The term is absurd.
Okay, at this point, I’d like to invite anyone who wishes to do so to quote the title of this article and perhaps a few select lines from it out of context and claim that this entire site is a “shill for the mega wealthy” or promoting “the evils of capitalism” or is perhaps even “racist.” Go ahead. What you will say will make no sense considering the actual context. But I’ve seen it done with similar arguments and I fully expect to see it again.
But the fact remains that the term “the poverty line” is still absurd on the face of it.
THIS IS A STUB ARTICLE WHICH WILL EXPAND ON THE FOLLOWING TOPICS:
Basically, this will be an article expressing an attitude pretty much like the guy in the link below, but I’d like to include a few more details in my financial examples:
Note that I am:
- Not saying that there is no poverty in the United States;
- Not saying that there are no poor people;
- Not even saying that there are not people who need and even deserve help.
I’m not even saying here that it shouldn’t be the Federal government that provides some form of assistance.
What I am saying is that this specific term, “the poverty line” can have no specific, rational, meaningful, across-the-board definition in the United States of America, regardless of how popular it is in the media, among politicians, and even perhaps among people who have degrees in the studies of Sociology or Economics.
Because you cannot have a definition of “poverty” that applies to all people across all regions and in all circumstances in the United States, even if you adjust it for numbers or ages of family members.
Aside from a person’s particular situation, there are two huge variables involved in “poverty,” one of which many people deny the effect of and the other one of which many people don’t realize: They are mindset and location.
First note that sociologists and people in the media often deride the use of individual examples, preferring to use their statistics of large populations to show how bad off some group is as compared to another group. They claim that to focus on individual examples is to miss the big picture of society and does no good in solving social problems.
This is nonsense. Society is made up of individual human beings with individual motivations and abilities and situations. The mindset of each and every human being is one of the driving factors in any social problem or question. If you ignore that kind of focus, you skip right over the problem and guarantee that you will come to wrongheaded solutions.
First example: Linda’s father: He considered their family to be very “poor.” He was barely able to make their monthly rent payments. He couldn’t afford to help Linda with any expenses regarding her education or hardly even food. But both he and his girlfriend had brand new pickup trucks, each worth at least $25,000 that they were making payments on. Neither one of them needed a truck for any job requirements. That’s a total of $50,000 for just basic transportation.
Contrast that with: Around about that same time, one of our cars died. We shopped around and bought a fifteen year old Buick for $3000. It’s not elegant. But it runs. We still have it. Don’t tell me that anyone, especially anyone who considers themselves to be “poor” who has trouble meeting monthly rent payments, needs to spend $50K on basic transportation.
Second example: I was in a discussion recently with a group of people. The discussion turned toward the general bad health of people in some areas of the country. One guy started lamenting that “poor people are forced to eat bad food like McDonald’s hamburgers because they can’t afford anything better.
McDonalds food is expensive compared to buying food from a grocery store and going to the effort to prepare it. And it’s absolutely not a matter of desperately needing to feed yourself today and not being able to save for tomorrow. Because on the money that you can spend on the cheapest stuff at McDonalds for a couple days, you can feed yourself for a week.
Third example: Poor people in Memphis who couldn’t pay their rent but who could pay their cell phone bills and could afford big-screen televisions with cable.
The above examples are all mindset. But regardless of these, the biggest reason a national “poverty line” doesn’t make sense is differences in location.
Here, I want to come up with a budget for a small family living in three or four different locations in the country.
Conclusion: Talking about a singular “poverty line,” even adjusted for family size, across disparate regions as large and diverse as the various areas of the United States makes no sense at all.
People try to use gross statistics related to aggregated numbers like this to promote all sorts of policy decisions. But there is no way to do it and not make bad decisions and promote bad policies. People’s conditions are individual and problems require individual intelligence applied to each one in order to come up with rational solutions.