Sunday, May 13, 2007

Poverty in America

Dana at Common Sense Political Thought had a terrific post on The Real Cause of Poverty. It drove the typical moonbats crazy, who made the typical no-fact arguments about poverty.

While researching rebuttals for such nonsense, I discovered this mixed bag of a post on what is poor. The person who wrote it has a few examples that I would, indeed, consider examples of poverty:

--Being poor is coming back to the car with your children in the back seat, clutching that box of Raisin Bran you just bought and trying to think of a way to make the kids understand that the box has to last.

--Being poor is stealing meat from the store, frying it up before your mom gets home and then telling her she doesn't have make dinner tonight because you're not hungry anyway.

But much of the rest of the list isn't poor. Many, many middle class people have (and continue to) live with these decisions (including me!). Things on his list which don't make one poor:
--Being poor is knowing exactly how much everything costs.

No, poverty isn't knowing how much everything costs. Every smart consumer knows how much everything costs. I know I do. And most people I've known who are savers know how much everything costs.
--Being poor is getting angry at your kids for asking for all the crap they see on TV.

Perhaps he's trying to say he's angry he can't afford all the crap on TV. But I don't know anyone who can afford all the crap on TV, unless they are Bill Gates. The rest of us pick and choose which crap we will afford or try to afford. And then hope the kids forget the crap we can't afford.
--Being poor is knowing your kid goes to friends' houses but never has friends over to yours.

Before we moved, my family lived in a tiny, crackerbox of a house. It was 2 bedrooms and 1 bath, about 1,000 square feet. No central air (we put central heat in). We used one window unit to "cool" the house in the 100-degree Texas heat. It was a crappy little house in many ways, but it was the first house I ever owned and I lived in it for 14 years, through 2 husbands and 3 kids. And while the kids didn't have friends spend the night because we didn't have the room, I wouldn't say we weren't a happy family in the crackerbox. So maybe the reason your kids don't invite their friends over has nothing to do with your house.
--Being poor is living next to the freeway.

I grew up in a house two blocks from the freeway in a nice, white, middle class neighborhood. We certainly didn't know we were poor!
--Being poor is off-brand toys.

I've bought lots of off-brand toys in my life and continue to buy lots of things at the dollar store. I buy them not because I'm poor, but because kids have as much fun with army men that cost $1 as army men that cost $15.
--Being poor is a heater in only one room of the house.

For the first two years in the crackerbox, I had one heater in the house. I moved it from the living room to the bedroom when I went to bed. When the oldest child (she was an only child at the time) came along, we bought a second heater. And we didn't feel deprived! We decided to get central heat once she started walking.
--Being poor is hoping your kids don't have a growth spurt.

I still try to get one more year out of every set of clothes. The youngest can have long pants one year, capris the next, and--if I'm lucky--shorts the third year.
--Being poor is not enough space for everyone who lives with you.

We had five people in 1,000 square feet. The kids were in bunk beds in the other room. We weren't poor, but it was a bit cramped for a while.

There's much more in this frame of mind on the list. My point is that most of what this guy is calling "poor" I would call "thrifty." There have been a lot of times where I didn't have much money to spend on things, but I learned how to make things stretch. So maybe I bought stuff at the thrift store. Or I bought groceries at the cost-plus-10% store. I've bought the meat that's "priced for a quick sale" and made it for dinner. I've stuck several coupons and rebates together to get free shoes or other items.

Poverty does suck. But what passes for poverty in America isn't really poor.
Based on the Census Bureau's annual report on poverty in the United States states the following about persons defined as "poor:"

6% of all "poor" households actually own their own homes
75% of all "poor" households have air conditioning
Only 6% of "poor" households are overcrowded
The average "poor" American has more living space than the average non-poor individual living in Paris, London, Vienna and Athens
Nearly 3/4 of "poor" households own a car
97% of those classified as poor have color TVs and 78% have a VCR or DVD player.

My 80-year-old father tells me stories about life in West Virginia in the Great Depression. He and his father would hunt squirrels, rabbits, and possums for meat. How much meat does the average squirrel have and how far does it stretch to feed a family of 8 (2 parents, 6 kids)? Not very.

If we want to talk about poverty, try a guy that ate meatless meals (not by choice) most of his life as a child. Buying off-brand toys pales by comparison.