's Like to Be Poor in America in 2015

1. From "This Is What Poverty in Jamestown, Tennessee Looks Like" by Scott Rodd:

"'I know older people on Social Security that draw $575 a month,' she said, shaking her head. 'You can’t survive off that. So a lot of them have no choice but to sell their pills to supplement their income.'"

By the way, the median income of people in Jamestown is $12,800 and 56% of the population lives under the poverty line. The article talks about the wretched living conditions of people on Sunshine Lane, a street in the town. Google Street View stops at the edge of it. Jamestown is close to Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, one of the prettiest areas of the Eastern United States.

2. From "Texas Sends Poor Teens to Adult Jail for Skipping School" by Kendall Taggart and Alex Campbell:

"She was booked into jail again, and after a restless night she was once again brought in front of a judge to find out how long she’d be behind bars — and how many days of school she would miss. It came down to how much she owed in fines. For four truancy charges and four charges of failure to appear, she owed $2,729. Her mom was unemployed at the time."

The whole article is filled with stories of kids skipping school. Remember when that was something we laughed at and dismissed? Remember how kids used to be sent to detention or suspended or, in the worst case, expelled for it? Public schools have successfully criminalized students and deputized teachers and administrators. If you're middle-class, you can negotiate your way out of a great deal of the grief. If you're poor, you are subject to the whims of a justice system that seeks to punish you for existing.

At some point, we're going to have to do something about how we treat the poor in this country. If the nation doesn't, if politicians continue to ignore the issue of poverty, the poor might just realize that all those guns the NRA has guaranteed they can bear might have another use.  And the United States will have no one to blame but itself.