Sunday, February 9, 2014

We Have Won the "War on Poverty"

NOTE: These posts have been reproduced from my old blog, "Random Notes", because I plan to cite their contents in an upcoming essay. I have finished the essay, but, unfortunately, it cites a lot of essays I have not yet reproduced. So it may take time to find and post all of them. Until then, you will like see a handful of these essays popping up on my blog amid a few new essays.

I was watching television this morning when I saw the most conclusive proof ever that we have won the war on poverty, and any money we spend now has nothing to do with ending "poverty" and is simply a government redistribution plan.

Well, let me start by making a point I have made before. We don't really have poverty in the US. Our poor people are not "poor" in any meaningful sense. In the past, and in other nations still, poverty means not just having less than others, but not having shelter, not having food, not even having clothing. The US simply does not have that sort of poverty. We have some people who are "hungry", but thanks to our great wealth, there is no one who cannot find food from some source if they need it. Likewise, we have "homeless", but most have access to shelters, provided they are willing to abide by the rules. In most cases our "homeless" are homeless not through poverty, but because of misbehavior, drug or alcohol abuse or choice.

No, what we have in the US is "relative poverty", but no one wants to admit that. Our "poor" people are absolutely rich by the standard of living of two centuries ago. They have multiple sets of clothing, adequate food, most have cars, many have computers, cell phones, televisions, luxuries that the middle class saved up to buy decades ago. So our "poor" are hardly poor by any realistic standard, they just have less than our middle class, but by historic standards, even by the standards of many other nations today, they are quite well off. Why else would so many from other countries try to smuggle themselves here? Because being a "poor" illegal alien here is still much more comfortable than even being upper middle class in their homelands.

But the left likes to hide this and pretend we still have "starving in the streets, without a roof over their heads, wearing rags" type poverty. Why? Because even those on the right are usually open to the argument that the government should stop real destitute type poverty. If we think people are starving, we are often open to the government giving them aid. (I do not say that is right, I oppose even that sort of aid, but many are not as consistent as I am and are open to helping stave off starvation via government aid -- "Collective Action and Government ", "Subsidizing Irresponsibility and Poor Planning".) When the government is helping the starving and truly destitute, people are not likely to complain. However, when the state is engaged in simple redistribution, when it says "you have three computers and John only has one, so give one to him", people are less open to the argument. We are willing to help those in crisis, but we understand that some people earn more and some less, and don't want to meddle in that sort of "inequality".

And so the constant refrain we hear about children being "in hunger" and the number of people "one paycheck away from homelessness" and all the other ill-defined facts and figures which imply we have people dying in the streets, when in reality the state in engaged in wholesale redistribution of wealth under the guise of "fighting poverty". ("The Irrationality of Government Redistribution", "The Basics", "An Examination of the Economics and Sociology of Government Spending ")

And, as I said at the beginning, I have the most conclusive evidence ever. While watching television, I saw a number of advertisements discussing a "government program" which offered anyone who received any sort of government aid assistance in obtaining a cell phone. A cell phone. Are we now so far away from any real poverty that we can afford to take money form working men and women to get cell phones for the indolent? It is as bad as Al Gores "digital divide". If the worst poverty we can find is people without cell phones and lacking high speed internet, then we have won the war on poverty and can stop taking money to fight it. And if not, then how do we justify spending money on cell phones when there is real poverty? Either way, this program is an abomination.

Originally posted in Random Notes on 2011/04/22.

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