Southern Man

Friday, September 17, 2010


The other day while eating lunch and stalking an ex-girlfriend on Facebook Southern Man noted a comment by a family member on the rising number of folks considered to be "poor" in this country. Her claim upon reading that 14.3% of Americans lived below the poverty line was that the fiscal model used was outdated and the true value was probably double that.

Well, let's see just what it means to be poor in the United States of America. Quoting from Michael Medved's excellent book The 5 Big Lies About American Business:

Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation did just that [measure the effect of poverty by looking at what was in the home] in an important paper in August 2007, using detailed and authoritative government figures. According to this research, among the 37 million Americans officially classified as living below the poverty line, 97 percent own color televisions, more than 50 percent own two or more color TVs, 78 percent have a VCR or a DVD player, and 62 percent receive cable or satellite TV reception. Eighty percent of poor households boast air-conditioning, 89 percent have microwave ovens, and nearly three-quarters own a car. An impressive 31 percent have two or more cars.

Most surprisingly, 43 percent of all poor households actually own their own homes, and the average home owned by households 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. Even considering poor people who rent apartments, or live with extended family, the average poor American enjoys more living space than the average middle-class individual in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens, and other European cities.
So how does this change with "updated" models? Are fully a quarter of us poor? Do you have any idea at all of what it meant to be poor fifty years ago? Does the analysis above even mention refrigerators or indoor bathrooms or limitless potable water piped directly into the kitchen? No, because pretty much everyone in the USA has these things today.

The truth is, "poor" in the USA is "middle class" in Europe and "rich beyond the dreams of avarice" in much of the world. And to claim that even fifteen percent of us live in "poverty" reduces that term to irrelavancy and diminishes the very few among us who are truly poor.

Just so you know, Southern Man is rich, rich, rich in every way that matters for no other reason other than having (a) a wonderful family and (b) been born in the United States. It's like winning the lottery. He'll always be grateful.

Hat tip to TigerHawk.


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