Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Poverty never looked so good.

Found panhandling in the Strib today was this article:
WASHINGTON —The nation's poverty rate rose to 12.7 percent of the population last year, the fourth consecutive annual increase, the Census Bureau said Tuesday.

The percentage of people without health insurance did not change.

Overall, there were 37 million people living in poverty, up 1.1 million people from 2003.

Asians were the only ethnic group to show a decline in poverty — from 11.8 percent in 2003 to 9.8 percent last year. The poverty rate among the elderly declined as well, from 10.2 percent in 2003 to 9.8 percent last year.

The last decline in overall poverty was in 2000, when 31.1 million people lived under the threshold — 11.3 percent of the population.
Sounds pretty bad, huh? Let's take a look at what the Census Bureau defines as "poor" and the unimaginable squalor in which the underprivileged live:
- Forty-six 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.

- Seventy-six percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, 30 years ago, 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; 30 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.

- Seventy-three percent own microwave ovens, more than half have a stereo, and a third have an automatic dishwasher.
Basically, the average European wishes they had as much living space as a poverty-stricken American.

What this says to me isn't that America's poor is perpetually relegated to chronic unemployment, it's that they are living the example of the difference between the rish and the poor. The rich buy luxury items last, while the poor buy luxury items first. Don't believe me? Take a drive through some of the poorest neighborhoods in your town. Chances are that you'll notice the same thing I've noticed in Minneapolis. There are more satellite dishes on homes is sketchy neighborhoods than there are on the homes of people living on golf courses.

When 98% of people in "poverty" have a color television and MTV piped in day after excruciating day, their next $500 dollar paycheck isn't going towards savings, they're buying a few new CD's and a couple snappy outfits.

The next time someone tells you we have to do more to help the poor, point them to your financial advisor.

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