“For ye have the poor always with you”

Jesus Christ spoke the words that are the caption of this post.  As I understand it, he was speaking about the transience of his time on this earth, as opposed to some of the more permanent features of life on earth, such as poverty.

Even Christ, though, couldn’t have anticipated the fact that Barack Obama would rejigger poverty calculations in America to ensure that, no matter how much the American standard of living rises, a certain percentage of the American population will always be described as poverty-stricken:

This week, the Obama administration announced it will create a new poverty-measurement system that will eventually displace the current poverty measure. This new measure, which has little or nothing to do with actual poverty, will serve as the propaganda tool in Obama’s endless quest to “spread the wealth.”

Under the new measure, a family will be judged “poor” if its income falls below a certain specified income threshold. Nothing new there, but, unlike the current poverty standards, the new income thresholds will have a built-in escalator clause: They will rise automatically in direct proportion to any rise in the living standards of the average American.

The current poverty measure counts absolute purchasing power — how much steak and potatoes you can buy. The new measure will count comparative purchasing power — how much steak and potatoes you can buy relative to other people. As the nation becomes wealthier, the poverty standards will increase in proportion. In other words, Obama will employ a statistical trick to ensure that “the poor will always be with you,” no matter how much better off they get in absolute terms.

My kids often ask me is “$X a lot of money?”  I always tell them that money has no fixed value. Things are worth what people will pay for them, and that the value of money is best calculated by people’s needs. To my kids, $100 is a lot of money; to Bill Gates, it’s less than chump change.

While there will always be people who have more money and people who have less money (and this is true even in ostensibly socialist countries where money is supposed to be irrelevant), the fact is that the best indicator of poverty isn’t money, which is variable, but standard of living.  The person who has food on the table, clothes on his back, and a roof over his head, is simply not poor as Christ, or the kid in Calcutta, would understand poverty.

This objective reality is obviously irksome to Leftists who need poor people to power their political anger engine.  There is no greater offense to their perpetual outrage machine than the fact that America is such a prosperous land that there are (thank God) very few on our soil who starve, go naked, and sleep in the open.  (And I’ll add that, if San Francisco is an example, many of those who do arrive at that state, not because America isn’t bountiful, but because of substance abuse problems.)  The only way to deal with the reality of America’s prosperity, clearly, is to play accounting games, aimed at creating a perpetual class of poverty-stricken individuals, people who, no matter their standard of living, will perceive themselves as victims, badly in need of government sustenance.

By the way, if you want to see what a permanent under class looks like, I can’t do better for you than to suggest that you go to Gerry Charlotte Phelps’ website, look at the left sidebar, and pick any chapter of her book about working with the perpetual poor.  Unlike the Ivory Tower sociologists currently wielding political power in D.C., Phelps has actually lived and worked in communities devastated by generations of poverty (often government induced), and has a lot of information and ideas.  By the way, don’t be put off by the fact that Phelps hasn’t updated her blog in a while.  She’s taking a hiatus from blogging and will return as soon as she can.

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  • Gringo

    I highly recommend Gerry Charlotte Phelps’s website.  Her autobiographical blog, Out of the Iron Furnace ( see link below), recounts the journey of  a economics instructor at the University of Houston who was jailed for committing armed robbery to fund an anti-Vietnam War newspaper. In prison she became a Christian. After prison she became a minister and finished her Ph.D. in Economics at UT Austin.  Years of ministering to the poor led her to conclusions far from her leftist origins.
    As the Dead said, “What a long strange trip it’s been.”



  • 94Corvette

    I received my Imprimis today and there was a great article by Congressman Paul Ryan.  One of the stats that he included was that in 2004 20% of US households were receiving about 75% of their income from the federal government.  Another 20% were receiving nearly 40%.  All in all, about 60% were receiving more in benefits and services than they were paying in taxes.  In his first year, the programs President Obama initiated has raised this level to 70%.  
    Couple that with the fact that 43% of all workers have less than $10,000 set aside for retirement and   20% have less than $1,000.  What is frightening is that for those of us who have put aside savings and have made sacrifices to insure our futures, the governmnent may change the rules and raid our savings to fund social security.
    My mother was a widow; back in the ’60s she made $125 a month as a secretary and we paid $65 a month in rent.  She still found a way to inspire us and all three of us kids attended college and have gone on to be ‘successes’ in our lives.  Being poor is not wrong, acting poor is. 

  • highlander

    The pernicious idea which underlies this push to redistribute wealth is the notion that the total amount of wealth in our country is a fixed quantity, that there is only so much of it to go around, and that therefore if some people want more, others will have to make do with less.
    This idea has been circulating for so long now that few think to question it, but it is utterly false.
    It is true that if you were to measure the amount of wealth in America at some point in time, you would find just so much of it, and you would see that some people had more while others had less.   But that view is far too narrow, for it ignores the fact that surrounding that “fixed” amount of wealth is a vast and boundless sea of opportunity.  And the fundamental function of free enterprise is to convert that opportunity into new — and real — wealth.  Anyone who has doubts about  that should consider the immense real wealth created by the inventions of the telephone, teflon, airplanes, and digital computers, not to mention the development of the internet.
    Those who obsess over the “injustice” of  unequally distributed wealth are like people sitting in the middle of an apple orchard getting their knickers all in a knot because some of them have fewer apples than the others.  Our country would be a whole lot better off if they’d just stop whining, get up off their behinds, go out and pick some damn apples like the rest of us.

  • http://OgBlog.net Earl

    How much more cynical can this Administration get…..?
    And how much longer will a compliant media give it a great big pass…..?