Poverty rises to its highest level since 1983. (Getty Images)

Jesse Jackson writes in his Chicago Sun-Times column that the country is like a mighty ship that is taking on water in the race against poverty.

Poverty is spreading in America.

One in five children are being raised in poverty. Millions of Americans depend on food stamps. Some 25 million are in need of full-time work. Veterans are coming home from foreign battlegrounds to an economic desert — and many of America’s homeless are veterans.

Yet the poor are virtually invisible in our political debate. Democrats talk about saving the middle class, while Republicans fret about protecting the "job creators." In the Republican presidential debate last week, neither reporters nor candidates mentioned the words "poor" or "poverty."

Not only is the very word "poor" despised, but the broader political order ignores the desperate, ominous message these coal-mine canaries are sending us.

Read Jesse Jackson's entire column at the Chicago Sun-Times.