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The Census Bureau did a study from 1996-1999. They found that 51% of those in poverty at some point during those 48 months were only in poverty for 2-4 months. Only 2% of the United States population was in poverty for the full 48 months. Of the total number of full time workers in the United States, only .1% were in poverty for the full 48 months. Of the total number of part time workers, only .5% were in poverty for the full time period. Revealingly, 10.6% of all those receiving public assistance of any kind were in poverty for the full 48 months and 11.7% of all Medicaid recipients were impoverished for the full time period. Keep in mind that this is during Welfare Reform, when the rolls were falling by over 50%. (62)
We must also consider that the poverty rate might include recent immigrants, college kids, temporary unemployed, and those who choose to be poor. But even factoring these people in, it still seems like the majority of people who remain in poverty for long periods of time are primarily those on public assistance.
Even so, there are many discontent with the
way the Census Bureau measures poverty. The Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty says:
The existing official measure of poverty has been widely criticized. Under the procedures by which the official poverty rate is calculated, only cash income is counted in determining whether a family is poor; cash welfare programs count, but benefits from noncash programs, such as food stamps, medical care, social services, education and training, and housing are not included. Taxes paid, such as social security payroll taxes, and tax credits, such as the Earned Income Credit, are also excluded from poverty calculations. Because government spending on means-tested noncash benefits and tax credits has increased more rapidly than spending on means-tested cash benefits over the years, ignoring noncash benefits is an increasingly serious omission if we want a broad picture of the impact of government programs on poverty. (48)
This raises serious questions about the true plight of those in poverty. The Heritage Foundation did a study of those considered poor (61):
For a more accurate assessment of poverty, let's turn to the Heritage Foundation (a Conservative think tank):
what is more remarkable is the story behind the Census figures: The actual living conditions of the
individuals the government deems to be poor. For most Americans the word "poverty"
suggests destitution: an inability to provide a family with nutritious food, clothing and reasonable
shelter. But only a small number of the 35 million persons classified as "poor" by the
Census Bureau fit that description.
While real material hardship certainly does occur, it is limited in scope and severity. The bulk of the "poor" live in material conditions that would have been judged as comfortable or well-off just a few generations ago. Today, the expenditures per person of the lowest income one-fifth (or quintile) of households equal those of the median American household in the early 1970s, after adjusting for inflation.
are facts about persons defined as "poor" by the Census Bureau, taken from various
Forty-six per cent 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 porch or patio.
Seventy-six per cent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, 30 years ago only
36% of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.
Only 6% of poor households are overcrowded. More than two thirds have more than two rooms per
Nearly three-quarters of poor households own a car; 30% own two or more cars.
Ninety-seven percent of poor households have a color television. [by
the way, I don't own a color television or any television for that matter]
Over half own two or more color televisions. Seventy-eight percent have a VCR or DVD player.
Sixty-two percent have cable or satellite TV reception.
· Seventy-three percent own microwave ovens; more than half have a stereo, and a third have an automatic dishwasher.
Chart 64 (61):
The average poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris,
London, Vienna, Athens and other cities throughout Europe. (Note: These comparisons are to the average
citizens in foreign countries not to those classified as poor.)
Chart 65 (61):
As a group the poor are far from being chronically undernourished. The average consumption of protein, vitamins and minerals is virtually the same for poor and middle-class children, and in most cases is well above recommended norms. Poor children actually consume more meat than do higher-income children and have average protein intakes 100% above recommended levels. Most poor children today are in fact super-nourished, on average growing up to be one inch taller and ten pounds heavier than the GIs who stormed the beaches of Normandy in World War II.
"poverty", even as defined by the broad standards of the Census Bureau, can be reduced
further, particularly among children. There are two main reasons American children are poor: Their
parents don’t work much, and fathers are absent from the home. In good economic times or bad, the
typical poor family with children is supported by only 800 hours of work during a year—that
amounts to 16 hours of work per week. If work in each family were raised to 2,000 hours per
year—the equivalent of one adult working 40 hours per week through the year—nearly 75% of poor
children would be lifted out of official poverty.
Not having a dad around is another reliable pathway down into poverty. Nearly two-thirds of poor children reside in single-parent homes. Each year an additional 1.3 million children are born out-of-wedlock. If poor mothers married the fathers of their children, almost three quarters would immediately be lifted out of poverty.
While work and marriage are steady ladders out of poverty, the welfare system perversely remains hostile to both. Major programs such as Food Stamps, public housing, and Medicaid continue to reward idleness and penalize marriage. If welfare could be turned around to encourage work and marriage, remaining poverty would drop quickly. (61)
Two things catch my eye in the Heritage analysis. First, each family in poverty is only supported by 16 hours of work a week! I realize this figure might be higher if one considers that some work might be done 'under the table', but even so, this doesn't represent the single mother working three jobs trying to make ends meet that is often portrayed in the media. Second, in the rush to portray European countries as more 'caring' and 'civilized' and, especially, more 'equal', we often forget how much more prosperous then Europe we are. Because 76% of those in poverty have air conditioning (those that don't probably live in the northern states) we would never see a story like this one, seen in the Associated Press during the Summer of 2003 (49):
France's longest and hottest heat wave, with temperatures that topped 104 in the first two weeks of August, probably caused about 10,000 deaths, said Hubert Falco, secretary of state for the elderly.
While other European governments have not reported the huge death toll of France, signs are emerging of significant spikes in deaths in several countries.
The Central Bureau for Statistics said the heat claimed 500 to 1,000 lives in the Netherlands, and Portugal's Health Ministry estimated more than 1,300 dead.
Italy's Health Ministry has refused to give figures, but calls to several major cities found marked increases in deaths compared with last year. Genoa had 693 in the first 18 days of August, compared with 475 in the whole month last year. In Turin, 732 died, more than 500 of them over 70, compared with 388 last year. (49)
Society softens sting of poverty
1/9/06 Waterbury Republican American (editorial)
Posted 10/11/06 (By Travis)
Education Aid Mythology
Some interesting facts that clash with the political rhetoric about 'drying up student loans' and 'soaring costs' of college and the so-called cutting of 'vital' programs'.
“Twenty-nine to thirty-one percent of high income students take out loans to go to college.”
There is no mystery why this is. Government takes taxpayer money and gives it to these students at interest rates below what can be made in the stock market or any other investments. It is puzzling that 100% of students don't take out the subsidized loans and invest the money in index funds...
• 52% of students max out on Stafford student loans.
• 47% of students either don’t max out or do not take out the loans.
• 37% of private borrowers work.
• 63% don’t.
Several of the speakers at the event noted that only one-third of students are working their way through college in addition to borrowing, a puzzle when the stated reason for the loan is need. In days of old, students borrowed and worked their way through college.
In fact, Mazzeo, who has worked as a professor at Baruch College, noted that “A surprisingly large number of low-income students do not max out on Stafford loans.” At the other end of the transaction is a multi-billion dollar industry, mostly fueled by tax dollars.
So, just like 'poverty statistics' the reasons for the existence of the 'welfare state' once again prove exaggerated...
/09 (By Travis)
7/16/09 Denver Post
TracFone Wireless wants to give cellphones to Coloradans who receive public assistance.
If approved, the plan by TracFone Wireless in Miami would make Colorado the 17th state it has settled into with free cell service for the indigent, a form of wireless welfare that proponents say taps into one of the last untapped markets for the telecom technology.
In Colorado, it's called LITAP — the Low Income Telephone Assistance Program — and is available to anyone receiving aid from any of six welfare funds: Colorado Works Assistance (TANF), Supplemental Security Income, LEAP, Aid to Needy Disabled, the Old Age Pension Fund and Aid to the Blind.
Statewide, about 65 percent of those eligible participated in Lifeline last year.
The money — more than $800 million in subsidies were paid last year for low-income phone service across the country — comes from the Universal Service Fund, a tax on all telephone lines. Of that amount, Coloradans received nearly $3.2 million in low-income subsidies.
They proclaim that every man is entitled to exist without labor and, the laws of reality to the contrary notwithstanding, is entitled to receive his "minimum sustenance" — his food, his clothes, his shelter with no effort on his part, as his due and his birthright. To receive it — from whom?
- Ayn Rand
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