Thursday, August 30, 2007

Poverty: Now With All the Modern Conveniences

Dave at First State Politics posted this he found about how the poor don't have it so rough because they enjoy many modern conveniences like color television and air conditioning. He picked it up from another blogger, who in turn picked it up from Robert Rector at the Heritage Foundation. Dave admonished his readers, "And don’t anyone go all nutsy on me." I'm sure he'll let me know if my response crosses the line into nutsy or not.
The point that life in modern America is made easier by electronic gadgets like color TVs, air conditioners, microwave ovens and DVD players seems to me unremarkable. After citing all the household gadgets poor people enjoy, Rector concludes:
While it is appropriate to be con­cerned about the difficulties faced by some poor families, it is important to keep these problems in per­spective. Many poor families have intermittent difficulty paying rent or utility bills but remain very well housed by historic or inter­national standards. Even poor families, who are overcrowded by U.S. standards or face temporary food shortages, are still likely to have living con­ditions that are far above the world average.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median net worth of the the bottom quintile (20%) of U.S. household income in 2000 was $7,396, the value of a used car. For some, a broken engine block can effectively wipe out a household's net worth.
Rector chooses to measure poverty by world standards, and concludes that most Americans have physical comforts unkown in many parts of the world. I choose to measure wealth and poverty in our society in terms of full access to the American dream. Here, I see unfinished work to be done.
Health care is increasingly hard to come by for middle income Americans, let alone those working minimum wage jobs. As for higher education, the cost of college is so far out of proportion to the assets of poor families that meaningful comparison is difficult. Even with financial aid, the cost of college can be daunting; the price of an intro biology text can be as high as that color television.
The United States is wealthy on an unprecedented scale. Even so, some of us, less sanguine about the lives of the poor, believe that it's not too much to hope that all of our fellow Americans ought to have access to the full benefits of living in midst of this prosperity.


Blogger America Jones said...

Thank Woodrow Wilson and Edward Mandell House for working so hard to make servitude more palatable since 1913. Still kicking after all these years, their brains are kept in jars in the basement of the Pentagram.

"The impulsion of mere appetite is slavery"
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1763

9:59 AM, August 30, 2007  
Blogger David said...

I am not sure what your point is. It is obviously true that poverty in America is not the same as the desperate poverty which grips most of the world. Dave was not saying the poor have it easy. He was saying America is doing something right even by the poorest among us.

I have long been concerned about the desperation many face as energy, housing costs rise . The stagnation of wages, the cost of housing and energy are forming an iron triangle of despair. I have solutions. I see none for your side.

11:24 PM, August 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

reality check: the price of an intro biology text can be as high as that color television.
Great line.

On to other business:

To permanently satisfy the world's sanitation and food requirements would cost only US$13 billion-

We are being asked to anti-up "an extra" 55 Billion just for the next few months of the Iraq war......

Is that truly the best use of our resources?

2:40 AM, August 31, 2007  
Blogger Tom Noyes said...

Nice phrase Dave: "an iron triangle of despair."

Let's hear about your solutions.

8:39 AM, August 31, 2007  

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