Poverty rose 4 percent in America last year.
That’s what the government says.
Common sense, however, says something different.
Common sense says that, compared to the standard of history and the rest of the world, there is no poverty in America.
Don’t shoot me yet.
I’m not saying people don’t have it hard. I’m not saying people don’t have financial catastrophes. I’m not saying there isn’t an economic underclass. I’m not saying people don’t go to bed wondering where they’re going to find the money they need.
I know about financial hard times.
And I know about doing without.
But I don’t think there is poverty in America.
Not true poverty.
Face it, most of our poor people are fat. And have cable TV.
And a cell phone, with customized rings. And a bed and a roof and inside plumbing and a benefits card to keep the refrigerator filled.
Poor people in America can afford cigarettes and beer, or marijuana. Poor people in America get the best health care in the world.
That all may sound like an unfair indictment of the poor, or as some insensitive screed, but the simple fact is that, no matter how hard things get, nobody in America needs to go to bed hungry or go to bed outdoors.
Many do, but mostly it is because of their own choices or incompetence or because of the neglect of their parents. Services and benefits are available to all, from the government and from charities, and those who end up going without are usually those who have squandered their opportunities or allotments.
Compared to what our ancestors knew, or what the rest of the world faces, American poverty is a walk in the park. Poor people in America live better than hundreds of millions of people in nations around the globe. They have not only the necessities, but many of the luxuries of life.
And yet there is great discontent, as entitlement has replaced gratitude and extravagance has become a right. We see suffering where there truly is none and identify poverty where it doesn’t truly exist.
The question is: Why?
The answer is that poverty, as we define it, has become a powerful tool for social engineers and politicians. Specifically, it is the lever being used to push our country into socialism.
By broadly and incorrectly declaring poverty, activists attack our economic system from the top and from the bottom. By creating the perception of poverty, they give themselves an argument for more social welfare programs. By pointing at the supposedly impoverished, they make the argument for expanded government compassion.
That increases the load on taxpayers and hastens the transfer of wealth from those who produce to those who don’t produce. It creates the social expectation – contrary to our national tradition – that the poor have claim on the resources of the non-poor.
By doing this, the concept of individual property rights is eroded. If money is the means of acquiring property, and increased amounts of money can be taxed to support the poor, then the possession of property is substantially jeopardized. And a fundamental American freedom is endangered.
Broadly defining poverty also creates class envy and division, which is the engine of socialism. Increasing the number of people who see themselves as poor increases the constituency for more entitlement programs or policies. It also fosters anger on the part of the supposedly impoverished, which creates social instability.
As poverty grows, so does the government. As taxation rises, freedom falls.
Both dangerous trends are encouraged by our mistaken concept of poverty. It seems like a minor matter, just one more government statistic, but it is a major thread in the spider’s web that entangles our national liberties.
Certainly, times can be hard. Money can be exasperating. Bankruptcy and economic failure are real. Many families struggle throughout their lives with money issues.
But nobody said life would be free of struggle.
And nobody should think that the difficulties faced by the poorest of Americans are anything like the daily reality of millions around the globe.
Who would be offended if you told them they were poor.