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Posts Tagged ‘Poverty Rate’

The Center for Freedom and Prosperity has released another “Economics 101” video, and this one has a very powerful message about the federal government’s so-called War on Poverty.

As explained by Hadley Heath of the Independent Women’s Forum, the various income redistribution schemes being imposed by Washington are bad for taxpayers – and bad for poor people.

The video has a plethora of useful information, but the data on the poverty rate is particularly compelling. Prior to the War on Poverty, the United States was getting more prosperous with each passing year and there were dramatic reductions in the level of destitution.

But once the federal government got involved in the mid-1960s, the good news evaporated. Indeed, the poverty rate has basically stagnated for the past 40-plus years, usually hovering around 13 percent depending on economic conditions.

Another remarkable finding in the video is that poor people in America rarely suffer from material deprivation. Indeed, they have wide access to consumer goods that used to be considered luxuries – and they also have more housing space than the average European (and with Europe falling apart, the comparisons presumably will become even more noteworthy).

The most important message of the video, however, is that small government and economic freedom are the best answers for poverty. As Hadley explains, poor people can be liberated to live meaningful, self-reliant lives if we can reduce the heavy burden of the federal government.

Last but not least, the video doesn’t address every issue in great detail, and there are three additional points that should be added to any discussion of poverty.

1. The biggest beneficiaries of the current system are the army of bureaucrats that receive very comfortable salaries administering various programs.

2. The Obama Administration is looking to re-define poverty in a way that would expand the welfare state and increase the burden of redistribution programs.

3. The welfare reform legislation of the 1990s was a small step in the right direction because it eliminated a federal entitlement and shifted responsibility back to the state level. This success story should be replicated for programs such as Medicaid.

This last point is worth emphasizing because it is also one of the core messages of the video. The federal government has done a terrible job dealing with poverty. The time has come to get Washington out of the racket of income redistribution.

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Is America filled with tens of millions of people suffering from harsh material deprivation? That’s what the pro-redistribution crowd wants you to think, but a new report from the Heritage Foundation demolishes that stereotype.

Here are some of the most remarkable findings in the study.

For most Americans, the word “poverty” suggests destitution: an inability to provide a family with nutritious food, clothing, and reasonable shelter. …Yet if poverty means lacking nutritious food, adequate warm housing, and clothing for a family, relatively few of the more than 30 million people identified as being “in poverty” by the Census Bureau could be characterized as poor. While material hardship definitely exists in the United States, it is restricted in scope and severity. …As scholar James Q. Wilson has stated, “The poorest Americans today live a better life than all but the richest persons a hundred years ago.” In 2005, the typical household defined as poor by the government had a car and air conditioning. For entertainment, the household had two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR.

Here’s one of the most remarkable findings from the report.

…the typical poor American had more living space than the average European.

And here’s the key data on healthcare and nutrition.

The typical poor American family was also able to obtain medical care when needed. By its own report, the typical family was not hungry and had sufficient funds during the past year to meet all essential needs. …Consumer items that were luxuries or significant purchases for the middle class a few decades ago have become commonplace in poor households. …On average, the poor are well nourished. The average consumption of protein, vitamins, and minerals is virtually the same for poor and middle-class children. In most cases, it is well above recommended norms. Poor children actually consume more meat than higher-income children consume, and their protein intake averages 100 percent above recommended levels. In fact, most poor children are super-nourished and grow up to be, on average, one inch taller and 10 pounds heavier than the GIs who stormed the beaches of Normandy in World War II.

So why does this issue matter? Because the left understands that an agenda of redistribution is more likely to be successful if they can deceive the American people about the true scope of poverty. This polling data cited in the report shows why the left is so anxious to perpetuate falsehoods about how many people suffer from genuine deprivation.

…a poll conducted in June 2009 asked a nationally representative sample of the public whether they agreed or disagreed with the following statement: “A family in the U.S. that has a decent, un-crowded house or apartment to live in, ample food to eat, access to medical care, a car, cable television, air conditioning and a microwave at home should not be considered poor.” A full 80 percent of Republicans and 77 percent of Democrats agreed that a family living in those living conditions should not be considered poor.

Last but not least, we find out that a bad situation may become even worse. The left already uses a grossly exaggerated definition of poverty for political gain. But that’s not enough. As I noted in an earlier post, the Obama Administration wants to use a new methodology that would – no joke – show that there is more poverty in America than Bangladesh.

There is a vast gap between poverty as understood by the American public and poverty as currently measured by the government. Sadly, President Barack Obama plans to make this situation worse by creating a new “poverty” measure that deliberately severs all connection between “poverty” and actual deprivation. This new measure will serve as a propaganda tool in Obama’s endless quest to “spread the wealth” and will eventually displace the current poverty measure. Under the new measure, a family will be judged poor if its income falls below certain specified income thresholds or standards. There is nothing new in this, but unlike the current poverty income standards, the new income thresholds will have a built-in escalator clause. They will rise automatically in direct proportion to any rise in the living standards of the average American. …Another paradox of the new poverty measure is that countries such as Bangladesh and Albania will have lower poverty rates than the U.S.—even though the actual living conditions in those countries are extremely low—simply because they have narrower distribution of incomes, albeit very low incomes.

There is one thing that’s worth adding to all the good information cited from the study. Regardless of how the poverty rate is defined, the massive increase in federal spending on anti-poverty programs has been a terrible failure. Trillions of dollars have been spent since the “War on Poverty” began, but the poverty rate has been flat, averaging about 13 percent.

But what’s most remarkable is that the poverty rate was steadily falling before the so-called War on Poverty began. In other words, once the federal government began subsidizing poverty, we stopped making progress.

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