What does it mean to be poor in America? Who are all these people the leftists (and GWB) want to help by forcibly taking my money? According to a report by the conservative Heritage Foundation called "Understanding Poverty in America", most poor Americans are pretty well off.
If poverty means lacking nutritious food, adequate warm housing, and clothing for a family, relatively few of the 35 million people identified as being “in poverty” by the Census Bureau could be characterized as poor. While material hardship does exist in the United States, it is quite restricted in scope and severity.There's another 18 pages, so go take a look.
The average “poor” person, as defined by the government, has a living standard far higher than the public imagines. The following are facts about persons defined as “poor” by the Census Bureau, taken from various government reports:
- Forty-six 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
- Seventy-six percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, 30 years ago, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.
- Only 6 percent of poor households are overcrowded. More than 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; 30 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.
- Seventy-three percent own microwave ovens, more than half have a stereo, and a third have an automatic dishwasher.
Overall, the typical American defined as poor by the government has a car, air conditioning, a refrigerator, a stove, a clothes washer and dryer, and a
microwave. He has two color televisions, cable or satellite TV reception, a VCR or DVD player, and a stereo. He is able to obtain medical care. His home
is in good repair and is not overcrowded. By his own report, his family is not hungry, and he had sufficient funds in the past year to meet his family’s
essential needs. While this individual’s life is not opulent, it is equally far from the popular images of dire poverty conveyed by the press, liberal activists,
There certainly are real poor people in America, but I think the government has shown time and again that it isn't philosophically equipped to deal with the problem. Rather than focus with tight efficiency on those who are truly in need, the government simply throws handfuls of other people's money into the void. If more people were aware of the condition of our nation's "poor" -- and if they were allowed to give voluntarily rather than by forcible taxation -- I think the definition of poverty would quickly change to something more realistic.
How about this:
The good news is that the poverty that does exist in the United States can readily be reduced, particularly among children. There are two main reasons that American children are poor: Their parents don’t work much, and their fathers are absent from the home.Get a job, you lazy bums! It's for the children!
In both good and bad economic environments, the typical American poor family with children is supported by only 800 hours of work during a year—the equivalent of 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 throughout the year—nearly 75 percent of poor children would be lifted out of official poverty.
(Thanks to Cypren for pointing this report out to me.)