November 26, 2011
Marie Lozito is a Registered Nurse, Licensed Massage Therapist, wife, mother, grandmother and life-long conservative. She wrote a text on medical massage and taught at New York College of Health Professions.
Interested in, and observing politics since 1960, she
ran for elected office in 2010.
Poverty American Style
Let me make clear that I consider poverty a serious condition. Individuals or families with true poverty have extreme hardship and I believe that communities, churches and private charities – all supported by the private sector – should do whatever they can to help these people. What local or state governments should do depends on what their individual constitutions or charters permit and their residents approve of doing. (After all, we are a government of the people and all levels of government in this country should have the people's approval for
That said, poverty in America is not like poverty in other countries of the world. I have had the good fortune to travel a bit and have seen what real poverty looks like. Believe me, the vast majority of our “poor” would be considered middle class,
or at least living a comfortable life compared to the poor in most countries!
The Federal Government spends $1 trillion every year on welfare. In fact, since LBJ started the “War on Poverty” in the 60s, America has spent over $12 trillion
on welfare, and developed more than 70 means-tested welfare programs. You'll be surprised to learn that many of the 30 million Americans defined as "poor" and determined to be in need of government assistance actually suffer from no deprivation at all. They just meet an arbitrary standard set by the government to qualify as “poor” and living in “poverty”. Interestingly, the “poverty” rate today is higher than it was in the late 1960s. How could that be? As economist Robert Rector has written,
“Most anti-poverty/welfare spending erodes work and marriage...As a result ... low-income Americans are less capable of self-support than when the War on Poverty began. ... The road to hell, it's said, is paved with good intentions. But sometimes it's paved with taxpayers'
As reported by Heritage Foundation,
“According to the government’s own survey data, in 2005, the average household defined as poor by the government lived in a house or apartment equipped with air conditioning and cable TV. The family had a car (a third of the poor have two or more cars). For entertainment, the household had two color televisions, a DVD player, and a VCR. If there were children in the home, the family had a game system, such as an Xbox or PlayStation. In the kitchen, the household had a microwave, refrigerator, and an oven and stove. Other household conveniences included a washer and dryer, ceiling fans, a cordless phone, and a coffee maker.
The home of the average poor family was in good repair and not overcrowded. In fact, the typical poor American had more living space than the average European. (Note: That’s average European, not poor European.) The average poor family was able to obtain medical care when needed. When asked, most poor families stated they had had sufficient funds during the past year to meet all essential needs.
By its own report, the family was not hungry. The average intake of protein, vitamins, and minerals by poor children is indistinguishable from children in the upper middle class and, in most cases, is well above recommended norms. Poor boys today at ages 18 and 19 are actually taller and heavier than middle-class boys of similar age in the late 1950s and are a full one inch taller and 10 pounds heavier than American soldiers who fought in World War II. The major dietary problem facing poor Americans is eating too much, not too little; the majority of poor adults, like most Americans, are overweight.”
USDA reports show that 42% of America's poor households actually own their house. In fact, only 4% of the “poor” become temporarily homeless. The USDA further reports that 96% of poor parents stated that their children were never hungry at any time during the year because they could not afford
food. Eighty-three percent of poor families reported having enough food to eat.
In 1991, without any statistics to back up the statement, Dan Rather declared that “one in eight American children is going hungry tonight.” This has been repeated often since then but it wasn't true then and it still isn't true. Why this distortion and exaggeration? Could it be that in order to continue or grow the welfare nanny state, liberals in government need a large number of people in “poverty” to justify their programs and that they need a large number of people dependent on government to provide the votes to keep the nanny state going and the liberal politicians in office?
President Obama has called for more money to be spent on welfare to create
"ladders out of poverty" and to use income inequality as a criteria for being considered “poor”. This is not going to help. Decades of experience
has shown us that welfare diminishes the work ethic. The majority of “rich” in America have gotten there through entrepreneurship and hard work.
We live in the most economically mobile country in the world. According to the latest statistics 56 % of those who in 2001 were in the lowest quintile
(20%) of income earners had moved up to a higher income quintile – they got richer. Also 66 % of those who in 2001 were in the highest quintile of income earners dropped at least one quintile – they got poorer. (This is similar to data from 1995 – 2005.) As was written in the the Washington Examiner:
“...But such a static analysis (income inequality) misses entirely the more relevant question that has long been at the heart of the American economic miracle: To what degree can individuals change their economic status through their own labor and without having to overcome obstacles to their efforts by law or custom?”
Poverty is a serious problem that requires serious solutions. But policymakers and the public need accurate information about what poverty in the United States really means. Only then can they implement the right policies to help those Americans who are truly in need. Personally, I think Ben Franklin had the right approach. “I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.”