In America we’ve been conditioned so that when we hear the term poverty it evokes feelings and images of destitution and hopelessness – people who are hungry, without clothes and homeless. There is no doubt that a certain segment of the population lives this way – roughly half of a percent of Americans (about one in every 200) experience homelessness in any given year.
However, the majority of poor Americans are not as bad off as we may have been led to believe – at least in terms of everyday amenities. With a government social network that includes benefits like unemployment, food stamps, welfare, rental and mortgage assistance, and health care, the poor in America are still doing fairly well compared to their counterparts in most other countries around the world.
The following chart from The Heritage Foundation shows that even poor Americans – those who fall below the official income poverty line – usually have a DVD player, video gaming system, multiple televisions, a computer, washer and dryer, cable TV, dedicated internet, a cell phone, and in a very limited amount of cases, even a jacuzzi.
The figures were taken in a government consumption survey near the height of the financial and economic bubble in 2005.
With “poor” people enjoying the benefits of what would traditionally be considered middle class is it any wonder, then, that the entire debt based system of this country is in collapse?
America, it seems, has the richest poor people in the world.
We have created a culture of entitlement in this country, where the “poor” and even the “middle class” have been led to believe that they can spend above their means, and any income discrepancies will be offset by government assistance (incidentally, it seems that our premier corporations are operating under the same narrative). It is, after all, the right of every American to have a cell phone, or internet, several TV’s, and a washer & dryer. If that means we have to take income from one group of people at the barrel of a gun to make sure Joe Poor-Pack has these critical amenities, then so be it.
The gap between the middle class and the poor is certainly being closed. Unfortunately, it is closing in the wrong direction. Instead of the poor moving up the income and net worth ladder, it is the other way around. The depression, wage cuts, inflation, taxation and destruction of credit is knocking the middle class down one rung at a time.
Soon, there will be only the poor and the wealthy, but at least we’ll all have cell phones, iPads and cable TV.