How "Poor" are America's Poor?

How "Poor" are America's Poor?

This does not imply that times are not rough in America, but they do put it into an international context. And that is very important.

Scott Lindsley

(revised opinion in the comments)


Anonymous said…
Scott, I'm surprised by you. First, I do believe the Heritage Foundation is trying to imply that times are not rough in the United States. Second, I'm shocked that you're posting an article from the Heritage Foundation at all, and one that is dated September 1990 in particular. This "research" is 15 years old and not current by any means. I use the term research loosely (and put it in quotations) as the Heritage Foundation is not known for unbiased legitimate research. In fact, the Foundation is well known as a conservative right-wing think tank that has a tendency to "interpret" empirical data to say exactly what the Foundation (and the Bush Administration) want it to say. As a more current example, see and then read In this case, the Heritage Foundation can not even get its article published due to huge errors in the statistical analysis of the data, namely (for those statiticians out there) using a significance level of .10, rather than that of .05, as pointed out in the NYT article. But back to the issue at hand. The introductory points of the article are practically irrelevant. For example, microwaves these days are a dime a dozen and therefore not significant in determining who is poor. In this country, there seems to be a larger population of poor, or at least, more seriously poor in the south. In the south, it is more difficult to find residences without air conditioning. As for the poor owning cars, most of the poor of this country are working poor, and as this country has never really been too great at public transportation, people have cars that they may or may not be able to afford JUST so that they can TRY to make it to work. These first points also do not take into account whether any of these "frivolities" (a/c, microwave, car, dishwasher) are in working order. To continue, I would argue that expenditures are higher because we have set up a credit card society which seeks to hand out credit cards to those who have bad credit, charge them inordinate interest rates on their purchases, and put them over their heads in debt for all eternity -- or until they go bankrupt. I believe this also explains why we see the discrepancy in the expenditure of $1.94 for every $1 of income. For the Heritage Foundation to argue that welfare assistance should be counted as "income" is a Catch-22. Without the welfare assistance, the poor would be almost fully without food, housing, health insurance of ANY kind, etc, etc. So is the argument that they should just go without these necessities, and maybe even die off, before they are counted as poor people in need? Of COURSE the "poor" in the United States live in larger houses and eat more meat, etc, than median families in West Europe. This is due entirely to the "super-sizing" of this country. We are socialized into status status status and size is all that matters. To the point that there is little choice in the matter. The Heritage Foundation needs to step back and notice that, if the poor of the United States are living in larger spaces than the medians of Europe, just imagine how extreme the upper class of this country is. Our billionnaires are far outspending and outbuilding the billionnaires of other nations. Meat is not a commodity in this country as it is in other countries. Therefore, this is not a fair or appropriate way to define that our poor have it better off. Additionally, people in the United States are arguably not as health conscious as people in other countries and often eat nothing but meat as it is often one of the cheapest and most available forms of substantial food. Let's take a moment for this fast food nation, shall we? I have a real problem with the fact that you are pointing your readers (in a noncritical way) to an article which states: "Welfare spending seriously diminishes work effort and earned income. The largest effect of increased welfare spending is not to raise income but merely to replace self- sufficiency with dependence." When we live in a society that does not pay a living wage to its workers such that millions of people are working two and three jobs just to live paycheck to paycheck and go into severe credit card and other debt, we are not in a position to remove or discount all forms of welfare, regardless of how ideal that might be. So long as people can not make a living working, it is impossible to argue that people on welfare choose not to work. Although this is certainly true in some cases, I do not believe that is the rule. That's as far as I got in the article before I got too disgusted to continue. Yes, Scott -- putting the United States into an international context is VERY important. But please try to better research the articles you post so as not to condone or support institutions that are skewing data to work against the people. And most especially, please don't support "research" that works against this country's poor.
Scott said…
I have looked at the 'Heritage Foundation' web site and just on the front page alone I found that I agree with less than half of what they say.

They quote Rush Limblaugh so they obviously are conservative wankers on his issues, but they also have a link to which is an org that I support.

So to sum up my take on the right-wing H-foundation itself, I would never add them as a perma-link on my blog and have disagreed strongly with issues they have supported in earlier posts on my blog (ie. nafta & cafta) though not with them directly.

I don't dismiss the article I posted outright as you do, though I will revise my stance on the article itself.

But first I must add a point of clarification here, if the only perspective that you will accept for the 'poor' in America is the one that declares that they will not have it good till they have your philosophical fix, then you must keep a constant and pessimistic opinion of life for the poor in America.

No matter how 'good' they actually have it.

If the only way you will think well of the poor in America is if they have a state mandated 'living wage' and socialized meds/healthcare, then I would have to disagree with you. I do not see that as being the only acceptable solution.

In fact, without transparency, accountability and the ability to do efficiency audits your fix would be as bad as any private system you can imagine.

Why should corporate power be shunned for abuse, but the state be allowed to waste without recourse?

If you go into history and look at many people who were once oppressed, from American slaves to people that lived under monarchs in Europe and elsewhere, the vast majority want one simple thing. . . to be free.

In fact, to be let alone to rise without the constraints of involuntary servitude or tyranny has been one of mankind’s greatest desires.

Free at last. Thank God Al’mighty, free at last!

We have a vast number of actions by the American government that have a huge negative impact on the minorities and poor in America.

This must stop.

Now, if I might address the report directly.

Yes, the report is old, and surely the data is outdated and apparently pointed towards the conservative side (sheesh, I'm glad I'm not a conservative).

Fine, then it is a lesson to the modern method of org's that twist the facts in their favour.

If this were a newspaper this would be called 'yellow journalism'.

And truly a refresh by the foundation would include the likes of 'number of poor that have cell phones and hi-fi stereos and whatnot'. Though it still would not be relevant to the valid points you bring up.

But I can not simply think on the poor with an endless well of pity.

Don't assume that this means I do not care.

I think that a greater prosperity for ALL will come from extracting the meddlesome system from our lives.

"Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." JFK

This should go for the rich and the poor.

No exemptions for the rich, opportunity over handouts for the poor.

We have to create a system that provides equal protection under the law. We must also accept that we can not guarantee equal results.

Many in America have it really bad. I would be an idiot to suggest otherwise. And we Americans have vast amounts of wealth that I would love to see spread all over the world.

I prefer the Japanese model where the top paid person shall not make more than ten times the lowest paid employee.

I just can not initiate force to achieve that goal. I seek other methods of persuasion as a libertarian.

I don't shop at wal-mart as I do not like the way they pay their employees (though I am glad they have employees).

I donate to KEXP as I like the way they operate.

So if we stop co-opting the poor to fight America's war(s).
Stop putting our stars behind bars.
Stop placing race on the card in politics.
Stop polluting the environment.
Stop letting our schools push minorities through the cracks.
Stop wasting vast amounts of monies on a war machine.
Stop smiling when politicians give raises to themselves and the staff that keeps them in power (R) or (D). [the people should be the only ones to vote raises to politicians]
Stop arguing for a system that does not hold itself accountable to anyone but the dumb'd down majority.
Stop letting the govt out of auditing for efficiency, transparency.
Then we will have progress.

We must remove barriers for international trade so poor countries like Africa can find more prosperity by freely trading with America (As Bono has suggested. Go BONO!!!)

We must end corporate welfare and in the same swipe stop government waste.

You want to help the poor. . . ?

Get the system off their back.

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