Skip to comments.What Really is Poverty?
Posted on 08/01/2011 12:39:25 PM PDT by Kaslin
More than 35 million Americans live in poverty, according to the Census Bureau. Imagine what kind of life they must have.
Actually, you dont have to imagine. Their federal government conducts numerous surveys that contain detailed information about the living conditions of those classified as poor -- information that comes directly from those in poverty.
Are they experiencing significant hardship? Do they just barely scrape by, with no modern conveniences and hardly any food? Some do, unfortunately. But for most, its a different story.
Air-conditioning? Cable TV? A car? The average household defined as poor by the government has these, the survey data show. It also has a microwave, a clothes washer and dryer, a dishwasher, a coffee maker and a cordless phone. Half of poor households have a computer. Add to this two color televisions and a DVD player, along with a video-game system such as an Xbox or a Playstation for those households with children.
But what about where they live? One could have any number of modern gadgets and conveniences and still live in a broken-down, cramped residence. That isnt the case, however. Poor Americans are well housed and rarely overcrowded, writes Heritage Foundation welfare expert Robert Rector in a new study. In fact, the houses and apartments of Americas poor are quite spacious by international standards. The typical poor American has considerably more living space than does the average European.
Moreover, 43 percent own their own homes, the government data show, nearly all of which are in good condition.
OK, so the average poor family lives in an uncrowded house or apartment, its in good repair, and it has many modern conveniences. What about food? Again, the surveys indicate that, on average, the poor are well-nourished. The level of protein, vitamins and minerals that children in poverty consume is virtually identical to what middle-class children get.
Some poor households do experience temporary food shortages. But again, this is a distinct minority. More than 92 percent of poor households say they always have enough food to eat over the last four months. Only 6 percent say they sometimes dont have enough, and 1.5 percent say it happens often.
The point of all this is not to argue that there arent people in this country living in poverty. There are. And those truly in need deserve a helping hand. But the good news is that the problem isnt as widespread or as chronic as were led to believe. We wind up wasting money when we pretend otherwise.
In addition, we fuel the anti-American propaganda spread by countries such as Russia and China, who accuse the United States of human-rights violations. Why? Because they claim that the millions of Americans classified as poor are enduring a life of desperate poverty -- like a third world nightmare, as the Russia Today TV network once put it.
The average poor household in the U.S. isnt living the high life. But its also not the dust-bowl existence pictured in John Steinbecks The Grapes of Wrath, or the dramatic Two Americas picture painted by John Edwards. As scholar James Q. Wilson notes, The poorest Americans today live a better life than all but the richest persons a hundred years ago.
We do those who experience substantial hardship a real disservice when we spread misinformation that inflates their true numbers, especially in a time of tight budgets. We need to base anti-poverty policy on facts, not on lurid anecdotes and exaggerated rhetoric.
Only reported income is counted when they tally up the poverty numbers. All the stuff that people receive courtesy of the taxpayers - food stamps, housing, medical care, utilities, meals for the kiddies at school, even the “free” cell phones! - are not counted. So a family could have a small income (and that’s only the income that is reported to the government!), have all their basic necessities paid for by the taxpayers, and still be counted as living in poverty. It’s a sham!
Poverty means somebody doesn’t have what I think they should have. It;s like darkness. It doesn’t really exist as there is only light. Darkness is the perceived relative lack or nonexistence of light. Poverty is the perceived relative lack of wealth. We used to be an appreciation culture. We have become a whiney-ass culture. If you don’t have the latest technology, you are poor. If you are in the bottom x%, you are poor. People ought to be more appreciative and not compare themselves to and envy others.
>>The average poor household in the U.S. isnt living the high life.<<
I have to pay for my own healthcare, they don’t.
I had to pay for both my kid’s braces, they don’t.
I have to pay for two MetroPCS phones, they get Obamaphones.
I don’t have cable (can’t afford it), they do.
I’m eating hot dogs and shopping at Aldi’s when they are in Walmart buying Chicken Voila.
Etc, etc, etc....
They are living as high on the hog as I am and I’m paying for both of us.
Where is the data about how they determine poverty available?
They receive free food, free lodging, free health care, free education (but don't appreciate it.
All this they get, just for voting the way they are told!
If you're fat and the government calls you poor, it's just so they can confiscate more money from others with more wealth than you.
60% of the world lives on less than $1 per day. That is poor.
The left has so dumbed down the definition of poverty that it no longer has any real meaning. We now need a new word to describe the homeless family who has lost everything due to bad economic times, medical events or accidents. They are falling through the “safety” net and the kids struggle to be in school and get decent meals.
But that is because the system wastes so much resources on those worthless pieces of human debris who have learned how to game the system to get free housing and food and cash while consuming things like cell phones, big screen tvs, video game consoles, drugs, alcohol, tobacco and so much fast food that their fat asses have to sit in those little carts when they go to Wal-Mart.
I am sorry, there are just some things people should not have the freedom to enjoy while they are on government assistance. Those possessions should be the fruit of honest labor. It is hard for me to refer to an obese person as being in poverty.
Poverty is when your Father, the only breadwinner, is disabled in a car accident, and the oldest son heads out the back door with a rifle every day to feed his Mother, sister and two brothers; like my Uncle did - at the age of ten.
Yet to listen to the liberals, you would swear that all of the poor live in dangerous slum tenements, or live in cabins in Appalachia as did Loretta Lynn. Those days are gone. The poor in Appalachia don’t have outhouses anymore, but to listen to the liberals you would swear that nothing has changed.
In fact, anecdotal evidence is that growing numbers of “poor” are living in some nice apartment complexes, and even some in suburban areas in their own detached houses. Thanks to Section 8, many poor do not live in the dangerous slum areas anymore.
It clearly states that non-cash benefits, such as food stamps, do not count.
There’s a paradox with ideas such as Michelle Obama and “Let’s Move” to fight child obesity. Some of the poor are some of the heaviest.
Nowadays, they are sending backpacks full of food home from school with kids, from schools in some places. Yet they are giving these backpacks to kids from “poor” households which already get food stamps. Isn’t it just possible that somebody is overeating and getting more than enough????
For those who have good jobs and have a bright future, they have no idea what those people go through daily, who’ve lost everything and are living in their cars, tents, etc. This is clearly a case of “let them eat cake”, in order to shore up party approval. Just not buying it, sorry...
Don’t you think it’s an outrage in a country as rich as ours that a full 20% of the population is in the bottom quintile of income?
Actually, I really don’t think it’s the “takers” that they are thinking they’ll get the votes from.
The real target are the sheeperals who want to feel good about themselves and say “I’m a good person because I support social programs and vote democRat”.
That’s where the REAL vote count exists.
From a newbie that, per your bio, ran to Italy to escape obama....
A state of mind, and someplace where God is rejected.
Being poor and lacking in financial wealth is a totally different ballgame.
$1 a day is “poor?” C’mon, get with the program. $1 a day is culturally authentic. Not to mention picturesque. And inherently non-materialist and therefore superior to the West’s mass consumer society.
These people are, however, gravely threatened and must be protected from bioengineered foods, higher energy consumption lifestyles, and transnational corporations that try to impose jobs and consumer goods.
Uh...no. Our “poverty line” is defined as 20x the world median income. I think it’s wonderful that most of our bottom 20% are better off than half the people on the planet.
You overlook that some “have good jobs and have a bright future” subsequent to having “lost everything and liv[ed] in their cars, tents, etc.”
As others note, poverty is a state of mind. Visit my tagline.
I was “playing liberal” when I said it was awful that the bottom 20% are the bottom 20%.
>>Dont you think its an outrage in a country as rich as ours that a full 20% of the population is in the bottom quintile of income?<<
Not at all. There are lazy people in every group. Are saying that some people in the country don’t have the same opportunities as we do?
Did raise a useful retort though.
Very well said! Here is your honorary Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology. Now let's get you some government grant application forms...
Worse yet, half of our population is at the bottom 50%!
>>It is hard for me to refer to an obese person as being in poverty.<<
The Salvation called collecting clothes for poor folks. I told the lady, “If can you fit in my clothes, you’re not in the poorhouse.”
Just because I am well to do today is no indication that I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth.
They must be the half that are below average IQ - an obvious failure of the education system requiring billions more to be “invested” to pay NEA teachers.
You forgot noble.
That's a doctor's salary in Cuba. A factory worker makes almost as much, 60 cents per day. Cuba is the left's gold standard in equalizing the distribution of income.
There will always be 20% of the population in the bottom 20%.
That's outrageous in a country as rich as ours!
Again, there will always be a bottom 20%. That can not be changed, no matter how much people earn.
That’s simply UNAMERICAN!
Something has to be done about that.
Perhaps another social program, or more redistribution, spreading the wealth...
We’re America! We don’t have to accept these things!
In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m playing with you...
but, I actually HAVE had this exact same conversation with a liberal.
Its obvious you have no understanding of percentages.
Sorry about that.
Ive had the same conversation, years ago I lived in a Section 8 apartment complex. I wasnt on welfare, we just didnt move out when it went Section 8.
My welfare neighbors had TVs, car, plenty of food and always had a good Christmas better than we had. Its a sore point with me.
Everyone is equally poor.
When the State owns everything there is nothing worth owning.
I'll never forget anthropology professors at SIUC with pictures of Che on their office doors, picketing because the school paid them "hardly more than the groundskeepers!"
That's what they'd like you to think, but it's not true. In order to cook the books on what percentage of income is earned by those in the "bottom quintile," they've actually defined the "bottom quintile" as being fewer than 20% of income earners.
And few of the members of the "bottom quintile are dead-enders; predominantly they are young people just starting out. More of those who were in the bottom quintile ten years ago are in the top quintile now, than are still in the bottom quintile today.
Let's remember that it has spent the last 50 years "studying" poverty, redistributing the earnings of others in the name of "poverty," and building an ever-larger voting block whose numbers they can count on to re-elect them to positions of coercive power.
That the con man John Edwards is mentioned by Feulner at all is comical--he and his "two Americas" may have been good political theatre, but it was not intellectual honesty about economic matters in America.
As he went about establishing a "poverty center" at his alma mater for the "study" of poverty, one could speculate that he merely was exploiting less fortunate citizens for the sake of advancing his own political goals.
If Edwards truly possessed such "concern" for those in "poverty," he would have been better off to establish a center at UNC for the study of wealth creation--a far better vehicle for lifting people out of poverty. He could have called it the Adam Smith Center and used that great moral philosopher's "An Enquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations" as the Center's primary course of study. (Sarcasm)
“if each finally found himself in the same relative economic relationship to his fellows ... all were infinitely better off.”