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Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by Thomas Veil, Aug 17, 2011.
NBC News video
Hello, Third World.
I'm sure that there's an appropriate debate to be had about this subject - and I'm sure there are a lot of families having a bad time in the US.
Just be careful though about using the word 'poverty' to describe conditions in a Western Democracy. Poverty as defined by the OECD, is living below 60% of a countries median income. It's a relative measure that doesn't provide any information about whether a person has problems with food, housing, entertainment etc. As a relative measure, it is likely that it will never be possible to 'cure poverty' - raising a countries' standard of living and median income will just increase the poverty measure too.
As long as the necessities of life have intrinsic value and we have money, there will be "poverty". There will also be "poverty" until we set the bar for determining who qualifies so low as to be meaningless.
But what is "poverty"?
Is someone with a roof over their head, food on the table, clothing and cable TV in poverty? All these things should be affordable to a person on 60% of median income in a Western democracy.
And yet our understanding of the emotive word "poverty" is defined by TV news pictures of starving and homeless kids in Africa.
I just don't think this formulaic definition of poverty is helpful, is a country where the median income is such that 'poverty' is actually a perfectly adequate amount of money on which to live.
In the US: There are two slightly different versions of the federal poverty measure -- poverty thresholds and poverty guidelines.
The poverty thresholds are the original version of the federal poverty measure. They are updated each year by the Census Bureau (although they were originally developed by Mollie Orshansky of the Social Security Administration).
The poverty guidelines are the other version of the federal poverty measure. They are issued each year in the Federal Register by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
@Firestarter the US doesn't have the safety nets that Britain has, so people might be living in poverty. Personally I'd say $5/day/person was a reasonable point to call poverty.
Well, that's a popular opinion amongst Europeans, but if you look at the US budget, you'll see that they spend over two trillion dollars on Social Security, Income Security, Medicare, Health, Education, and Veterans Benefits. There's definitely a lot of social spending going on!!
They do spend an insane amount on defence - but even if this money was averted to social programs and balancing the budget, it's doubtful whether these poverty levels would shift significantly. Unfortunately if you're talking about a lot of people, even a lot of money doesn't go a very long way.
I have no wish to see anyone in poverty, but I guess the larger point I'm making would be:
Exactly what is the measure of poverty in a rich developed nation?
How can 'poverty' ever be reduced if you measure it as a percentage of median wage? (Unless you fundamentally believe in money redistribution and wage levelling across society)
What level of living standards should a developed nation finance for it's poorest citizens? What level can it actually afford?
What a pointless response. What is your opinion? I think this is an interesting topic to discuss - and I don't want to excuse 'poverty' or ignore it, just to understand it better.
The US poverty rating given by the census takes into account cash income, ignores taxes and ignores noncash benefits (such as food stamps and housing subsidies). I don't know how significant the contribution of food stamps and housing subsidy is for an unemployed person in the US. Is housing and food essentially 'free'?
I'm not really sure what your point is here, other than to inject vagueness into any definition of poverty. What good does that do?
The starving kids in Africa aren't suffering from poverty because poverty is the lowest step on a ladder and those kids aren't even close to being able to climb it.
You're also defining 60% of median income as poverty without taking reality into account. Increasingly, the poor people live in the 'burbs where transportation costs can easily eat up more than a third of a family's income.
You are condemning everyone with your useless 60% number when that doesn't include all those who are at 40% or even 10%.
Once again, I'm not sure what your point is here, other than spouting off a bunch of idealistic nonsense.
On the contrary, I'm highlighting that the definition of poverty IS vague, and I'm trying to understand what it really means. I'd much prefer the definition to be a lot clearer!
Well, surely they are suffering from poverty then? I don't get your point? Poverty is a measure of wealth, not of opportunity.
I just wanted to highlight that African poverty and US poverty look very different. To use the same word for both confuses more than it informs.
That isn't my definition. It's the OECD definition and it's the definition used in the UK. You're absolutely correct - without understanding what poor folks have to spend their money on, the label 'poverty' means little.
Please re-read what I said. I suspect that we agree with each other, but you've misunderstood me.
Yes, the 60% number is meaningless. THAT'S MY WHOLE POINT.
Where did I condemn anyone?
Is there anyone living at 10% in the US? There must be some minimal level of government help. What it is?
The only idealistic stance I take on this is a suspicion about those who use such imprecise terms as poverty to drive their political agenda. Yes, 20% of kids are now in homes defined as poverty - but what does that actually mean, and what does the government/society need to do to ensure they have a reasonable standard of living and reasonable opportunities in life?
Your trying to muddy the waters by conflating two different terms.One is absolute poverty and that is the type most often seen in ex-colonial states in Africa and elsewhere which means a life threatening situation.This type is not common in the very richest countries.
The other is relative poverty which is used in most countries worldwide.It as you say is related to median income (not including the very richest).Your referring to the very richest countries in the world (particularly the UK and US )
where it is indeed possible to have a roof over your head,food on the table,clothing and possibly cable TV. The point is you can have these things and be in poverty,crap food is cheap,poor people eat crap food,crap housing is cheaper although still ridiculously expensive,poor people live in crap houses,crap technology is cheap,poor people have crap technology.Poor people in rich countries are living in poverty with all that entails,shorter life,less choices,denied opportunity etc.True not many are in absolute poverty (no human should ever be) but they do live in relative poverty and the cost to them and the rest of the country is immense.We have all seen the recent results of relative poverty.
First, as any right-minded person can tell you, the poor people don't pay any Federal Income Taxes, so they aren't pulling their fair share. Second, today's poor have TVs so they aren't really that poor to begin with. Third, all they have to do is stop spending their welfare checks on drugs and they would be just fine. Finally, all they have to do is stop being so lazy and go out and get a job.
Socialism is not the answer.
I'm not sure what to call it when a person gives an interview to the local TV station talking about how they can't replace their busted AC window unit while standing next to a ~60".
I'm certain that if they're looking for sympathy they can find it between **** and syphilis in the dictionary though.
Yes, this happened this past week on a local TV news broadcast.
So, if you lost your job tomorrow, all your personal possessions would just disappear?
If not, would you really sell everything for pennies on the dollar before, yes BEFORE, you sought aid? If you say yes, you are lying. No one, NO ONE sells everything before they have been denied the aid they already paid for with their paycheck deductions.
That's just stupid.
She didn't lose her job. She was retired on a fixed income.
But yes, I'm smart enough to prioritize my life over a 60" TV.
They're wearing some trendy clothes to say they are unemployed.
Their lack of opportunity is far more of an issue than their poverty. Pretending that their poverty is an issue clouds the problems they do face and clouds the ability to figure out in what areas they are truly poor.
That's quite a strong opinion there. Believe it or not, some people do feel a responsibility to do everything they can to maintain their basic needs on their own before they apply for government aid. Wouldn't you agree that luxury items should be sacrificed in order to obtain necessities?
For clarity, in the US I'm talking about welfare, not unemployment. Reestablishing financial balance after a loss if income is a process and in my opinion that process should involve analysis of needs and the sacrifice of non-necessities in place of basic needs.
1 in 3 children living with parents without a job is massively worrying though.
very good points. These are the sorts of things nobody thinks through.
There is indeed a difference, and in the course of the debate on how to solve poverty you get frankly shocking responses like
This statement implies that in order to earn any assistance, people should first be reduced to wearing rags and begging in the gutter à la Oliver Twist. A twisted and inhumane perspective, if I may say so myself.
Even more bizarrely it infers those type of clothes are trendy instead of the cheap mass produced (by other poor people in sweatshops) crap worn by people the world over who can't afford anything else.
I don't think firestarter is trying to muddle the waters at all, but rather he's indirectly pointing out that those two terms you mention have already been conflated into "poverty"
Using that one word will inevitably get you to discussions about "poor" people having color TVs and trendy clothes when you're really wanting to talk about the need for access to healthy food which is a significant problem when discussing relative poverty in western countries.
Whoa there Cowboy. I am no where near trendy, but I don't use a rope for a belt either.
People in Third-World countries would laugh their asses off, at what Americans call 'living in poverty'.
I think you've provided a good example of the problem.....one word used to describe two different things
The solution is to be more accurate in your language and not to try and push a half-arsed ideology to say nobodies living in poverty unless they are actually dying of malnutrition in Kinshasa.