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Poverty in America

Most liberals like to parade around as champions of the poor and the oppressed. They like to continually point out how bad poverty is in America, and how rich, greedy, corporate conservatives want to keep the poor people there by eliminating welfare, lowering taxes, etc. John Edwards pioneered the phrase "Two Americas", usually best described by comparing, say, John Edwards' house, or Al Gore's house, to the homes that, for example, Hurricane Katrina victims are stuck in now.

But what is the reality of poverty in America? Are we really seeing Two Americas?

To start with, the poverty rate has just decreased drastically:

Five years into a national economic recovery, the share of Americans living in poverty finally dropped.

The nation's poverty rate was 12.3 percent in 2006, down from 12.6 percent a year before, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday. Median household income increased slightly, to $48,200.

The share of Americans without health insurance hit 15.8 percent last year, the highest percentage since 1998. In 2005, 15.3 percent were without insurance.

So of course, considering there is some good news about a decrease in poverty in the United States, we have to throw in some bad news. There are people without health insurance!! This, of course, means that we should automatically socialize all healthcare.

But before we start to wring our hands too much, what makes these people living in poverished squalor, well, "poor"? The Census Bureau sheds some light on the horrible, horrible living conditions our poor are stuck in:

Forty-three percent of all poor households actu­ally own their own homes. The average home owned by persons classified as poor by the Census Bureau is a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.

Eighty percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, in 1970, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.

Only 6 percent of poor households are over­crowded. More than two-thirds have more than two rooms per person.

The average poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens, and other cities throughout Europe. (These comparisons are to the average citizens in foreign countries, not to those classified as poor.)

Nearly three-quarters of poor households own a car; 31 percent own two or more cars.

Ninety-seven percent of poor households have a color television; over half own two or more color televisions.

Seventy-eight percent have a VCR or DVD player; 62 percent have cable or satellite TV reception.

Eighty-nine percent own microwave ovens, more than half have a stereo, and more than a third have an automatic dishwasher.

Overall, the typical American defined as poor by the government has a car, air conditioning, a refrig­erator, a stove, a clothes washer and dryer, and a microwave. He has two color televisions, cable or satellite TV reception, a VCR or DVD player, and a stereo. He is able to obtain medical care. His home is in good repair and is not overcrowded. By his own report, his family is not hungry and he had suf­ficient funds in the past year to meet his family's essential needs. While this individual's life is not opulent, it is equally far from the popular images of dire poverty conveyed by the press, liberal activists, and politicians.

And we wonder why people in other countries look at us the way they do. No wonder people from third-world countries are clamoring to live here -- people living in "poverty" get the kind of luxuries and amenities that people who live in genuine poverty can only dream of having! Not to mention they get free money and healthcare from the government, giving them no incentive whatsoever to lift themselves out of the position they are in. The number of people living in truly poverished conditions is relatively low. However, that doesn't keep liberal politicians from continually exploiting that image. And for what? To give the government more control, more money, more power. They need those people to remain in the positions they are in; otherwise, they have no legs to stand on. They preach about "Two Americas", but they are the ones keeping it that way.

Hat Tip: Liberty Pundit

And just for fun -- John Edwards' Poverty Tour!


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Comments (37)

I remember a friend, visiti... (Below threshold)

I remember a friend, visiting Chicago for the first time, commenting on how most of the units at Cabrini Green (a public housing project) had Direct TV dishes outside their windows. I remeber a woman, pictured whilst sitting in her kitchen, on the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times lamenting how she coudn't afford her asthmatic saughter's insurance and medications. Despite making twice as much as I do, she was able to take her daughter off of her private health insurance and enroll her in at the Governor's "All Kids" program. How then to explain the brand-new, state-of-the-art digital camcorder on the table next to her?

Poverty here in the U.S. is nothing like true poverty. It's all relative.

Black poverty remains highe... (Below threshold)

Black poverty remains higher than other races. However, at its current rate, it is near a historical low. Until the mid 1990's, the rate was over 30%. Only in the three Clinton boom years, 1999-2001, do we see the black poverty rate lower than it was in 2006.

The 2006 poverty rate for Hispanics of 20.6% is a record low, with data kept back to 1972.

The poverty rate in 2006 was 12.3 %. Only three years since 1980 had a lower rate, 1999-2001.

Average Poverty Rate - First Six Years of an Administration:
Reagan: 14.4%
Clinton: 13.9%
Bush 43: 12.3%

In 1981, 29.8% of Americans earned under $25,000 per year. In 2006, that percentage was 25.2%. In 1981, 39.6% of Americans earned over $50,000 per year. In 2006, that had increased to 48.6%.

Some tables and graphs at my site.

The nation's poverty rat... (Below threshold)

The nation's poverty rate was 12.3 percent in 2006, down from 12.6 percent a year before
So of course, considering there is some good news about a decrease in poverty in the United States, we have to throw in some bad news.

Yeah, and here's the bad news. The poverty rate was 11.3% in 2000, after a steady decline during the 1990s. So all you're doing is celebrating a .3% drop after a steady increase in poverty rates during the 2000s. A drop that still leaves it far above what it was when Bush took office. Whoop-dee-doo.

Good post Cassy. As I've s... (Below threshold)
P. Bunyan:

Good post Cassy. As I've said before, if John Edwards want to find the real cause of poverty in America, he need look no further than the mirror in that little compact he catties around.

Or he could look around the stage at the next debate he's in.

Brian,So the downtur... (Below threshold)

So the downturn that went with the increase of poverty numbers (we'll leave demographics aside for now, like how child joinging or leaving a family can be the difference between being under or over the poverty line), what was the cause of that downturn? Anything happen in the following years that might impact income?
I am curious to hear your reasoning.

Cute wikipedia link there B... (Below threshold)
P. Bunyan:

Cute wikipedia link there Brian.

Of course a thinking person would look at the numbers and see that the proverty rate began increasing in 2001, before anything Bush did even had a chance to take effect.

The icreases from 2000-2004 were due mostly to the recession that Clinton-Gore left the economy in.

One common disingenuous socialist mantra during the 2004 election was "a million lost jobs". It was true that the economy lost 1 million jobs in the first couple years of Bush's presidency, but it's also true that the economy lost 1.5 million jobs in the last years of Clinton's presidency.

A total of 2.5 million jobs were lost due to the recession Clintion-Gore left us in. It takes time to recover from that. But as the statistics show, we are thanks to Bush and the Republicans.

I thank God every day that Gore was not successful in suing his way into the White House as those numbers would have been worse by several orders of magnitude has another socialist administration followed the last one.

Cute wikipedia link ther... (Below threshold)

Cute wikipedia link there Brian.

A link that was sourced: Federal Register, Vol. 71, No. 15, January 24, 2006, pp. 3848-3849. I'm glad you find facts "cute".

Of course a thinking person would look at the numbers and see that the proverty rate began increasing in 2001, before anything Bush did even had a chance to take effect.

Still less than it is today. Ouch.

Oops, "more". D'oh!... (Below threshold)

Oops, "more". D'oh!

Ugh. "More" today, "less" t... (Below threshold)

Ugh. "More" today, "less" then. I'm having a bad typing day.

USA Today carefully omits t... (Below threshold)

USA Today carefully omits the truths... that 1/2 of the "uninsured" are illegal aliens, that 1/6 are wealthy enough that health insurance is a bad choice, 1/6 are young and frequently double counted so 1/6, or about 7-8 million, in a nation of 300 million are actually uninsured.

Oh... and the "poverty rat... (Below threshold)

Oh... and the "poverty rate" is a sliding scale. Even within the USA the variability isn't accounted for and the 'rate' is adjusted all the time.


If I make 30K in Louisiana I'm a home-owner... In New York City I'm a panhandler.

langtryGood point.... (Below threshold)


Good point. An annual trip to Haiti seems to put that all in the right context and perspective.

this guy is so right! My pa... (Below threshold)

this guy is so right! My parents tell stories how their day consisted of finding enough food for the table that day let alone T.V.s, camcorders, and a roof over their heads that didn't leak while growing up in eastern europe, yet these losers sit on their butts living the high life off the government subsidies which these lousy ploiticians give them in exchange for votes. Let the liberals get penalized for everyone they put on welfare eho didn't deserve it and see how freelt they spend our tax dollars!

KATRINA...there were over 1... (Below threshold)
nogo war:

KATRINA...there were over 1500 dead...devastation way beyond 9/11....
When we abandon our own...and we have..
...you know...if given a chance to support our nation....and support Iraq...
Well patriot that I am..I say US...
So all you folks of less government is better..
Just maybe...the next serious devastation is not from terrorists...but nature..
...and when that happens to you ...or someone you know....hey...you are on your own...our Federal Govt has no business helping your unfortunate...sorry ass out...
after all..what idiot would live in an area that hurricanes have hit before? What sorry assed person would drive across a condemned bridge in MPLS...
Less Federal Govt..more individual choices...
by the way...which of the outstanding Presidential Republican Candidates represent YOU?

But hey...I am a full-tilt moonbat...so in 2008 America will vote for the biggest Republican Landslide since 1980..doncha think?

Nogo war, your comment is c... (Below threshold)

Nogo war, your comment is completely incoherent. Not the least because the Federal government is not a first responder in such emergencies and how much Federal government there is has no relation to the Katrina death toll.

Now why in reading the firs... (Below threshold)

Now why in reading the first line and NOT seeing anything below the second para did I know it was nogo?

nogo, your reputation preceeds you. And so does your lack of language skills. Any way...

our Federal Govt has no business helping your unfortunate...sorry ass out...
after all..what idiot would live in an area that hurricanes have hit before?

Good answer!!!! Better point... what idiot would rebuild after one hurricane utilizing the same type construction, in the same place, that was blown to hell previously AND expect the Gov to help?

Answer... too damn many and yes they should be left to their own devices and not suckle the gov teat.

What sorry assed person would drive across a condemned bridge in MPLS...

What sorry assed commenter said it was "condemned" when it wasn't

OH wait... it was you nogo. What am I not surprised! BTW you can take up the condition of the fridge with the States elected officials who diverted repair funds to other projects.

nogoDid you forget t... (Below threshold)

Did you forget to hit the translate to English prompt?
I know this is the first night of college football.....so I grant you a Hall Pass....

Poor Brian. He tries to ma... (Below threshold)

Poor Brian. He tries to make sense, but he continues to come across as a total idiot.

Another crock of right wing... (Below threshold)

Another crock of right wingnut crap to deny reality.

For starters, according to the report: "Experts said the rise in income was mainly a reflection of an increase in the number of family members entering the workplace or working longer hours. Average wages for men and women actually declined for the third consecutive year."

No matter how much a Wizkook tries to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, one still has a sow's ear of a Bush economy.

FF, once again you are the ... (Below threshold)

FF, once again you are the kook. The post was about poverty and its reduction. More family members entering the workforce, because of better employment rates especially among minorities during the Bush administration, is a good thing.

Your point is not a refutation of the point of Cassy's post. It is a shame that you are too clueless to realize this, or too dishonest to care.

One thing that's not exactl... (Below threshold)

One thing that's not exactly apparent is that poverty isn't a permanent thing. It's not genetic, it isn't incurable.

I've been there. I've had months where the choice was between food and car insurance on a crappy car - but I was always able to make the rent, though utilities were spotty. I've used food stamps once - and it was something I hated. I've been on unemployment for about a month out of the past 23 years. I didn't like either of those - I felt like a failure.

Of course, nowdays 'shame' is just SO old-fashioned. And it doesn't do anything for your self-esteem, so the PC folks would be glad to tell you it's not at all important.

The key to making it out of poverty is finding a job - a job you like doing, a job that pays regularly, You have to like it enough to learn to do it well, and there has to be some future in it. Show up for work consistently - on time, sober, properly dressed, and do the job.

And find someone to pair up with, long-term. Marry and not divorce if you're straight, partner up and stay faithful if you're not. Don't marry just for sex. Don't have kids out of wedlock. Yeah, it's old-fashioned stuff. Not PC. Not affirming your freedoms. (Which, having lived through them, are more the freedom to be an idiot and have the support of those around you.) You won't find a feminist that'll go for something so old-fashioned and mundane. They're looking for the new, the shiny. The latest way to be irresponsible, yet have the benefits of a stable society.

(Oddly enough, the idea that comes to mind writing that last sentence is the concept of herd immunity. As long as you've got a large enough section of society that DOESN'T embrace irresponsible behavior as a lifestyle, the overall population isn't terribly affected. But at some tipping point, society's going to have a hard time recovering. And it may have hit that in the UK.)

But the anti-poverty folk - they know what the answers are. More programs, more government handouts, cradle to grave support - and you end up with a society conditioned like Pavlov's dogs. Ring a bell, and they'll jump through hoops to keep the food coming in. Drop the idea of personal responsibility. Make the concept of success through hard work something not quite evil, but certainly icky to an extreme. Far better to just sit back and wait for the government check. THAT money isn't tainted by sweat... at least, not your OWN sweat.

It's easy to toss out old ideas because they're old. But perhaps there's a reason why the ideas of personal responsibility, courage, honor and integrity have lasted as they have over the centuries.

And remember how much pover... (Below threshold)
spurwing plover:

And remember how much poverty we had under RONALD REAGAN and how is stopped under BILL CLINTON? and that was the daily dose of bull kaka we got from the liberal left-wing talking heads and bird cage linners AND DONT EVER CONSITER PUTTING THE NYTs IN MY CAGE OR I,LL GET VIOLENT SQUAWK SQUAWK

"Five years into a national... (Below threshold)

"Five years into a national economic recovery, the share of Americans living in poverty finally dropped."

The word "finally" indicates that far from being wonderful, this was achingly overdue. Which is not surprising when Republicans are in charge as they look after their rich elites before anyone else is deemed worthy for a small sliver of the pie.

You people are delusional in the grasping you do to assert your claims of superiority over more centrist systems the world over, which time and again show they are better for society as a whole and imporve quality of life compared to our social darwinian ways. ( except for the military, which use the socialist model of course. )

( except for the m... (Below threshold)
( except for the military, which use the socialist model of course. )

How so?

nogo, your such a putz........ (Below threshold)

nogo, your such a putz......sheezzz

#23... you're joking, right... (Below threshold)
Tim in PA:

#23... you're joking, right? Do all you "tax cuts for the rich" people even bother to look at the numbers at all?

Some years I make as little as $9,000 a year, but this is because my working hours are reduced by my continuing education. More than half the year, I work 2 days a week. I am not "poor" by any realistic standard; I'm one of those people with a car, 2 bedroom apartment, 2 tv's, etc. I have no financial pressures whatsoever to worry about, have never taken gov't assistance and don't need to do so.

Of course, not smoking, not drinking much, and not having children really helps...

Reagan 23 -Yeah, t... (Below threshold)

Reagan 23 -

Yeah, the ol' USSR was a real joy to live in, from all I've heard. Stand in line to get everything down to and including toilet paper. Stand in line to SEE if you can get toilet paper. Then stand in a separate line to pay for it. Then stand in a separate line to GET it. Yeah, they were efficient, all right.

Sorry - Wal-Mart's done more to improve the quality of life for poor folks than any centrist government ever has.

BTW, your complaint about Republicans? Let the Dems take control - watch what they do. Heck, just want what they're doing now - you've had promises of reform out the ass - and what've you gotten from Pelosi/Reid? Nothing. What are you going to GET from Pelosi/Reid? More of the same. Dems have been great for promises, that they never deliver on.

You cannot merely look at t... (Below threshold)

You cannot merely look at the rates. Look at the real persons. 37 million Americans living in poverty or 48 million persons without health insurance are millions of sad human dramas. Even worse is when millions of children rank among the homeless, which at one time was largely made up of males with alcohol or drug problems living on skid row.

Paul, first you say one can... (Below threshold)

Paul, first you say one cannot merely look at rates ... and then you give us more meaningless statistics. Including the long discredited "48 million persons without health insurance" nonsense. The bulk of which have the resources to obtain health insurance but choose not to voluntarily.

Given the actual assets owned by those "sad human dramas", your rhetoric is ridiculous.

SPQR, I have an educational... (Below threshold)

SPQR, I have an educational background in both Social Work and Psychology. I have a far deeper understanding of the human cost of the problems of poverty and homelessness than many persons because of this background. Social workers are pretty well aware of the assets or financial situation of their clients due to all the forms and home visits, if the client even has a home to live in.

Paul, your rhetoric is not ... (Below threshold)

Paul, your rhetoric is not improved by appeal to authority. Especially when you ignore the statistics for emotional arguments.

Like you, I have a g... (Below threshold)
Mae Author Profile Page:

Like you, I have a good paying job, health insurance, a nice home, education, and so forth. But unlike all of you, I am highly aware of the people living in poverty in this nation. I know of people, who, for some reason, have lost jobs and cannot find another. The jobs are low paying. They cannot afford college tuition. Many must drop out of high school to work at slave wages to help feed their family. In some cases, they have lost their jobs in construction and chicken plants, etc, to illegal immigrants who will work for below minimum wage and no benefits. I am not speaking of the street people with drug problems. These are good people who are down on their luck or who are caught up in a family cycle of poverty. I also know some who were once middle class, but lost their computer and engineering jobs to immigrants on H2-B work visas and have had to take low paying jobs in the service industry.

Granted, there are those who work the system and don't do honest labor - many of whom live in federally subsidized housing. But there are good people living in that housing and trying their best to work their way out.

My church works for a program called Mountain Outreach sponsored by Cumberland College in Kentucky. The poverty I have seen in that area is heartbreaking. Hundreds of families living in huts and shacks because they lost their jobs and cannot find work. Industry left the area years ago. Many young people are leaving, too. These are good hardworking people, mostly bluecollar, who, due to circumstance, have found themselves in terrible situations. One family we built for was living in a partially burned out mobile home. Another family was actually living in their chicken coop after a storm tore their small house to shreds. Another family lost all when the father broke his back on the job. One woman left an abusive situation with her daughters and just the clothes on their backs. We build little tiny 100 square foot boxes for them which they think is a mansion. Compared to what they were living in, it is. And before you say that we are "giving" the house to them, let me tell you that they have to make very small monthly payments and are not allowed to sell their house for a period of years.


Do a google search for "Cumberland Mountain Outreach Ministries" and have a look at some of the pictures.

The following statistics appeared in the Lexington Herald-Leader on January 26, 2003 for Lee County
Population - 7,916; Beattyville 1,193
Education - of those 25 and older 30% have less than a tenth grade education.
Income - the gap between rich and poor is greater in Lee County than in any other Kentucky county. In 1992, 42% of Lee county households made less than $15,000.
Poverty - about 25% of families lived at or below the federal poverty level in 1999.
Disability - about 40% of those older than 20 report that they are disabled.
Sources: 2000 US Census and Kentucky Work Force Development Cabinet.

So, while you all sit there speaking of something you know little about and saying how much the poor in this country really have, I challenge you to go work for Mountain Outreach or Habitat for Humanity and see up close what it is like on the other side of the tracks. Many of you don't realize that you are just one bad illness or one accident (with medical bills) away from living in that very same situation. Medical insurance deductibles can really add up if you have a long term illness.

As of 2002, seven percent of Americans live in a mobile home; in 2000 mobile homes accounted for about 30% of new single-family dwellings sold, and most of these (about 95%) won't be moved once they are in place. In 1990 it was estimated that 56% of mobile homes were single-sited on the owner's property or on rented land. The rest were in parks. But do not go around thinking that most of these people live in luxury models - it's quite the contrary.


So...have a heart.

( except for the m... (Below threshold)
rrita m:
( except for the military, which use the socialist model of course. )

Yeah, John in CA, I'm curious about that statement, too. Elaborate, please, "Reagan". And define "socialist" while you're at it.

Mae, your anecdotes not wit... (Below threshold)

Mae, your anecdotes not withstanding, no one is saying that there is no poverty in the US. However, the bulk of people who fall within the definition of "poverty" used above are not actually living in the conditions you describe.

As for mobile homes, I don't understand what your point is, but in fact in this state quite a few mobile homes are indeed quite luxurious. And if one uses a definition that includes homes manufactured offsite, then such would include the homes built two blocks from me that sell for approx $300k.

Three things to do that wil... (Below threshold)

Three things to do that will greatly reduce your chances of living in poverty:

1. Finish high school
2. Don't have children until you are married
3. Don't get married until you are at least 21

Even worse is when millions of children rank among the homeless, which at one time was largely made up of males with alcohol or drug problems living on skid row.

How did those kids get dragged down to the poverty level?

I know of people, who, for some reason, have lost jobs and cannot find another. The jobs are low paying.

The unemployment rate in Montana is down to about 2.5%. Jobs are going unfilled. The rest of the mountain west has similar situations. Tell them to go west, young man, go west!

Why do so many people think it's their Constitutional Right to have a job where they want it or in the same industry or place where they've always had one?

It's not my job, nor the governments job to make sure you have a job where you want to live or stay.

As of 2002, seven percent of Americans live in a mobile home; in 2000 mobile homes accounted for about 30% of new single-family dwellings sold, and most of these (about 95%) won't be moved once they are in place. In 1990 it was estimated that 56% of mobile homes were single-sited on the owner's property or on rented land. The rest were in parks. But do not go around thinking that most of these people live in luxury models - it's quite the contrary.


My Dad was a career Navy guy. We bought a double wide mobile home in 1972 for $12,000. In 2001 when my Mom died, she was still living in that same mobile home. But on the inside, you couldn't tell what it had looked like in 1972.

Trust me, when we bought it, it was hardly the luxury model. But that cheap Harvest Gold short shag carpet had a deep impact on me - I can't stand cheap carpet.

Come to the town where I live in the Mojave Desert and you can hardly drive down a street without seeing mobile homes. And most of it is not because they are living in poverty. Sure, there are some that are, but it's not the rule.

I found myself on this boar... (Below threshold)
J Luisada:

I found myself on this board after following the reuters link and found myself a little surprised to be seeing this sort of socialist do-gooder mess in the USA. Jlawsons link to the dire situation we have in the UK should frighten you all to death. We do actually have $100,000 /year net welfare cases in the uk...and we have to import our bus drivers from Poland because it doesnt pay enough to get off "benefits" as they are known here.
The trouble is that socialists are genetically incapable of balancing the books. They really dont understand that welfare is a zero sum game.
one person's welfare is another person's tax bill. It really is that simple
I have been "poor" by western standards and if I had chosen to make the various bad decisions such as drink excessivly, smoke, keep an extremely large dog or several etc I would still be "poor".
In the west all you get if you give poor people lots of money is poor people who spend more.

And justify all sorts of government programmes or "initiatives" as they are known as here.

to see somebody who really knew how to run an economy properly see

Good luck , you need it almost as much as we do!

Most of the statistics sugg... (Below threshold)

Most of the statistics suggest that the increase in earnings and the decrease in poverty were due to the fact that more households are working within a family and the increase in the number of hours worked. Actually, what the data says is that there is a decline in wage rate.
More people are working, and people are working harder and more. A decline in the hourly wage for workers.






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