Some do-gooders are blind to reality

I’ve written before about poverty, and what it really is – and isn’t. Author and blogbuddy Michael Z. Williamson also had a few pithy words to say about the subject recently. You’ll therefore understand that I was somewhat underwhelmed by a touchy-feely opinion piece about it at CNN this morning. Here’s an excerpt.

America’s poverty rate is now the worst since 1993, according to a shocking report last week from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Over 46 million people are living in poverty, 2.6 million more than in 2009 and the poverty rate has reached 15.1 percent.

The outlook is grim. The recession has compounded decades of growing economic inequality, structural poverty, and urban decay. With the projections that unemployment will remain high for several years, these numbers are not likely to improve.

Making matters worse, as Ron Haskings at the Brookings Institution noted, “Safety net programs run by the federal and state governments are helping millions of families avoid poverty, but thee programs could be subject to cuts at the federal and state level because of continuing deficit and debt problems.”

. . .

The War on Poverty claimed some notable accomplishments. According to the historian Michael Katz, “Between 1965 and 1972, the government transfer programs lifted about half the poor over the poverty line.” Many programs, such as Head Start, became popular across the nation and perceived as integral to the well being of struggling Americans.

. . .

The new data from the Census Bureau, comes at a crucial time, with government programs on the chopping block as Washington focuses on cutting the budget deficit.

Candidates running for office in 2012 should be forced to confront this issue and explain what they intend to do about it.

Proposals such as public jobs, education reform, and tax incentives to rebuild blighted areas must be discussed. There must also be strong consideration given to protecting — and even expanding –state and local services for the poor despite the current obsession with budget cuts.

There’s more at the link. Unfortunately, most of it’s in the same vein. “We need to spend more money we haven’t got to help those who are already far better off than the genuinely poor elsewhere in the world.” It’s enough to make you sick . . .

Furthermore, government programs to help the poor – especially those of a particular race – may have done far more harm than good, according to a recent article in the Washington Times.

After nearly a half-century of government-led exertion to lift black Americans out of poverty, how are they faring? New data and research tell the story. According to census data, 26 percent of blacks, compared with 10 percent of whites, lived in poverty in 2009. The unemployment rate for blacks is 16.7 percent, more than twice the rate for whites. And a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts Economic Mobility Project finds that black men in the middle class are 37 percent more likely than white men to tumble down into the bottom 30 percent of income earners.

A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute concludes that wealth destruction suffered by Americans during the Great Recession hurt blacks more than others. According to “The State of Working America’s Wealth,” the median net worth of black households slid to $2,200, compared with the median net worth of whites at $97,900. Forty percent of black households had zero or negative net worth.

Liberals, race hustlers and others committed to the idea that America is an unjust society in need of remediation have a ready explanation: Blacks continue to suffer discrimination. Racism may be more subtle than when Bull Connor unleashed the dogs upon civil rights marchers, they say, but it is still pervasive and damaging. Yet that narrative is getting harder and harder to maintain. Indeed, it is dawning upon many that blacks remain mired in poverty precisely because their political leaders have looked to government for salvation. And government – far from rescuing blacks from poverty – has kept them trapped in it.

Uncle Sam still transfers hundreds of billions of dollars yearly to the poor and downtrodden in the form of Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance program, nutritional assistance (food stamps), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Earned Income Tax Credit, fuel assistance and a host of narrow-bore programs aimed at ameliorating the hardships of poverty. Social scientists have long warned of the corrosive effect of welfare upon black Americans’ family structure, self-reliance and initiative. If that’s where government “help” ended, the condition of blacks today might not be so dire.

. . .

The do-gooders have all the best of intentions, of course. They just don’t pay attention to results. In the name of compassion, they keep blacks hooked on initiative-sapping welfare dependency. In the name of building the American dream, they promote homeownership for people who lack the financial wherewithal to keep up payments. In the name of equal opportunity, they dispense college loans to people who will never graduate. Lord, deliver us from those who would save us.

Again, more at the link. Bold print is my emphasis.

I urge you to read the three articles on poverty I linked earlier. They were written to convey the truth about the subject. I’ve been personally exposed to real poverty for years in the Third World. I can tell you from all-too-heartrending experience: What American social workers, and the author of the CNN article cited above, consider ‘poverty’ is nothing of the sort.

Most do-gooders haven’t the faintest idea of the reality of poverty, and don’t know what they’re talking about – but they want the rest of us to pay for their schemes to fix it. That says it all, right there . . .



  1. The first time I heard a social-worker type refer to the people living in a public housing complex (one of the most dangerous in the Atlanta metro area) as "clients" I knew who was benefitting the most from the "social assistance" program there.


  2. There is also a scheme to redefine poverty as a percentage of total income. So, no matter what their income the lowest (for example) 15% would always be "in poverty."

  3. I've lived a pretty fortunate life, and my wife and I are now quite prosperous and extremely comfortable, so my direct experience with poverty is extremely limited.

    However, I have a hard time believing that in the US, having a car, a smartphone with data plan, a climate controlled home (complete with pay TV channels), medical care, and food to eat (these things are true of many people on various public assistance programs) is true astonishing poverty that demands we act NOW.

    I've been to Mexico City back in my earlier years, and we didn't hang out in the nicer neighborhoods on this trip. I remember seeing a mother and her child living in a junkyard. I worked with orphans who had either lost their parents or had been cast away because they couldn't be fed. I helped build a church from nothing more than wooden posts and cinder blocks because their tarp and 2×4 facility had blown down earlier in the week.

    That's poverty. Poverty doesn't wear gold jewelry and drive a car while yammering on a cell phone. Poverty is the haunted look in a child's eyes because he didn't find anything good to eat in the rubbish heap today.

  4. I've skimmed through the U.S. Census Bureau report and a lot of news outlets are selectively using different pieces of information from the report. Here are a couple of other statistics from that report:

    "Chronic poverty was relatively uncommon, with 2.2 percent of the population living in poverty all 48 months from 2004 to 2007."

    "More recent data from the 2008 panel show that 23.1 percent of the population experienced a poverty spell lasting 2 or more months during 2009, and around 7.3 percent of the population were in poverty every month in 2009."

    As is typical, many people only use the facts they want to the general populace to hear because they know most people won't do their own research. It took me less then 10 minutes of google magic to determine the following: Based on the U.S. Census Bureau report, for a family of 4 to be in poverty, their median household income must be less than roughly $23,000/year, and this does not include the available government aid which will help pay for their food, housing, utilities, and health care for their kids. Compare that with the rest of the world: "Almost half the world…live on less than $2.50 a day." ( That's an income of less than $1,000 per year. That is real poverty.

    Despite what one's political belief's are, we need to be having this discussion based on a real definition of what poverty is. It must be defined by comparison with the rest of the world, not just within our borders.

  5. Re: Sherm's comment. That's the way poverty is defined in the yUK. Anybody on less than 40% (or 50%, I'm not sure) is defined as "living in poverty".

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