A potent story of poverty in America

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The Observer (UK): 37 million poor hidden in the land of plenty — Americans have always believed that hard work will bring rewards, but vast numbers now cannot meet their bills even with two or three jobs. More than one in 10 citizens live below the poverty line, and the gap between the haves and have-nots is widening (Thanks to Thereitis.org for this link)

This story is potent, both for the shock that this British reporter has towards the abundance of poverty in America (I’m curious if this kind of class division is not present in the UK?), but also because much of the article talks about the desperately poor in Tulsa, OK. (a city I love, but also one that is unfortunately terribly divided between rich and poor, at least as bad as OKC but probably more so)

This last section though most of all though blew my brain…

An America divided

· There are 37 million Americans living below the poverty line. That figure has increased by five million since President George W. Bush came to power.

· The United States has 269 billionaires, the highest number in the world.

· Almost a quarter of all black Americans live below the poverty line; 22 per cent of Hispanics fall below it. But for whites the figure is just 8.6 per cent.

· There are 46 million Americans without health insurance.

· There are 82,000 homeless people in Los Angeles alone.

· In 2004 the poorest community in America was Pine Ridge Indian reservation. Unemployment is over 80 per cent, 69 per cent of people live in poverty and male life expectancy is 57 years. In the Western hemisphere only Haiti has a lower number.

· The richest town in America is Rancho Santa Fe in California. Average incomes are more than $100,000 a year; the average house price is $1.7m.

So digusting what America has become. So much exorbitant living while so many don’t have enough. I know I probably see things differently as a Socialist, but I don’t see any reason why anyone should actually have a billion dollars, and America has 269 of those greedy, selfish folks. Think about it, a billion dollars is ONE THOUSAND TIMES ONE MILLION DOLLARS! No one needs that kind of money, and as far as I’m concerned what we need now is a Robin Hood to start taking from the rich to give to the poor. I’m sorry but it is straight up immoral for any human being to have this much when others are suffering.

I know there are legal problems of course of taking ill-gotten money from the rich, but at the very least America should put tax the **** out of the rich. Maybe it’s time for a real progressive income tax. No one pays anything until they make at least $30k per year, with the rate going steadily up. Then for all income over $200k, the tax rate is 100%, with all of those taxes going into relief for the poor. That seems more than fair to me.

3 thoughts on “A potent story of poverty in America”

  1. I think my only question is does God want us to force people to be moral
    or encourage them to be moral?

    There are people who are worth billions and are doing amazing things
    with the money for example Bill Gate’s Foundation.

    How do we encourage it?

    Do we force people to be responsible with thier money?
    I think if we do that would it would be necessary in all
    financial levels of society.

    (I do agree we need major tax reform I am leaning in favor of a flat tax, a tax on consumtion)

  2. It’s a tough call. The Old Testament would certainly back the idea that government should encourage (or even force) people to do the right thing in the economic arena, while the New Testament seems to have a more voluntary (but also more radical approach that bordered on a voluntary form of socialism.

    As for Bill Gates, I do very much appreciate what he does. He is certainly a good example for rich people, but that said he reminds me of the story of the widow’s mite in the Bible. Bill Gates does give away millions (probably billions) of dollars, but he keeps far more for himself. Yet many poor folks give so much (I know from my past work in bankruptcy law that a fair number of poor Oklahomans tithe 10% of their income to the church, but rarely did I encounter anyone who made more than $50,000/year do the same thing) more in propotion to their income.

    So I’m not quite sure the answer is the Bill Gates model. Certainly his approach is better than what many rich people do, but I’m not convinced that it is a moral choice.

    Also on your third point on taxes, my complaint about a flat consumption based tax is that it would put a disproptionate amount of tax load on the poor. If the flat tax was set at say 20% of consumption, then poor folks would be really pressed hard, while folks like Bill Gates would paying far less than they are paying now.

    Of course the big benefits of a flat tax are having an easy-to-calculate system (our system is a mess, I do my own taxes each year and it just seems to get more and more complicated each year) and also a reduction in the abuse of tax deductions. But those benefits I don’t think are worth the the downsides I outline above, namely that poor folks would pay more taxes under such a system.

  3. I think that for the wealthy that are just sitting on their money locked away in some vault swimming in it like Scrooge McDuck I can see how that is definitely immoral but many of the highly wealthy are so only by the investments and non tangible assets they have. The majority of Bill Gates fortune is Stock in a company and could loose billions of it if the company went down the tubes but would he end up poor most likely not.

    A funny side note during the Tsunami Bill Gates’s Foundation announced its donation of $35 million while at the same time Bush gave a speech proclaiming the US would donate the astounding amount of $5 million. The President quickly changed it tune and soon after changed that to $35 million.

    Donald Trump is another example of someone who has very risky wealth and at one point was millions in the hole due to a single real estate investment that went bad. He took risks and his wealth was dependant on the success of his risks. He would have ended up dead broke if he wasn’t able to pull of one last risk and come back.

    I’m not at all disagreeing with you on the wealthy and how many handle their money.

    I do question our right to force people to be moral in this case versus allowing these folks to do what is right on their own.

    That said I definitely want a tax system that forces the wealthy to accurately and honestly pay their fair share. The tax burden shouldn’t fall disproportional on the poor as I believe it does now.

    I also think that financial responsibility falls on all of us at all levels of income. It’s just as immoral for a poor person to spend their money wastefully.

    It’s sad to me because I see people all around me who make almost double what our family does who are constantly wasting money and then complaining about their struggle to make it.

    Our family of four survives on very little and we really lack nothing. I don’t miss fancy news cars or a $100 pair of shoes. Two years ago we qualified for WIC, but we choose not to take it because we could just do without luxury instead if we lacked money.

    I really do favor the consumption based tax instead of income based because I think it would help encourage people to spend less and possibly encourage agrarian concepts and self reliance. Maybe more people could learn to produce their own food, clothing and other items.

    Many of the reasons that fuel greed and the insane desire for personal wealth is mass materialistic consumption and the desire it creates to keep up that lifestyle. The need for more more more. This type of tax system punishes that.

    Anyway some type of Tax reform is needed. It would be great to find new ways to encourage and reward charity while also discouraging mass consumption.

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