The latest complaint from the right wing Republicans is the concern that poverty has benefitted from what was up until now the general prosperity of the nation. Taking as the starting point of data to be reviewed from the start of the great anti-poverty programs of the Johnson era, poor people are better off now. Thus what is identified as poverty by the US Census Bureau and the Department of Health and Human Services, a family of four making $22,350 annually, have more amenities than the same family with a lower income back in 1970.
There are an estimated 43M people designated as poor as of the 2010 census. Some Republicans think that number is too high, given that said people back in the day didn’t have the standard of living experienced by many poor people nowadays.
Thus, the reporters and pundits at Fox News are crying foul. Through various sources they have determined that “poor” people in 2011 are not your grandfather’s poor people. 99 percent of those at or below the poverty level have refrigerators. Now whether they actually own these and other items listed is not determined.
81 percent have a microwave and 78 percent have air conditioners. Gosh, there are members of my family who don’t have air conditioners in every room! 63 percent have cable TV; 54 percent have cell phones.
48 percent have a coffee making machine while 24 percent have a dish washer. I contend that every family has a dishwasher; whether it is a machine or not, that’s where that figure comes from, I assume.
Of all Americans, a majority (51 percent) paid no income tax in 2011. Yet, despite this windfall of monetary bloat, the lowest 50 percent of the country owns 2.5 percent of the nations wealth. Still those Republicans are feeling ripped off!
There’s a push from politicians and right wing talking heads that more Americans, if not all, should have some “skin” as far as paying some proportion of their income in taxes. This despite the fact that poor people do pay Social Security payroll taxes. and the various excise and local sales taxes as well.
The problem is, in “today’s economy," the poor just are not suffering enough.
I don’t know how much my readers may travel throughout the country. Most likely, your tourist vacations don’t take you through where most of the “poor” people live. On some of my trips through this great land mass of America, I have travelled and spent time in states like Arkansas, the Appalachian mountain states and Idaho.
In Arkansas, the poorest region of one of the poorest states in the country, there’s a large part of the population who live in ramshackle homes, run-down trailers pitched off the road in the woods and make-shift wooden shacks, many with rippled tin roofs. Similar housing is available at what I assume are affordable prices, in the Appalachian mountains and the northern mountains of Idaho. I noticed in many cases those with refrigerators kept them on the porches of the single family dwellings. Rusting cars decorated their yards. Large vegetable gardens were tended by children in hand-me-down clothes whether too large or too small.
There were a noticeable number of shot guns and rifles among these groups as well. This was for hunting whatever stray squirrels, possum, raccoons, with occasional larger kills during the appropriate hunting seasons. Fishing was another important source of daily food.
My observations of these areas dated back five to ten years. Perhaps they have acquired air conditioning or a micro wave in the meantime.
Certainly the conditions of poor Americans have improved greatly in the past half decade. I doubt many of those in the mountains had much by way if cell phones since there’s probably not much cell coverage there.
Are there people working the system? Yes, there are.There is a subculture of people who live in subsidized housing yet have sufficient funds to eat take out much of the week, have cellphones for their families, and wear brand name and designer label clothes. Many have not worked for some time due to disabilities and lay offs.
How can we remove the wheat from the chaff in these instances? More social workers to visit homes of people receiving assistance could help. However, those people are being laid off as quickly as any other.
The one thing that is not fair is to cut the entire programs by some arbitrary percentage. Remember, as Jesus said, the poor we will have with us always. I just don’t want it to be anyone I know and love.