Friday, July 22, 2011

Poverty in the United States

That is the title of a paper by I am in the process of reading. Quite interesting, as the average "poor" household has:

In 2005, the typical household defined as poor by the government had a car and air conditioning. For entertainment, the household had two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR. If there were children, especially boys, in the home, the family had a game system, such as an Xbox or a PlayStation. In the kitchen, the household had a refrigerator, an oven and stove, and a microwave. Other household conveniences included a clothes washer, clothes dryer, ceiling fans, a cordless phone, and a coffee maker.

this is poor? The "poor" today are living better than all but the richest people 100 years ago.

When I was growing up, we had a black & white TV, as color was expensive, and my mom didn't get a regular washer until 1976 - We had a wringer washer (remember those?) and I was the feeder for the rollers. Also we line dried our laundry. Hung them up in the basement when it was winter, so they'd dry. We had a microwave back in the 70s - ONLY because my dad was a salesman for Litton at that time. Only thing we used it for was making 'cinnamon apples' - scoop out some, put in those little red cinnamon candies & cook it. Mom never really liked them. After dad stopped working for Litton, we got rid of it.

We also didn't have air conditioning. Summers were hot, but never really thought about it, except for at night when it was so hot that a sheet was too heavy. We just left the windows open (and bats would also fly in).

My parents invested in a hydraulic log-splitter, put up signs all over, they would come cut down your trees that needed it, for free, as long as they could have the wood. My sister and I did the hard part - putting the wood on the splitter and piling up all the wood. Dad pushed the button.

I guess I grew up with Depression values in life - if you're looking for a job, and need money, you don't pass up jobs just 'because you don't like it' or you feel its below you. You take whatever job is available. My grandfather walked 15 miles one day to get a job during the Depression.

People didn't feel "entitled" to something, merely because they were alive, or lacked something. My mom told me of eating lots of french toast during the depression - her mom owned a bakery, and the bread that was way too old to sell, along with eggs & milk from her grandmother's hens & cow, made up their dinners. And lunches, etc.

Now, we have generations of people, just sitting about, getting (as the Dire Straits song goes) "money for nothing".

How do we define poverty? Is it just lacking all the doo-dads and goodies that over half the people have?

I don't have an Ipod, an Iphone, or anything fancy like that - I bought an 8gb mp3/vid player at Walmart at Christmastime, while they had them on sale for $39. Why should I pay lots of big bucks for a name?

Or an "adequate house"? What constitutes 'adequate'? For many in this world, even the ramshackle houses are quite nice compared to pieces of tin leaned up against each other.

Look at the house sizes over the years. Even in the US, it's increased greatly from the average of 943 sq ft in 1950, to 2,349 sq ft in 2004. I'm like :O

I guess my house would be an average house in 1950, as it is just a tad over 1100 sq ft. And it's sufficient for a family of four. A friend's family growing up, had a 4 bedroom house - grandparents - 1 room, parents - 1 room. 3 boys - 1 room, 3 girls, 1 room. And all of one bathroom. Hm. this is interesting: 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. I don't have a garage, a half bath, and our "patio" is a carport.

People today say "xyz is a necessity". But what are we really calling a necessity?

Necessity -

3. Indispensableness; the state of being requisite. The necessity of funds to support public credit, no man questions. The necessity of economy in domestic concerns is admitted. No man can plead necessity in excuse for crimes.

another dictionary says: noun: anything indispensable

how many of our "necessities" are actually 'wants' or 'nice to haves'?

If you had the choice of paying rent, or paying cable, what do you skip? Or buying groceries, what do you buy, if you have a limited amount of money? I see people paying with the Lone Star card, buying lots of junk.. and yet look at this:

The average consumption of protein, vitamins, and minerals is virtually the same for poor and middle-class children. In most cases, it is well above recommended norms. Poor children actually consume more meat than higher-income children consume, and their protein intake averages 100 percent above recommended levels. In fact, most poor children are super-nourished and grow up to be, on average, one inch taller and 10 pounds heavier than the GIs who stormed the beaches of Normandy in World War II.

I'm often behind someone using that card, they are buying nice cuts of meat, brand-name sugary cereal, etc, and lots of...basically crap.

We eat alot of chicken (because it's not outrageously priced); we buy ground turkey rather than ground beef, as it is more than $1 less a pound. If you're not actually working or doing something to earn the money, it is ... held in less regard, I guess. You really don't care how you spend it. Did you know lobster, and food gift baskets can be bought with the Lone Star card?

Is this poor?

In 2005, the typical poor household, as defined by the government, had air conditioning and a car. For entertainment, the household had two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR. In the kitchen, it had a refrigerator, an oven and stove, and a microwave. Other household conveniences included a clothes washer, clothes dryer, ceiling fans, a cordless phone, and a coffee maker. The family was able to obtain medical care when needed. Their home was not overcrowded and was in good repair. By its own report, the family was not hungry and had sufficient funds during the past year to meet all essential needs.

No, far from it.

Those saying "the poor need more help" are just deluding themselves...making themselves feel good... with other people's money.


  1. Diane:
    We are DEFINITELY cut from the SAME cloth...LOL.

    Either you:
    A) Read my post the other day on this, or
    B) Are the sister I never knew about

    I found both the Nat'l Rev. and the Heritage Org's articles to be SO eye-opening (specifically), but I can see the evidence that backs all the data up EVERY DAY around our part of the ghettohood in Ft. Wayne, IN.

    If any of these so-called "poor" people are INDEED's more like:
    POOR judgment
    POOR choices
    POOR prioritorization.
    POOR parenting
    POOR in spirit
    (and finally, *my favorite)
    POOR liars

    Excellent post and you are 100% CORRECT with your commentary.

    Stay safe (and keep cool) down there.

    Have a great weekend.

  2. I do remember how wringer washer and put rubber diapers through that wringer diapers and explodes and I ruined a couple of shirts
    Did you ever get anything caught in a wringer?or ruined a couple of shirts?

  3. Hi Bob - it was a very interesting article. I don't remember even how I found it the other day. I've been busy with VBS and then relaxing after, so I didn't see your post on it. Poor liars indeed - just watch "Bait Car" on TruTV some night, you'll see plenty of poor liars. As one lady I talked to in Boston on the T, after some "youth" was yelling obscenities into her phone, it's a disgrace.

  4. Hi Anne, thanks for stopping by - I never had the fun of exploding diapers in that wringer washer, but I remember that I threw a red shirt into a load of whites, and my dad ended up with pink underwear and Tshirts. As I recall, those old wringer washers were quite dependable. Not like the ones that they make today (as my stupid washing machine, only 2 years old, is messed up). This is the third machine in 6 years. Maybe I should just get a washtub and a board.


  5. Diane:
    We had a top-mount wringer washer (Maytag) back in the mid-1950s...and mom got her arm caught in it once, chasing some clothing that got snagged...

    No problmes, though...Mom was tough-as-nails..and cursed that machine for MONTHS every time she used it!
    (while it kept on running like a bear).

    And we all survived such things (mom-eating washers, leaded gas, playgrounds, cap guns)...amazing...LOL.

    Stay safe down there.

  6. Funny how they made things to last back then. We survived bows & arrows too.. no suction cups for us, we had tips on them... Plus sledding down tall hills in the winter on cardboard boxes, riding bikes without helmets & all the padding, mom would actually use pins on us, etc. Now people don't want to use a pin "because it's sharp" .. geeze. keep the kids indoors wrapped in bubble wrap on the couch...oh wait..they might fall off the couch. just roll them up like burritos on the floor in bubble wrap.