Remember this number: 557,000.

If you’re collecting dollars it’s a big number. In seconds, it equals 9,283 minutes or about 155 hours.

In Oklahoma it also means how many people live at or below the federal poverty line.

557,000 — 15.91 percent of our state’s population.

Astounding.

In a time that we Oklahomans have, still, one of the strongest economies in the nation; in a time when we have oil companies making record profits, almost 16 percent of the people who live within the borders of this state live in poverty.

We should be ashamed.

Another thing: Those numbers are about three percent higher than the national average.

We hear that lower taxes will boost wages, increase consumer spending and spur economic development — but the fact remains for several years that our state’s poverty level has exceeded the national average.

And all the lower taxes in the world haven’t changed that fact.

We’re told that here, wages paid to workers are about 80 to 85 percent of those paid to the rest of the nation but that’s OK, because the cost of living also is about 80 to 85 percent of what it is nationally.

Don’t believe the myth.

Statistics show that Oklahoma’s cost of living is on par with the national average. And while gas or housing might seem cheaper, when factored against the lower wages, it’s pretty obvious we’re not getting the deal we think we are.

Want to improve life in Oklahoma?

Want to make the world a better place for your kids?

Want to see our state grow and prosper?

Then roll up your sleeves and do something about poverty in Oklahoma.

Don’t know where to start?

Allow me: Right now more than 800,000 people are considered functionally illiterate. And illiteracy rates can be tired directly to our poverty level.

Education is power. Reading is education.

Help fight illiteracy and you help fight poverty — it’s pretty simple.

Don’t buy into the argument that people who are poor are lazy — nothing could be further from the truth. Remember that even Jesus challenged us to love our neighbors as ourselves — a request that mankind has struggled with for more than 2,000 years.

It’s probably true that there will always be some type of poverty in Oklahoma, but that doesn’t mean we have to accept it as our fate.

Because somewhere down the line, one of those 557,000 could be a member of your family.

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