They're Poor Because They Don't Have Enough Money

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As everyone here probably knows, the Census Bureau just released it's annual report on poverty. Well, a philosopher(?) from George Washington University, Charles Karelis, thinks he knows why: "[After] doing lots of reading and giving it extensive thought, Karelis concluded that the reason some people are perpetually poor is that they don't have enough money." (Washington Post, Wednesday, August 29, 2007; Page D01)

The point is not to be self-obvious, but to look at the culture of poverty, in that, when one is poor, he thinks that what little he could save could not lift him out of poverty. So he does not bother to save at all.

Of course, the tales of poor people who have struck it rich in the lottery or in sports . Sure, they're anecdotes. This article has many sources on studies of lottery winners. According to one article listed there, about one-third of lottery winners go bankrupt. (I assume, of course, they're talking about the honkin' big lotteries, not the Pick Three.)

Well, I can't say I think much of Prof. Karelis' theory, but I'm willing to be one of the test subjects!

To tell the truth, the real reason we never get the poverty rate down is that we keep changing the definition! Here's an article from the National Review (thank you for the link, Leader Levin) that discusses the new poverty report. These are a few of the salient points of the article:

1) 80 percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, in 1970, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.

2) 46 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.

3) The typical poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens, and other cities throughout Europe.

4) 89 percent own microwave ovens, more than half have a stereo, and a more than a third have an automatic dishwasher.

This is poor?

A former co-worker of mine (a legal immigrant, I might add) was most insistent that we do not have poverty in America. He has a point, too. He's from Sri Lanka. 41.6% of the people there live on less than $2 per day. 25% live below the national poverty line. He knows poverty.

Jesus was right, the poor will always be with us, because no matter how rich they get, we just keep raising the bar and calling them "poor."

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Dave said:

Matthew 26:11:

The poor you will always have with you because you will keep raising the bar, but you will not always have me.


Jack said:


Kevin said:

keep raising the standard of living?

Jack said:

I know that, being a liberal, Kevin, you have trouble forming complete thoughts AND typing them into the computer, but please try. :-)

stay puft said:

you're right, in 1664, no one had AC, or refrigerators, or polio vaccine. We were happy if we had a hole in the ground to crap in, so what are these "poor" complaining about??

Jack said:

Nice story, puffalump. They were so poor they lived in a HOUSE!

The fire was caused by stupidity, not poverty. Why were BURNING candles in a sleeping child's room? We've lost power for a few days after hurricanes, and we NEVER did that. Also, candles cannot start house fires unless there is something else to burn -- the candle was obviously too close to something flammable.

The city does bear some responsibility for the fire hydrants' being out of order, but the city did not start the fire, nor did Detroit Edison.

stay puft said:

jack, do you really interpret Jesus' statement that way? As is the son of god was a republican pundit! keep up the double think that there will always be poor and that there aren't any poor anymore. meanwhile...

Kevin said:

Jack, don't forget poverty can be defined many ways, not just by material wealth but by one's ability to afford to care for themselves, to travel to areas that will provide them better access to opportunity, etc. The ability of such to raise themselves from one income or class level to the next should be factored in, not just material possessions.

Then there are issues of poverty such as poverty of heart (yourself), poverty of intelligence (myself), and poverty of funkadelic soul (Loudoun County).

God said blessed are the poor, I think we're all included in one way or another, to be fair.

Jack said:

No, puffalump, that was a JOKE.

Let's see. 32 inches per year, times, let's say 800 square feet, which is 115200 square inches, makes 3686400 cubic inches. One gallon is 231 cubic inches, so that's 15,900 gallons of water that annually falls, on average, on her house, or about 43.7 gallons PER DAY.

How DID people survive without city water? Oh, yeah, RAIN BARRELS!

Jack said:

"[poverty] can be defined many ways, not just by material wealth but by one's ability to afford to care for themselves...."

Could you explain the difference there?

"...[ability] to travel to areas that will provide them better access to opportunity..."

"Access to opportunity"? Isn't that a bit redundant? Anyway, how much ability to travel do the poor in, say, Latin America have? Where do they go? Oh, right -- they come HERE, where our "poor" are rich by their standards, and they consider the opportunities here limitless, especially if they can get amnesty and become citizens, which our "poor" are already.

"God said blessed are the poor, I think we're all included in one way or another, to be fair."

First, we have, "For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." (Luke 18:25) That verse should scare the crap out of everyone in the United States every day.

Second, go read Romans, Chapter 9, and then we can discuss God's fairness.

Dave said:

Jack, you're right! That's why we need more compassion for poor folks around the world (including immigrants, I might add, but that's another blog).

" hospitality to strangers for by doing so some have entertained angels without knowing it."

"Whe you give a dinner, don't invite your friends, invite the poor and the lame." (Luke)

"One bread, one body, one Lord of all,
one cup of blessing which we bless.
And we, though many throughout the earth,
we are one body in this one Lord.

Gentile or Jew, servant or free, woman or man..."

Jack said:

I see you went to church today, too, Dave!

You're right, though, we do need more compassion for the poor. ALL the poor, not one group above another. Putting unlawful aliens above those who try to come legally, and above our own citizens, is not having compassion for all.

Dave said:

Good service! I was thinking of you much of the time! Sad life, I guess. :-)

I agree, ALL the poor. I wasn't really thinking of illegal immigrants, but we do have much (especially in NoVA) compared to the rest of the country and the world.

Seems like in order to fit through the eye of the needle, we ought to go above and beyond trying to solve healthcare issues, immigration, Darfur, etc.

At "the end" if I'm asked "So, did you do everything you could for the least of my brothers?" I'd like to at least be able to say "I tried!". I doubt I'll be be able to say "Yes", but hopefully it won't have to be a flat out "No".


When I read Romans 9, I see the perspective of the person (or persons) who make something having the right to make it as they choose, and do with it what they want. Add a little "God is the definition of what is right" so that anyone making an attempt to challenge the result is by definition wrong (telling the person that makes an object that they should not have the choice to make what they wanted is absurd.)

Of course, I view the text as canonical -- it is the standard that judges. So from my perspective, it is by definition "fair".

Jacob said:

Kevin, Marshmallow,
The point that Poverty needs some objective measures that do not change with GDP is a valid one. The vast majority in this country that are classified as poor live a lifestyle that includes owing their own three bedroom home (46%). A majority own a car, have a stereo etc. This is the only country in history with FAT poor people.

By simply stating they are poor because they fall into some income strata puts us into a insane situation. The poverty issue will never improve regardless of our efforts. 10% of the population will always be the poorest.

Unless you live in lake Woebegone, were all the kids are above average.

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