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Poverty On the Rise

The L.A. Times pored through Census Bureau data to report on the latest Obama economic milestone: fifteen-year highs in the number of impoverished Americans.

High joblessness and the weak economic recovery pushed the ranks of the poor in the U.S. to 46.2 million in 2010 — the fourth straight increase and the largest number of people living in poverty since record-keeping began 52 years ago, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday.

The share of all people in the U.S. who fell below the poverty line rose to 15.1% last year from 14.3% in 2009. That matched the poverty rate reached in 1993 before falling steadily to 11.3% in 2000. Since then the poverty rate has risen, accelerating after the recession began in late 2007, and is now approaching levels not seen since Lyndon B. Johnson launched the War on Poverty in 1965.

Last year the share of children under 18 living in poverty jumped to 22%, from 20.7% the previous year.

The Census Bureau’s report also showed an increase in the number of people without healthcare coverage rose to 49.9 million last year from 49 million in 2009, though the percentage of uninsured was statistically unchanged. And there was a further erosion of incomes at the middle of the middle class.

Inflation-adjusted median household income in the U.S. fell 2.3% in 2010 from a year ago, to $49,445.

Poverty is the handmaiden of government-imposed “fairness” and compulsive “redistribution,” so there’s nothing for liberals to complain about here.  This really is a milestone of Obama policy – it’s exactly what the Left wants.

Consider this analysis from the end of the L.A. Times piece:

By the Census Bureau’s latest measure, the poverty threshold last year was an income of $11,139 for one person and $22,314 for a family of four.

The government’s official poverty rate doesn’t count food-stamp benefits and low-income tax credits as income. If those programs, which totaled about $150 billion last year, were included, many more people would have been counted as being above the poverty line.

At the same time, analysts say other factors understate the real level of poverty in the U.S. Many more young adults have stayed or moved back home because they can’t find jobs, and others have doubled up with friends and relatives. Moreover, experts agree that the poverty thresholds, designed in the early 1960s, doesn’t capture people’s spending and living needs in today’s economy.

In other words, what we’re seeing here is not just the rise of “poverty,” certainly not in the sense a truly hard-scrabble Third World nation would understand it.  We’re charting the rise of dependency.  How does a family of four survive on $22, 314 per year?  They don’t.  They collect food stamps and other benefits, whose value is not counted in the assessment of poverty.

Living in American poverty is certainly preferable to living in most other parts of the world.  An honest socialist would celebrate this Census report.  People are being fed, clothed, and sheltered, without giving them the kind of middle-class disposable income that leads to disobedience.  Collectivists hate the middle class, because it combines the numbers required for political power with ambitions that cannot be satisfied by the shabby fruits of redistribution and social engineering.  They want more than what their betters have decreed the little people can fairly desire.

In the United States, poverty is not generally a matter of hunger and disease.  It is defined by the dissolution of ownership.  The poor American has little of the wholly-owned property that is essential for meaningful independence from authority.  Free men and women live on estates: the sum of the wealth they have built for themselves and their families.  This gives them both economic freedom, and a vested interest in the affairs of government.  It is no coincidence that the great thinkers of socialism argued passionately against the private ownership of “property” – a concept that extends from land to hourly wages. 

Only when you are free to use something as you wish, and accept full responsibility for the consequences, can you be said to “own” it.  There is not enough ownership in America today.  Poverty is the result of its absence.  It is obviously difficult to build an estate when you can’t get a job. 

The extremists who run the Democrat Party like it that way, which is one reason they avoid doing anything that would actually reduce unemployment.  They’re interested in receiving media credit for their deep concerns about “job creation,” but recoil from the forces that actually create jobs, because those forces inevitably sweep away the control systems liberals prize far more highly than unruly prosperity.  If you want a good laugh, get a leftist talking about how much they love the middle class… then ask what they think should be done on its behalf.  The answer will contain much talk of locks and chains, but very little of keys.

Written By

John Hayward began his blogging career as a guest writer at Hot Air under the pen name "Doctor Zero," producing a collection of essays entitled Doctor Zero: Year One. He is a great admirer of free-market thinkers such as Arthur Laffer, Milton Friedman, and Thomas Sowell. He writes both political and cultural commentary, including book and movie reviews. An avid fan of horror and fantasy fiction, he has produced an e-book collection of short horror stories entitled Persistent Dread. John is a former staff writer for Human Events. He is a regular guest on the Rusty Humphries radio show, and has appeared on numerous other local and national radio programs, including G. Gordon Liddy, BattleLine, and Dennis Miller.

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