Limbaugh calls them spoiled. Savage calls the poor lazy while Hannity and Beck accuse them of leaching off the wealthy, whom they call job creators. The Left describes them as victims of the bad economy, cruel Republican policies, poor education and lack of decent housing and healthcare reforms. The Right says they should pull up their boot straps and make it on their own rather than steal the money from the wealth earners of the nation in the form of taxes for social programs.
In the next couple articles I’ll attempt to bring a bit of clarity to the issue now that the national poverty rate has topped the 15% mark. Is it an indication that Obama is indeed inept as a President, and that Democratic social policies have failed, or if the current Administration inherited a historic, and perhaps purposeful economic disaster by the Bush administration.
When we discuss poverty in America, who exactly are we talking about. Nicholas cage declared bankruptcy and had to sell homes and assets worth millions at a loss. Can we consider Nicholas cage impoverished? In order to have a constructive view of the issue it is critical to be speaking to the same definition of American poverty, which is fundamentally different from poverty elsewhere around the planet. It is in coming to a proper definition that allows for constructive dialogue among rational and intelligent people from both parties. Ambiguity is the fertile ground for manipulators like the Becks and Limbaughs and Savages to create propaganda that only solidifies division in this nation and costs lives. They have no interest in a better nation, only a better nation for them and their friends.
We’ve all heard the propaganda. America’s poor are so much better off than the poor in Bangladesh or Somalia, as if those are the standards America’s poor should be measured against. They cite obesity, owning a television or having cable TV as evidence that the poor in this country have nothing to complain about. Again, are they demanding that our poor should be shivering in an empty apartment, bloated and covered with flies before we pay attention?
The Health and Human services Administration sets the poverty level for a single adult at $11,ooo per year in income. For a family of 4 that number is $22,350, or roughly an additional $3000 annually for each additional person in the household. Working a minimum wage job full-time with no vacation brings a pre-tax amount of $17,680 in income yearly, or $340 a week. Federal income tax, state tax and SSI reduce those amounts to roughly $12,000 annual or about$240 weekly. Qquickly run through a basic list of costs, bus or train or driving costs(which brings upkeep, fuel and insurance costs) rent, food, electricity, gas and basic incidentals and that income is quickly used up. Some of that might-might- come back in a tax return, but not much. Perhaps a thousand bucks. Consider a break job for a car costs$4-600 bucks. A monthly bus pass in Chicago is $85, or almost a thousnad per year. What about healthcare? Minimum wage jobs don’t come with healthcare. The wife and I, through our well-paying jobs still pay 500 per month into our premiums. Basic car insurance in a decent neighborhood…$4-800 annually.
But we can narrow the argument to a greater degree of reality. Are we discussing Relative Poverty , episodic poverty or absolute poverty?
Relative poverty is what the Propagandists most commonly use. That is poverty in relation to the median income in a given location. The median income in rural Idaho who likely be far lower than the median income of , say, Manhattan where there are far more at the top end of the income scale pulling the income average higher. The cost of basic existence in either place would be dramatically different. It is a ruse.
Episodic poverty would refer to those, for example, seasonally unemployed. Both Episodic and Relative poverty are argumentative and open to all sorts of manipulation. Absolute poverty, however, is not.
Absolute poverty refers to specific criteria needed for basic survival. It sets standards for a basic healthy diet needed to sustain a basic body mass index, access to safe water, a toilet in or near the home, basic medical accessibility for serious illness and pregnancy, minimal shelter with less that four living to a room and a floor made of something other than dirt or mud. It prescribes access to basic education and the ability to read, access to basic information and emergency information such as a television, and for a telephone. Finally, it requires access to simple legal, social and financial services..
15.3% of Americans live below the Absolute poverty line. Which means that, 37 million Americans, or nearly a million in every state of the Union cannot rely on basic housing, services, food, healthcare, sanitation, education or clean water. According to the USDA 15% of Americans cannot rely on having enough nutritious food to sustain adequate health, which seems a crime in the wealthiest nation on the planet.