The uses of poverty 2

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. In my youth I travelled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.

– Benjamin Franklin.

It’s in the interest of the governing elite, the controllers, the socialists/progressives/liberals in power, to keep as many people as they can (outside of their own charmed circle), poor, illiterate, and dependent.

Has one liberal begun to understand this? At least the one we have in mind has seen that dependency is bad for the recipients of entitlements. If he were to see, and persuade his fellow liberals, that it is bad for the nation, America might be saved from the decline that sets in sooner or later on all welfare states.

These extracts are from an article by Nicholas D. Kristof at (excuse us) the New York Times:

This is what poverty sometimes looks like in America: parents here in Appalachian hill country pulling their children out of literacy classes. Moms and dads fear that if kids learn to read, they are less likely to qualify for a monthly check for having an intellectual disability.

Many people in hillside mobile homes here are poor and desperate, and a $698 monthly check per child from the Supplemental Security Income program goes a long way — and those checks continue until the child turns 18. …

This is painful for a liberal to admit, but conservatives have a point when they suggest that America’s safety net can sometimes entangle people in a soul-crushing dependency. Our poverty programs do rescue many people, but other times they backfire.

Some young people here don’t join the military (a traditional escape route for poor, rural Americans) because it’s easier to rely on food stamps and disability payments.

Antipoverty programs also discourage marriage: In a means-tested program like S.S.I. (Supplemental Security Income), a woman raising a child may receive a bigger check if she refrains from marrying that hard-working guy she likes. Yet marriage is one of the best forces to blunt poverty. In married couple households only one child in 10 grows up in poverty, while almost half do in single-mother households.

About four decades ago, most of the children S.S.I. covered had severe physical handicaps or mental retardation that made it difficult for parents to hold jobs — about 1 percent of all poor children. But now 55 percent of the disabilities it covers are fuzzier intellectual disabilities short of mental retardation, where the diagnosis is less clear-cut. More than 1.2 million children across America — a full 8 percent of all low-income children — are now enrolled in S.S.I. as disabled, at an annual cost of more than $9 billion. 

That is a burden on taxpayers, of course, but it can be even worse for children whose families have a huge stake in their failing in school. Those kids may never recover: a 2009 study found that nearly two-thirds of these children make the transition at age 18 into S.S.I. for the adult disabled. They may never hold a job in their entire lives and are condemned to a life of poverty on the dole — and that’s the outcome of a program intended to fight poverty. 

THERE’S no doubt that some families with seriously disabled children receive a lifeline from S.S.I. But the bottom line is that we shouldn’t try to fight poverty with a program that sometimes perpetuates it.

I’m no expert on domestic poverty. But for me, a tentative lesson from the field is that while we need safety nets, the focus should be instead on creating opportunity — and, still more difficult, on creating an environment that leads people to seize opportunities.

Such as used to exist; when the United States was founded, and until well into the last century.

I don’t want to suggest that America’s antipoverty programs are a total failure. On the contrary, they are making a significant difference. Nearly all homes here in the Appalachian hill country now have electricity and running water, and people aren’t starving. …

Of American families living in poverty today, 8 out of 10 have air-conditioning, and a majority have a washing machine and dryer. Nearly all have microwave ovens. …

What the state is not giving them, writes Nicholas Kristof, is HOPE.

Obama promised that too. Though for what, he has never disclosed.

Never mind the gap 1

In the market economies, where the rich are richest the poor are least poor.

Socialists make much of “the gap between rich and poor” in order to promote their egalitarian agenda. But the gap doesn’t matter in the least.

It is the politics of envy to claim that even when you have what you want it is never enough as long as someone else has more.

Socialism is the politics of envy. It’s solution to the “problem” of the gap is to keep everybody (except the elite who make the rules) equally poor.

Walter Williams writes at Townhall about the “poor” in America (quoting statistics from a report by Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation):

– Forty-three percent of all poor households actually own their own homes. The average home owned by persons classified as poor by the Census Bureau is a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage and a porch or patio.

— Eighty percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, in 1970, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.

— Only 6 percent of poor households are overcrowded; two-thirds have more than two rooms per person.

— The typical poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens and other cities throughout Europe. (These comparisons are to the average citizens in foreign countries, not to those classified as poor.)

— Nearly three-quarters of poor households own a car; 31 percent own two or more cars.

— Ninety-seven percent of poor households have a color television; over half own two or more color televisions.

— Seventy-eight percent have a VCR or DVD player; 62 percent have cable or satellite TV reception.

— Eighty-nine percent own microwave ovens, more than half have a stereo, and a more than a third have an automatic dishwasher.

Material poverty can be measured relatively or absolutely. An absolute measure would consist of some minimum quantity of goods and services deemed adequate for a baseline level of survival. Achieving that level means that poverty has been eliminated. However, if poverty is defined as, say, the lowest one-fifth of the income distribution, it is impossible to eliminate poverty. Everyone’s income could double, triple and quadruple, but there will always be the lowest one-fifth.

Yesterday’s material poverty is all but gone. In all too many cases, it has been replaced by a more debilitating kind of poverty — behavioral poverty or poverty of the spirit. This kind of poverty refers to conduct and values that prevent the development of healthy families, work ethic and self-sufficiency. The absence of these values virtually guarantees pathological lifestyles that include: drug and alcohol addiction, crime, violence, incarceration, illegitimacy, single-parent households, dependency and erosion of work ethic. Poverty of the spirit is a direct result of the perverse incentives created by some of our efforts to address material poverty.

Walter Williams’s article can be profitably read alongside another one written by JB Williams at Canada Free Press on the global economy. An extract:

Facts about the U.S. economy

The U.S. remains by far the largest economy on earth with a $14.5 Trillion GDP

Americans remain the most productive people on earth with a per capita GDP of $46,400

We have one of the highest per capita personal incomes in the world at $37,500 (80.8% of PGDP)

Our federal budget is approximately 25.2% of GDP

The federal tax rate is 28.2% of GDP – and we are still running red ink well into the future

And our federal debt will 97% of GDP by end of 2010, not counting interest or unfunded Obama promises, an increase of 40% since Obama took office less than two years ago

The good news is – Americans are still very productive and prosperous despite the fact that our federal government is suffocating that private sector productivity to death with excessive spending and increasing government intrusion into the free-market.

The bad news is – Obama is not leading anyone towards the principles and values that made America the most powerful nation on earth. Instead, he is leading America toward utter destruction on the pathway of European economics.

He goes on to compare the US economy with those of Britain, Canada, France and Greece . The statistics are well worth looking at. To start with, the difference in the size of the economies is immense: the US $14.5 trillion to Britain’s $2.2 trillion, Canada’s $1.33 trillion,  France’s $2.66 trillion - and Greece’s $342 billion.

He observes:

In every case, the nations that have already been where Obama & Co. are leading the USA are in far worse shape than the USA. That’s why they all rejected Obama’s call for more debt spending at the G20 Summit – and that’s why they are all drawing back from past Democratic Socialist policies and are all headed into major austerity mode.

He goes on to remind Americans that –

The reason for America’s past economic superiority is no secret to most Americans who violently oppose everything Obama and the District of Corruption is doing to the U.S. economy today.

That reason can be summed up in two words – “individual incentive”.

The harder and smarter free people work in a free-market economy, the more productive and prosperous they become. The more saddled they become with government regulations and taxation, the less productive and prosperous they become.

Posted under Britain, Canada, Commentary, Economics, Europe, France, Socialism, United States by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, June 30, 2010

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