A rant on poverty, and a rant on the poverty pimp meida who tries to make it worse than it is

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Yesterday the AP had a headline “4 out of 5 Americans face poverty”. When you read the story it admits that those 80% who face poverty actually only faced it for a period in their life. We know the poverty rate is 15% so if 80% face poverty, but only 15% are in poverty that means 65% extracted themselves from potential poverty.  People are still rising up economically. 

Another aspect of poverty is the myth of the starving child.  The census reports that of the 50 million in poverty only 1.6% (or there abouts) actually miss a few meals a week. Not starve to death, just miss two or three of the 21 meals most people have a week. This is not great news. In a country of cheap food, food stamps, food banks, and the ability to dumpster dive (which rich kids do a lot more than poor families, see freegans) how can nearly a million people be missing meals.  what are they doing wrong? why are they ignoring all the handouts and easy access to food?

These questions bring me to the point of my rant. Poverty in America is a choice for most people.  True there are people brought here to work, often illegally across the boarder or across the sea. There are still sex slaves who are forced to be poor by their pimps. There are a few other examples of forced poverty that I am not thinking about right now, I’m sure. But for the most part, poverty is a choice.

I am not saying people wake up and say “let’s be poor!” its more like they wake up and say “School is for chumps”. then they say “Working for the ‘man’ is for idiots!”. Then they say, “Why should I have to do that, this, and that thing?” This is what i mean by poverty being a choice. Learning the skills needed to be productive and paid well is a choice, and too many people make the wrong choice when they are teenagers and adults.

Some people would say that they had no role models as kids. I could agree. I’ve seen too many kids copy their deadbeat parents. This doesn’t wash once those kids become adults and have access to all kinds of secondary education and libraries and today the internet.  Furthermore the political situation that thrives on poverty is encouraging them to be poor rather than rise up. If the state gives you money to survive, how often will you vote against the statists?

The mentality of keeping people poor by keeping them uneducated and on the dole isn’t always malicious.  I have encountered European and American socialists who are proud that they “maintain the poor” without realizing the irony that if you maintain the poor, they stay poor.  You aren’t helping the poor do better, you are kicking them down.

Examine American wealth transfer programs. They provide just enough support to keep you alive, and voting, but threaten to take it all away if you start to earn your own money or save up your surplus. The programs encourage the users to spend all that money and be anti-frugal. (just like a bureaucrat in baseline budgeting.) This may not have been designed to keep people poor, but it has that effect. And when anyone wants to change these programs, the proponents scream “THEY WANT YOU TO STARVE TO DEATH”

1) this assumes that people wont go get jobs, or are too stupid to care for themselves.

and 2) this assumes the reforms wont work.

how nice of them, “you are too stupid to live on your own, let us help you… just vote us in in November…”

If you think these programs help, look at historic poverty rates. In the late 1940s the USA had about a 30% poverty rate. By the end of JFKs term it was down to 15% that is 13 years of decline. then LBJ in 1965 passed a lot of wealth transfer programs. Ever since then poverty rate has bounced between 12% and 15%. When the state subsidized poverty, poverty became attractive and people chose not to get out of it.  But this isn’t quite as bad for the poor as it would seem.

every few years the Heritage Foundation pours through census data to find out what life is like in poverty. In 2006 and 2011 they put out these reports with some astounding information. Poor people some times own 2 cars, several TVs and computers, a good chunk of the poor actually own a home. They have video games, they have washing machines, they almost never go hungry (that 1.6% number again). Poverty is a pretty sweet thing in the USA, not like poverty in Somalia…

According to a number of studies, American poor have more living space than European average income people.  They have access to cheaper goods. Poverty really is relative.

Too bad people rarely crunch the numbers to see the broader picture.