Why poverty in Oklahoma is being compared to a Third World nation

homeless mother with her daughterEach year, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof holds a Win-A-Trip contest for college students to accompany him on a reporting trip to the developing world. Most years, his trip explores  global poverty in far-flung places like Congo or Myanmar. This year, he decided to add a stop in Tulsa to see the impact of the nation’s 20-year experiment with revamping welfare.

His disheartening findings were featured in a recent Sunday’s New York Times column. “The embarrassing truth,” he writes, “is that welfare reform has resulted in a layer of destitution that echoes poverty in countries like Bangladesh.”

In 1996, President Bill Clinton and a Republican Congress approved legislation to “end welfare as we know it.” Under the replacement Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, it became harder for single parents to qualify for cash support. Recipients were subject to work requirements, harsh penalties for non-compliance, and strict time limits for receiving assistance.

Twenty years later, the result is that welfare barely exists in Oklahoma. A monthly average of just 2,469 adults were enrolled in TANF in Oklahoma in fiscal year 2015. That’s less than the number of women in Oklahoma prisons. Prior to the 1996 law, Oklahoma provided cash assistance to half of all families in poverty; now it goes to fewer than one in ten.  The share of poor families receiving cash assistance in Oklahoma is less than half the national average (23 percent) and eighth lowest in the nation. Even during the depths of the recession in 2008-2010, while the number of children in families with no working parent rose substantially, the number of TANF recipients barely budged.

Furthermore, even for those families that do manage to qualify for cash support, the benefit is well below what is needed to get by. The maximum cash payment for a family of three in Oklahoma is $292 per month, which is less than 20 percent of the federal poverty level and less than it was 25 years ago. The average TANF family receives less than $200 each month in cash support.

It’s the plight of children in families with incomes far below the poverty level that drew Kristof’s attention during his time in Tulsa.  Extreme poverty is defined by the U.S. Census Bureau as household income of less than 50 percent of the poverty level, which is $10,450 per year for a family of three, or $200 a week.  There are now about 270,000 Oklahomans living in extreme poverty, including 95,000 children, or slightly more than one out of every ten Oklahoma children. Nationally, three million children live in households earning less than $2 per person per day, according to an important new book on extreme poverty in America by Katheryn Edin and Luke Shafer.


Kristof interviewed some of the Oklahomans in extreme poverty, like Bobbie Ingraham, a 47-old recovering addict who is raising her young granddaughter. Ingraham receives SNAP support to purchase food but has zero cash income. Zero. Without income, Ingraham is unable to make utility payments in the house she inherited from her grandmother and has had her electricity, gas, and water cut off. 

[pullquote]“Due to repeated budget cuts and a mix of indifference and disapproval regarding families in poverty, every one of the investments that Kristof champions has been cut in Oklahoma in recent years.”[/pullquote]

Kristof declares welfare “reform” a failure, but he is not calling for a return to the pre-TANF welfare program. Instead, he calls for greater investments in programs that have been shown to support children and families, such as parenting coaching, high-quality early childhood programs, financial literacy training, drug treatment, and job training. Unfortunately, due to repeated budget cuts and a mix of indifference and disapproval regarding families in poverty, every one of the investments that Kristof champions has been cut in Oklahoma in recent years.

Faced with a 30 percent cut in its programs and activities budget, the state Department of Education slashed funding for high-quality early childhood programs by $2.5 million and eliminated funding for financial literacy programs. Oklahoma used to invest heavily in parenting training for disadvantaged families, but the Department of Education just eliminated the last $1 million from the Parents-as-Teachers program, while the Health Department has cut funding for the Children First program by 30 percent since 2011. Until five years ago, the state provided over $2 million for adult education programs; that funding was wiped out in 2011. Drug treatment providers had their contracts cut earlier this year by the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and those in need of residential drug treatment face long waiting lists. The number of families qualifying for child care subsidies has been declining for years, and in June DHS announced a freeze – to be lifted in August – on accepting new families for subsidies.  And as a final blow, a single mother with two kids working year-round at $10/hr will now lose $231 a year because the Legislature cut the state Earned Income Tax Credit.

This systematic undermining of the safety net is why the plight of low-income families in Oklahoma is being compared to those in Third World nations. Oklahoma lawmakers needs to grapple with the harsh reality that a large number of our state’s children are being raised in extreme poverty — and Oklahoma has nothing even close to a real strategy in place to address the problem.

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Former Executive Director David Blatt joined OK Policy in 2008 and served as its Executive Director from 2010 to 2019. He previously served as Director of Public Policy for Community Action Project of Tulsa County and as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma State Senate. He has a Ph.D. in political science from Cornell University and a B.A. from the University of Alberta. David has been selected as Political Scientist of the Year by the Oklahoma Political Science Association, Local Social Justice Champion by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice, and Public Citizen of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers.

44 thoughts on “Why poverty in Oklahoma is being compared to a Third World nation

  1. I live in Oklahoma and I know several families that don’t qualify for help by $7 dollars. The woman described in the article is she able to work? Get a job, choose your priorities, cigarettes and beer is not on the list. Several families I know have generational welfare recipients. Many have no income and baby Daddy or boyfriends or family that help them. They also know every organization that will help too. Learn to cook and not expect backpacks is another pet peeve. Cook stop buying ridiculous types of food. Make it last. Go back to commodities, learn to work, two jobs if needed. It can be done. Mother at 16, nurse and grandmother with struggling successful children.

  2. Joyce knows “several families.” She’s obviously an expert on welfare and and support for people down on their luck. Gosh, I know several families too; some are working long hours with severe disabilities. Why do non-Christians like Joyce even get to comment in Christian Oklahoma about the treatment of their fellow citizens?

  3. If “Christian Oklahoma” were truly Christian in practice, the compassion and concern for the poor and disenfranchised that Jesus taught would be more evident.

  4. And how many legislators in Oklahoma claim to be “Christians?”

    I bet nearly all of them.

    But, it appears that nearly none of them actually are Christians.

  5. Way to go Joyce! I sure would like to know why the woman referred to in the article does not have a job?! People need to learn to take care of themselves instead of becoming accustomed to handouts! Smh

  6. If we were LIKE Jesus we would ALL help the poor however we are human. Good article of the obvious truth about the poor! Sad that the government cannot budget and/or have enough assistance to help everyone… I raised three children as a single mother! The government helped me with daycare, food and college! I’m thankful for that however I always had a job…..

  7. What’s needed is a Basic Guaranteed Income for all. As well as Single Payer Healthcare.
    We need to stop spending billions to the war industry and fix what’s broken at home.
    The people in this country have been squeezed to the breaking point.
    We’ll keep getting what we’re getting if we keep doing what we’re doing.
    The poverty across this nation, especially here in OK is due to greed of a few and the lack of imagination of the many.

  8. There are too many multi-generational welfare recipients. Sick of working my ass off so some lazy worthless person can sit at home. Get off your butt and get a freaking job!! Any job!!

  9. Our church of approximately 700, gives out a weeks worth of food to approximately 450 families a week. We give food twice a week and a family may come twice a month. Many local churches have similar programs.

  10. Oklahoman’s are the most giving and loving people I have ever experienced. It does not take a bombing to make us so. Many of us were proudly born to serve. There is an over abundance of women of color in our prisons,with well-documented longer periods of sentencing, and perceived by the judicial system to be more violent prone. Our substance abuse and mental health system is in dire need of an overhaul as are the other agencies serving the abused and neglected children and families in the State. It has always astounded me that a great many people hired to serve in State Agencies are the walking anathemas to the stated mission of said agencies(I realize that this is anecdotal). I worked for many of these agencies to attempt to change their systems to meet the needs of their (units of care) as they would refer to them in staff infections…or people with unmet needs as I saw it. I learned several things: Dinosaurs have very small brains…but if you are a virus and do not fit in because you are client centered…sometimes you can make the dinosaur take a step forward instead of twenty steps backward. I learned to sit quietly slightly lower than the bureaucrat I was dealing with as if they were a Tribal Elder….to lean forward and look up with humility and clarity when asking for help for a client…to never ever approach the Church or institution or Nation a family was spiritually fed from to get food for them….to wear mens’ cologne when going to a prison of any gender as a barrier…women quest for hugs or any physical contact, men quest for control or intimidation of space…this helped me maintain my mission…to serve…humbly…wisely…and I have found other viruses in those same agencies who are just as effective and humble as I could be…and in not for profits that really give and give and do not spend all their money on administrative costs…I found some virulently effective givers and servers of humans. There are other fiefdoms that have movers and shakers among the 39 Sovereign Nations that make their headquarters in this State. I have hope for Oklahoma. I cannot help it, I love Oklahoma with all our faults and foibles we have the capacity and the post-dustbowl grit to make it if we can just reach out and serve another. MVTO

  11. Bridges Out of Poverty organization is a good starting point…I believe faith based in origin. A truly altruistic attempt to ameliorate Oklahoma’s dark side regarding the poverty issue here. It’s an attempt…is it adequate enough…NO!!! Oklahomans need to do more politically…this is a Red GOP state…bottom line is to maintain corporate welfare and human welfare be damned!

  12. I work my ass off to provide for 3 kids & I don’t get any help. I’m tired of hearing “I’m hungry” from my kids. I make to much before taxes for food stamps so I go to.food pantries regularly to make up. Our main meals are ground turkey & potatoes. I shop aldis. I miss food stamps. Oh & I’ve always had shitty health I surance that I really can’t afford that dont help with much becuz I’m getting garnished of my wages from a hospital from back in 2008. That 400+ a month they take out my check could really help food wise. They said f me when I called to.ask to lower the garnishments.

  13. I was a Social Service Specialist III and worked at OKDHS in Tulsa for 22 years in 17 different positions. I had friends in every division and the state office because I was good at my jobs. I was even chosen employee of the year, and I was moved around a great deal because I so easily adapted to change. I loved and respected all of my clients; even giving the eulogy at one of thei funerals. The last position I held before I was offered a retirement buyout and then made so uncomfortable I retire before I reached the coveted 25 year mark was Coordinating and Implementing a Life Skills program in Tulsa County at the Tulsa 72C office from April 2007- November 2011. All TANF applicants had to go through this program by attending 2 classes per day on everything from Adult Basic Education and Career assessments, drug testing, nutrition, domestic violence, parenting, choosing childcare,budgeting your money,career counseling, birth control/HIV testing and so much more. This started with a 6 hour orientation that I presented twice a week to new applicants. The attendees received their seduces for assessments and classes were encouraged to help one another succeed by providing rides and helping one another with bus s schedules. By understanding that by pulling one another up they helped others and themselves,and to realize their personal potential through enrolling in Ged classes and special programs, and enrolling in programs at Tulsa Community College and Tulsa Technology Center. I discouraged enrolling in proprietory schools that were allowed to all themselves “colleges”. We all worked together for the success of all. Problem: once clients got through the classes, completed their education component and got a job; the education was not enough to get a,job in Tulsa or surrounding area that would pay enough to take care of their families, and rent and childcare cost became too high; while cash assistance ended and snap benefits were greatly reduced I was told the program would continue after I retired, but it was discontinued immediately, and the community partners who taught the life skill classes were not notified. Suddenly, no one showed up for their classes. I know this because they called me to find out what happened. I loved the program, but it was only a begining and there was only funding for the education and career assessments. Community Educators from in and around Tulsa taught the life skills classes which were 90 minutes long free of charge. All of those relationships I built for OKDHS TULSA were lost due to in consideration and beauracy. I have had 2 other positions where I have reconnected with these great people and again provided lifes kills classes to disadvantaged women and men in Tulsa. I run into clients who still remember what the program did for them and wish it had continued. I am one of many employees of OKDHS who believes if we had worked harder to help the single parents on our case loads to build foundations based on healthy life skills instead of expecting people who never received healthy, constructive parenting to complete their education when school has been unimportant in their families for generations, and have never developed the skills to obtain a good job, deal with people in the middle class and above, don’t know the secrets of success in a middle class job market. We expect them to learn and change too much too quickly. And… don’t get me started on welfare reform and the established church’s lack of doingits part.

  14. This is for Joyce and the other “get-a-jobbers” out there. I used to feel the way you do until I became a Catholic and began to see the situation as it is. Many of these women HAVE jobs that pay squat. Get a better job? Where, especially without skills? Or if they have skills … Have you checked out the cost of child care? Go back to college? Have you seen the price of tuition lately? You have no idea these people’s circumstances. Some have been abandoned by deadbeat husbands, and pursuing them is difficult, if not impossible. Others threw out abusive husbands and have no help. No, ladies… It comes down to the kids. No matter what kind of “trash” the moms may be, the kids don’t deserve this. If you think they do… Well, you have a real reckoning coming your way someday.

  15. No one chooses to live in poverty. No one chooses to be poor. No one chooses a life of hand outs. I challenge anyone of you uppity people to live on government assistance in Oklahoma. It would be a life of such meager existence. It is it not these families that are depleting Oklahoma’s resources. It is the wealthy bureaucrats who want all the luxury and none of the responsibility that have robbed our great state. More and more people are becoming disparate in Oklahoma. Desperate people do desperate things. As a state we need to stand up to the ” privileged few ” and demand that they be held accountable. The wealthy businesses that only take take and take and never give back to a community or state are vultures of the worst kind.

  16. I live near a small rural town and most of the people are generational entitlement recipients or trying all scams to get on the government roll. We offer jobs and these people don’t want to work. Being unmarried with several kids and shacking up is how the money rolls in. Draw a “crazy check” yet pop out kids left and right. Too crazy to work yet not too crazy raise kids?!?! We have rent property and offer free mowers and free gas yet they won’t mow their yards. They also won’t work and these are jobs that pay cash with no record to track. They expect everyone else to take care of them and give them free groceries from the local churches that they do not attend. They have money for smokes, huge quanties of beer and pop (no milk,lol), drugs, and fried food from the convenience store. They steal air conditioners and strip out the copper and steal metal to sell from people willing to get up and work. There are many that have been set up with good paying jobs, but they don’t want to work everyday or get up that early. There is no work ethic and they play up to the sympathies of others. Child follow by example. There are a few struggling to get out and they are successful, yet they don’t receive any help and these are the ones who could really use help. Funny how they don’t help out the “handout” group either. We can’t get people to work as they want to just stand around and talk and want to be paid for nothing. Most claim to want a job, but won’t show up or call because they don’t want someone telling them what to do. Being responsible and accountable is not their thing.

  17. I agree our welfare is awful. It’s hard for a single mom to go back after having a baby when daycare costs $500/no plus all of these sign up fees and field trip fees. The town I live in here in Oklahoma, majority of jobs pay minimum wage up to $9/hr max. Poverty is definitely a problem here but in all honesty majority of the people on welfare here choose not to work or choose not to get a better job in fear of their assistance getting cut off. In the town I live in now, a lot of the people on welfare are druggies or lazy slugs. The junk I’ve seen these people buy with food stamps is absolutely disgusting.

  18. Joyce, Ashley, and all of those spouting of about jobs and “I could do it, can do it, have done it” and so forth it would be wise of you to count those lucky stars if you think your little world cannot/will not be turned upside down in the blink of an eye.

    I went from being married for 26 years, working and going to college, raising our son in a intact family, buying a home, and not worrying about putting food on the table, paying the utilities, providing for my child’s needs, getting my hair done every three months, clothing, new car, gas, etc TO a disabled, single parent. The ex is THOUSANDS behind in support – working under the table supports him and what’s her name to the tune of nearly a thousand dollars a month i.e. the support that is no longer a part of my household income. The home, car, worry free utility payments, child’s needs, any and all (now consider frivolous luxuries) “extras” like haircuts for my son, my hair appointments for me, makeup, new clothing, shoes, eating out, and plenty of gas are long gone.

    I now live off of SSD (not SSI I WORKED ALL MY LIFE) and with shut off notices, begging for charity, $90 in food stamps, relying on the school and charitable organizations to provide my son with Christmas gifts (birthday gifts, cake, party, and so forth are long gone), going to the food bank twice a month instead of four because it’s 16 miles rt and the gas just isn’t available, I can’t always afford the phone ($17.49/m) so it’s typical off every other month when I have to pay it to keep it, and going anywhere but the local doctor, store, and post office is out of the question. My 15 year old walks to the store and post office a lot, which is three miles round trip to save on the $20/m gas budget in case God forbid there is some sort of emergency or he misses the bus to school and we have to drive the car thereby “wasting gas” – last month I drifted into the gas station on 0 miles to go in my 16 year old gas guzzler. I have had to cancel a specialists appointment four times because I don’t have the gas to go approximately 200/miles to get there I haven’t rescheduled because what’s the point I cannot get there and so in live in pain, I have considerable edema, my circulation disallows exspousure to the sun and temperatures over about 65 degrees (have to run the “giving up the ghost anytime now” ac it’s over 100 right now), and I have heart and lung conditions to boot.

    The landlord gripes about the lawn needing mowed more that once a month but she will just have to keep griping unless she reverses her position on buying gas for the mower. I hand weed (which is PAINFUL for me), I don’t have the gas, instead of using the weed wacker and I do it around 9pm. My 15 year old helps as well as having a one day a week job a friend’s mother drives them to because the friend works there too – the 15 year old cannot can’t get another job because reliable transportation does not exist. The 15 year old gives half the meager pay received to help buy food and pay utilities the other half is to continue playing tennis in hopes of a scholarship to college.

    This is just SOME of my life now! I worry every day and cry every night, not for myself but for my failure to provide my son with a worry free childhood…. Like I said you better count those lucky stars ~ my story can become your story in the blink of an eye.

  19. I too used to just say, “Get a job. Don’t have children if you can’t afford them, etc. etc. As I’ve matured, I have become more aware of the many hurdles to be overcome by those who don’t have the education,skills, good health, or benefits required to live decently in the richest country in the world. It’s shameful.

  20. I lived in Iran, Pakistan, and been to several other third world countries and have witnessed what type of living ng conditions those people suffer with. I now live in Oklahoma. I have yet to see anything that resembles even the lower class of Society in those third world countries. The author of this article should be ashamed of themselves for making this comparison. If you haven’t traveled to both of the places you are writing about it’s a fiction article and should be presented that way. If you have been to both you are a liar and need to be exposed for it.

  21. IF I recall, the woman in the article has a criminal history. Go find a job with a criminal history? It’s almost impossible, if not completely impossible in this state.

  22. The average welfare recipient is a white single mom with 2 kids. She is on welfare about 18 months. Look it up. Stop repeating mythical stories about “welfare queens”

  23. I can’t see starving children as a good plan. No birth control,,,No abortion,,,No food for children after they get here. It is more sickening to see the self proclaimed Christians that completely ignore their Bible. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, love thy neighbor, any of that ring a bell??

  24. Rou is the only one with clarity on this. I too have been and lived in ‘third world’ countries. Tuffn up America. It’s not gonna get any better. Now, Oklahoma is a special kind of stupid with HEAVY HYPOCRISY. Let’s start drug testing ALL state employees randomly selected by those who are unfortunately being subjected to “get a job’s”. Ok I can’t wait till this state …ah fk it

  25. What’s with all these loudmouthed idiots blaming the poor for being poor? You friggin morons are the problem, turn off the Fox news, d*psh*ts. I worked two jobs, then one full time and a full course load at OU, while raising my little girls by myself, and needed assistance the whole time. Wages have been frozen in this country for almost a decade, the inflation-adjusted minimum wage works out to less than it was in 1969, yet you idiots think its the poor’s fault for being poor. Do me a favor, stfu. When my taxes no longer go to pay for trillion-dollar fighter planes that don’t fly, you can stop paying to help your struggling neighbors. In the meantime, if you have that much issue helping those neighbors survive, pack your sh*t and gtfo of my state, you’re not Okies, and your lack of compassion for your fellows proves it.

  26. The War on Poverty started in the late 1960s by Lyndon Bill Johnson (democrat/socialist). Over 20 trillion dollars has been spent and guess what we have had more poor, unemployed people ever since. (Now we have 95 million working age adults unemployed the most ever in the history of America.) Liberal socialist policies destroyed families and made the need for 2 parent homes and families with father’s obsolete. The government became the father. Leading to generation after generation of impoverished dependent people. When will liberal progressives realize that every “feel good” policy they pass makes poverty worse. The poor get poorer and the rich get richer as the middle class fade away. Look at Latin America where socialism and liberal progressive policies have taken root for centuries. The result is millions of impoverished with a few rich and wealthy corrupt politicians. Obama is a perfect example: more people than ever are unemployed and on food stamps. Facts are facts, not too mention our government debt doubled in 8yrs. Oh yeah it’s the conservatives fault, the uneducated masses keep falling for the same Ole line for over 50yrs. Unfortunately, we also have some ignorant brainwashed college graduates who can’t find a decent job but ignore history and keep eating the liberal progressive garbage while they get poorer and poorer.

  27. Just try to get someone to work! They want cash payment so they won’t lose their government hand out. Poverty? Only if they want to be poor. Oklahoma offers many jobs, regardless of education, but real workers are in short supply. I can’t get anyone to work for $10 per hour. Tell me about poverty in Oklahoma or any state in the USA. Same problem everywhere.

  28. You failed to mention how our representatives in Oklahoma gave themselves a raise because they took on more responsibility in their jobs, at the same time 130 people lost their jobs with the state. Coincidence? There is corruption everywhere here….corporate greed is high on the list…and of course tort! Lawyers taking bribes to protect the ones who don’t follow the laws….and selling out just to make money. Injustice is heavy here. Lies after lies. Without TRUTH there will be no Justice! I do believe in Karma and I have seen it happen over and over again. On the other note I have met people who have so little but have huge hearts, they sacrifice themselves to make a difference for people and animals. These are the Angels among us!!!

  29. The majority of poor people that I have worked with as a teacher don’t want to see their kids go hungry any more than you do. Many of the people who need help are grandparents who are trying to take care of young children whose parents are either jailed or helplessly addicted to drugs. Also, many of the poorest have very bad health problems, many from injuries on the job years earlier. I think Oklahoma’s biggest problem is the total lack of compassion (as evidenced in the “Get a Job” crew), even if the person needing help is a 70 year-old who has 3 little kids to take care of. Our legislature has pandered to the “conservative Christian” approach, which is “every man for himself” while the legislature gives themselves tax breaks and increased budgets. Yes, generations continue in poverty and they will continue to do so as long as education and a way out is denied to them. Of course there are those who try to work the system, but what they take is minuscule compared to our legislature’s take from lobbyists and the oil and gas industries. Pander to the rich by cutting taxes and programs…keep getting elected because most of the poor have given up trying to make a difference. They all brag about being Christians…so why do they not follow the guidelines set forth by Jesus? These guys are convenience Christians,,,using religion to defraud the poor.

  30. Please just keep this in mind: Republican ideology believes, “I worked hard for the money I have. Why should I have to give it to lazy, druggies who don’t want to work; they are happy being poor and waiting for hand outs.” I say to these narsisistic REAL losers who usually want to tell you how religious they are and how they got through college on their own and so enjoy and deserve all the money and status they have. Often they take advantage of every loophole they can find to do the least for our nation and for the real poor in the country. Look at the person saying this! Usually you will uncover a person who grew up with parents or one parent who by example went to work every day; someone who read to them and took them places to teach them. NO THEY DID NOT DO THIS ALL BY THEMSELVES.
    The Democratic ideology is one that believes we must help those who grew up never seeing anyone work. No one educated them before the entered school. No one was a positive presence in their lives. If they succeed, THEY DID DO THIS THEMSELVES. Think what obsticals they had to overcome. Democrats believe that the welfare of all people is what Amercans should stand up for. It is up to educated people to decide:
    I earned this so I’m going to keep it all and even try to find ways not to do what is honest…
    I’ ll do what it takes to lift up those who have been cheated and by doing so be a good citizen and and a protector of what our nation strives to be.

  31. If republican ideology is so great why are the RED states consistently the most poor and rank at the bottom of the list in most meaningful categories, i.e., healthcare, per ca-pita income, EDUCATION,…

    People need to wake up and vote for another party. I have yet to see much compassionate conservatism from our Republican State officials.

    I also agree that if all the “Christians” from both parties walked the walk many of problems would be solved. I don’t understand right wing Christians who are against the government giving help to people but are all for government teaching Christian values in schools, erecting 10 commandment monuments,… They are all for helping people if it doesn’t cost them money.

  32. My town is full of very poor single mothers, and crack heads. Meth has ruined this town. I’m sure if you’ll do just a little research you’ll easily find what town I live in, but then again Meth is running like wild fire throughout Okla. It is not easy to get on TANF in my home town. They pick and choose who qualifies for TANF Here. It’s a very corrupt town. Even foods stamps. A jobless person without a child can not draw food stamps unless they work so many hours a week at a job. My grandson hadn’t had a job for 3 months. He tried to draw food stamps and they turned him down because he didn’t have a child in his home. The same thing happened with several people in Muskogee. These people depended on soup kitchens, and family to feed them through the hard times. It’s so sad to know that idiots are over taking care of our people in need in Okla. Such a corrupt State.

  33. Mary Watson is so very right.
    Our state is punitive and shames the already depleted depressed shamed often overworked and always underpaid poor. (yes, many many work. Work full time for such low pay you can’t afford to live. and do it again and again because it’s so hard to find a better job once in the cycle of low wage gigs. Potential employers love to assume they know certain types of folks who don’t seem to have the pedigree of others.) I didn’t understand what all this really was until I found myself in total abject poverty, suddenly a single mom, blindsided by divorce, left with nothing but student loans and grief. I didn’t get hired, and yes went to many interviews, applied to copious jobs, yes had to apply for assistance (or I would have lost my sons and i could not bear this). The only jobs I’ve been able to procure have been $10 or less an hour. I have a college degree. I got weeded out of a graduate degree program for no logical reason. Everything I’ve tried to do to get ahead, to endlessly try to prove worth or sell skill set to people who don’t understand the absolute exhaustion and mental toll it takes (that yes affects interviews and form filling out issues) when you can’t afford to pay bills while working full time hours ad nauseam, to support a family, nothing has worked. The gap in my not-good-enough-for-HR resume keeps me from getting hired and poses the sad reality over and over that society doesn’t give a sh**t about the years I raised my two precious sons full time, working many part time jobs and at home jobs, put my everything and then some into being a wife and mom. I’m not supposed to talk about the thing I’ve done the best, have the most experience in, much of which could actually be applied to so many work settings. I think I’d be an asset to a host of companies or nonprofits (anyone who pays a living wage) because of the kind of committed mom I was for 13 years. But no employer will look at this. Or factor it in. The online algorithms boot me out of the running before I get a chance to press enter. So not only do i feel the biting shame every day that poverty brings to oh so many, too many, but also I feel shamed for having chosen the path of parenthood, the path of committed stalwart engaged mother who wanted to raise young men who cared versus not caring. There’s simply too many who just do not care. Do not give a f**ck about this massive crisis and tsunami sized ambivalence about the poor and disenfranchised… and what both of those things do the heart and soul and body. It’s crushing in every way. And then to hear “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps” over and over. And deal with assumptions over and over. Even after being blindsided and swiftly kicked out of the life i helped build and was fully invested in, every decision i made was to benefit my sons– choosing to eschew sadness, shame, and resentment is an example of one. I didn’t want to pass that along to my kids. So instead I hold it all in, and have to keep shutting my ears and senses to the absolute ignorance of the upper and other class(es). (not all but some. A large cacophony many days.)
    I don’t try to change anyone’s mind by debating with words. Because it wouldn’t work anyway. My story is a moot point to most because they’ve already made up their mind about ‘us’.
    The only thing that would change Oklahoman’s perspective and preconceptions about the poor is stepping into their shoes. Step into my shoes for a day. No, a month. So you could understand the shame and defeat and inner conflict that is so constant in the midst of doing what so many of you think we’re not doing– working. i work full time hours, back breaking work, i do not make a living wage. It’s killing me. It’s already killed my dreams. There are no dreams when you can barely afford bread. And if you can barely afford bread, at least in Oklahoma, your friends leave and sometimes kids retreat. And you quickly become an invisible thing no one wants to see. But an invisible thing that becomes a scapegoat in a political discussion at a party raising money for some charity while the catering staff barely get by when they get home, and with all the ignorance like a loaded gun at their side they blame the woes of our society on the God damned poor. Meanwhile the poor are too exhausted to let out a roar– “Hey! We’re out here! We are all equals, we are all human. We didn’t plan on this. We wouldn’t wish this on anyone, not even you. Because it sucks in every way. It never seems to go away. The despair poverty brings. If God forbid you find yourself here someday, give me a call because I know how it feels and I won’t run away and I won’t blame you for the woes today.”

  34. And the desperate situation in OK will only be compounded by the coming robotics/AI revolution. Trucking jobs, what’s left of manufacturing, retail, fast food -all those jobs will be gone in 20 years. More and more Americans will drop into extreme poverty and never get out unless the rest of us care enough to create a system that works for everyone and not just the .001%.

  35. Poverty rates could be lowered if employers would hire people who are willing to work. If employers would be a little more understanding or accommodating. Somebody gets fired because they are thirty minutes late to work. Another can’t get a job at all because, heaven forbid, they got caught with a little personal use pot somewhere out in public. Another person has physical disabilities but is willing to work if given a little extra time or maybe a seat as necessary. Someone else went to college but is now “over qualified” for any regular job, and the higher paying jobs are few and highly competitive. Other workers have been out of the work force too long for various reasons, or maybe past jobs (and references) have moved away or closed. All of these, and many others are reasons why poverty – and especially extreme poverty – continues. Perhaps if the govt encouraged employers to hire people, and not be so dog gonned picky, maybe our citizens would be much better off.

  36. 5 year in June since I moved to the state. It’s as sad as you report. I’ve seen first hand straight up. It’s easy to understand how complex of an issue it’s become.
    Racism is alive and well, that I’ve witnessed first hand. The good things are the ads the state, and Indian groups ran telling us how proud we should be to be from Oklahoma.
    Yes the state fights this image with ads. The truth is that the rich who run Oklahoma, don’t want to pay taxes. Period. Shut down government. Shut down public anything. Let pride and money be the grace in today’s living values. Ag, faith, arts, business, but not education. Now everyone can conceal carry without any damn training. Leadership is not allowed in Oklahoma law making. They pass laws to show off. By God anyone can carry a freaking gun. It’s our right by God. And the sheep think he’s a tough leader. Me, I think he’s out of his freaking mind, but he got the damn law passed. Group thinking can be real dangerous, when it suffocates one’s ability to think for themselves.

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