Now that the national poverty rate has topped the 15% mark. And since we are going after both sides here, is it an indication that Obama is indeed inept as a President, and that Democratic social policies have failed, or if the current Administration inherited a historic, and perhaps purposeful economic disaster by the Bush administration? As with all things political, the answer is really somewhere in the middle.
When we discuss poverty in America, who exactly are we talking about? Nicholas Cage declared bankruptcy and had to sell homes and assets worth millions at a loss. Can we consider Nicholas Cage impoverished? In order to have a constructive view of the issue it is critical to be speaking to the same definition of American poverty, which is fundamentally different from poverty elsewhere around the planet. It is in coming to a proper definition that allows for constructive dialogue among rational and intelligent people from both parties. Ambiguity is the fertile ground for manipulators like the Becks and Limbaughs and Savages to create propaganda that only solidifies division in this nation and costs lives.
The problem is that they have no interest in a better nation, only a better nation for them and their greedy co-conspirators. They desire a tiered nation of the haves and have-nots, and a nation in which poor kids will aspire to shine their shoes, clean their toilets and serve their food, while their children are indemnified with power, money and privilege. These so-called men blather on and on about natural law. But natural law is the guideline for the selfish. It is and becomes an excuse to hide behind. It is the cornerstone to every argument on the Right. They are all selfish in nature. My house, my money, my gun. I got mine, you get yours. The vague idea of community in reality becomes an extension of that self-directed attitude. The world must look like what they wish it to be, not what is actually is.
We’ve all heard the propaganda. America’s poor are so much better off than the poor in Bangladesh or Somalia, as if those are the standards America’s poor should be measured against. They cite obesity, owning a television or having cable TV as evidence that the poor in this country have nothing to complain about. Again, are they demanding that our poor should be shivering in an empty apartment, bloated and covered with flies before we pay attention?
The Health and Human services Administration sets the poverty level for a single adult at $11,ooo per year in income. For a family of 4 that number is $22,350, or roughly an additional $3000 annually for each additional person in the household. That’s roughly 9 dollars per day for food, school clothing, shoes, coats, medical costs, etc. Working a minimum wage job full-time with no vacation brings a pre-tax amount of $17,680 in income yearly, or $340 a week. Federal income tax, state tax and SSI reduce those amounts to roughly $12,000 annual or about$240 weekly. Quickly run through a basic list of costs, bus or train or driving costs(which brings upkeep, fuel and insurance costs) rent, food, electricity, gas and basic incidentals and that income is quickly used up.
Some of that might-might- come back in a tax return, but not much. Perhaps a thousand bucks. Consider that a break job for a car costs$4-600 bucks, and a monthly bus pass in Chicago is $90, or almost a thousand per year. What about healthcare? Minimum wage jobs don’t come with healthcare. The wife and I, through our well-paying jobs still pay 500 per month into our premiums. Basic car insurance in a decent neighborhood…$4-800 annually.
But we can narrow the argument to a greater degree of reality. Are we discussing Relative Poverty , Episodic poverty or Absolute poverty?
Relative poverty is what the Propagandists most commonly use. That is poverty in relation to the median income in a given location. The median income in rural Idaho who likely be far lower than the median income of , say, Manhattan where there are far more at the top end of the income scale pulling the income average higher. The cost of basic existence in either place would be dramatically different. It is a ruse.
Episodic poverty would refer to those, for example, seasonally unemployed. Both Episodic and Relative poverty are argumentative and open to all sorts of manipulation. Absolute poverty, however, is not.
Absolute poverty refers to specific criteria needed for basic survival. It sets standards for a basic healthy diet needed to sustain a basic body mass index, access to safe water, a toilet in or near the home, basic medical accessibility for serious illness and pregnancy, minimal shelter with less than four living to a room and a floor made of something other than dirt or mud. It prescribes access to basic education and the ability to read, access to basic information and emergency information such as a television, and for a telephone. Finally, it requires access to simple legal, social and financial services.
That said, this is how poverty in America breaks down. 15.3% of Americans live below the Absolute poverty line. Which means that, 37 million Americans, or nearly a million in every state of the Union cannot rely on basic housing, services, food, healthcare, sanitation, education or clean water. According to the USDA 15% of Americans cannot rely on having enough nutritious food to sustain adequate health, which seems a crime in the wealthiest nation on the planet.
Listen Saturday’s from 11am-1pm to WC Turck, Brian Murray and guests on Chicago’s real alternative media, AM1680, Q4 radio, streaming at www.que4.org.
WC Turck is an author, artist, playwright and talk radio host in Chicago. He has been called the most dangerous voice on the Left. He is currently working on a new book “Shoot Down: An unflinching look at the events leading up to the shooting down of Malaysia Air Flight 17.” His first novel, “Broken” was recommended by NAMI for its treatment of PTSD. In 2006 he published “Everything for Love,” a memoir of his experiences during the siege of Sarajevo. He wrote and produced two critically acclaimed plays, “Occupy my Heart” and “The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden.” He works with the homeless and foreclosure victims in Chicago. He partners in a weekly radio show dedicated to issues, society and politics with cohost, activist and artist Brian Murray For more information, past shows, videos and articles, visit www.revolutioandbeer.com
The Illinois Policy Institute (IPI) is a conservative think tank with offices in Chicago and Springfield, Illinois, and member of the State Policy Network. IPI is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as of 2011. IPI is also a member of ALEC’s Health and Human Services Task Force and Education Task Force. Senior Budget and Tax Policy Analyst, Amanda Griffin-Johnson, presented model legislation (the “State Employee Health Savings Account Act”) to the HHS task force at ALEC’s 2011 annual meeting. Collin Hitt, Director of Education Policy, is a private sector member of the Education Task Force representing IPI. He sponsored the “Local Government Transparency Act” at the ALEC 2011 States and Nation Policy Summit. In its 2006 annual report the Cato Institute states that it made a grant of $50,000 to the Illinois Policy Institute. The Cato Institute is a libertarian think tank founded by Charles G. Koch and funded by the Koch brothers.