Tuesday, August 28, 2007

But I thought...

...the poor were getting poorer.

They're not, at least for now.

"The Census Bureau reported Tuesday that 36.5 million Americans, or 12.3 percent -- were living in poverty last year. That's down from 12.6 percent in 2005."

Poverty is defined by FedGov as income of $20,650 for a household of four. See their website for more info.

HHS is very ambiguous about how it calculates income for this guideline. It says the agencies using the guideline to determine services can use net or gross income. Let's be generous and say it's net income. Even a net income calculation wouldn't take in to consideration under the table income, Federal, state and local subsidies for food, housing, school lunches, disability payments, etc.

Despite the low levels of income, most of those families have televisions, computers, cell phones, cars and other items that would be considered luxuries in countries where poor is REALLY poor. While it's true that we do have SOME poverty in this country, poverty is not a permanent condition for most of the truly poor. Most poor people do not stay poor. With very few exceptions, people tend to progress upward in income. I'm not a mathematician but I'd be willing to bet that incomes rise significantly as people get older then drop off sharply after age 65. This is what happens in the normal course of life. What this means is that the people who were poor in 1997 are not likely to be the same group of people that are poor in 2007. The welfare proponents do NOT want you to understand this concept because it damages their credibility. If "the poor" are generally going to stop being poor on their own anyway, why do they need government assistance? The truth is, they don't. Oh sure, it's easy to make the case that lots of people need short term assistance but that's what private charity is supposed to be for. These permanent government programs create a class of dependent people that have a harder time breaking the poverty cycle than the poor that do not get on these programs.

I've been saying for years that I want the President to call a press conference and announce an end to all Federal assistance programs one year from the date of the announcement. Along with cutting those programs, we'll get a reduction in taxes equal to the amount (if that's possible) of the budgets these programs operated from. Furthermore, it would be declared that the income tax deduction limit on charitable giving would be raised by 100%.

What a boost to our entire economy this would be. Not just because of the reduction in costs from the services that were eliminated but it would essentially force most of the dependent class to go be more productive. Higher productivity generates a higher living standard for everyone. Many of these people, when forced out in to the work world will become entrepreneurs and employ other people. Others will fill jobs that cannot be filled right now. Some of those people will always have low paying jobs and remain poor. But there will be more charity available to assist them.

Charity does a much better job of figuring out what people need than government because they tend to specialize. A local charity is flexible and far more efficient than government programs because they have to answer to their benefactors for more funds so they tend to do their jobs. When a particular need changes, a charity can change with it. Not only that, private charity can and should be more restrictive with who they help which results in better allocation of resources. It's all to easy to scam the government and many believe they have the right to.

As for the rich getting richer... Have you seen the sub prime lending mess? Lots of rich people have become less rich. The last time I saw the list of Forbes most wealthy people a bunch of them dropped off the previous list and if I'm not mistaken, the net worth of the top people had all fallen. Doesn't mean they're headed for the bread line, but it doesn't mean that the rich always get richer and the poor always get poorer. The people these groups represent are in constant flux.

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