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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

No (Involuntary) Poverty Exists in America

I realize that I am bound to upset quite a few people with this article. Many of you are thinking, "But, hey! I'm poor! There are homeless all over the place! The ghettos are full to the brim! How dare you suggest that we have no poverty here!"

Those of you who feel that way have likely never lived among people in the Third World. Our poor, those who live in our ghettos and slums, live at the level of the wealthy and prosperous of other nations. I realized this on the drive home from the Oakland Airport after living in Ecuador for two years. The ghetto over which we passed on the freeway seemed so nice in comparison to even the nicer areas I'd lived in that I was utterly amazed. It seemed so clean, so rich, that I felt like I was in another world. I was. America is an amazing place.

Our welfare recipients all have television sets, radios, DVD players, and microwave ovens. Many have cars and computers. Almost all of them have cellular phones. In most of the rest of the world, these items are luxuries of the rich. Our poor live in finished homes with running water and electricity. Not so in many parts of South America, Africa, and Asia. The ownership of an automobile, regardless of its age, is a major status symbol in Ecuador. Here, we think you're dirt poor if you own a car with a carburetor.

The real poor think we are rich because we discard out-of-fashion clothing. It still covers you, right? Are you crazy? The real poor have to struggle to feed their children each day, many times having meals which consist of only a bowl of unadorned rice. The real poor live in bamboo shacks with dirt floors, glassless windows, and a hot plate. I've known families with less even than that, still too proud to ask for charity.

Our closest equivalent to that type of poverty are the homeless, yet we provide even for them. They have access to shelters, soup kitchens, and donated clothing. Were they willing to live in accordance with the norms of society, they could have welfare and job training, an apartment, and make their way up the ladder of economic success with help from the public funds. The long-term poor in our country (as opposed to those temporarily down on their luck) choose to be such. They prefer their vices and lack of rules to the benefits we provide for those who choose to live responsibly. That is to say, they choose to be poor. The lifestyle they have adopted is not compatible with anything else.

I am sick and tired of hearing about the "War on Poverty". All who have desired to win that war here have won it. We cannot, nor should we, force prosperity on those unwilling to live in a prosperous manner. For this reason, as Jesus said, the poor will always be with us. Unless we are willing to abrogate their freedom, this is simply a reality.

Let's rejoice in the wonders of our nation and society! We have access to a degree of wealth and economic equality unparalleled in human history. To deny that is to deny reality. All who are willing to do what prosperous people do become prosperous. That fact shouldn't make you angry; it should inspire you.

1 comment:

  1. Seems to me that peole complain about the poverty level they see because it makes THEM feel uncomfortable. People don't like to be reminded that there are people who don't have a nice way of life - makes them feel guilty. Your point is a good one - it is there if they want it. Thanks for pointing that out.


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