Poverty doesn't hit only the poor. It affects all Americans - through taxes for government support programs and lost productivity.
With the economy in recession, the numbers of needy Americans have been multiplying. One out of seven people in the country now lives below the federally established poverty level of $9,287 for a family of four - the highest ratio since 1967.
Many look for help to the federal government's ''social safety net'' of programs. But the mood in Washington is to cut back on such programs, in line with President Reagan's plan to bring fiscal discipline to the federal government. This raises the questions: How much can, and should, government do to help the poor? What can communities do? What can individuals do?
The first of a series of articles examining this issue and suggesting some answers runs today on Page 12. The articles, to run occasionally during the next three weeks, will explore poverty in rural areas, in urban centers, and the particular problems of the elderly.
Author Robert M. Press, the Monitor's Atlanta-based correspondent, begins his survey with a dispatch from Mud Creek, Ky., in the heart of Appalachia.