Artificial Poverty II

When critics of the welfare state began to voice their opinions about its consequences they are often labeled as uncaring or indifferent toward the poor. Accusations of “blaming the victim” abound. They say that we want to remove the “safety net” that serves to catch those, for reasons beyond their control, who have fallen into poverty. Nothing could be farther from the truth. However it’s important that we understand what safety nets are for. They serve the purpose of catching those who have fallen not those who have laid down of their own volition. And it would do us good to remember that every net has its limit. And I believe we are watching our safety net fray right before our eyes. The truth is many of the political “do gooders” who expand the welfare state are more preoccupied with either its ability to curry votes or its appeal to their self-righteousness than they are the consequences that follow. Even a plan created with the best of intentions does not always hold up to the actions and reactions of flesh and blood human beings who are motivated primarily by self-interest. It has been repeated ad nauseam but that’s because its true, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Relative Poverty

As stated in the previous article the rise of the welfare state has given birth to a new definition for poverty. Since the majority of the poor possess material assets that were once exclusive to the middle class poverty is no longer defined absolutely. It has taken on more of a relative meaning. That is to say poverty is now defined by comparison to someone else. And this is proving to have dangerous consequences.  When the foundation for defining the poor is how well they measure up to the rich then we have the ingredients to incite class warfare. When poverty was defined in absolute terms and a man acquired adequate housing, clothing, food and transportation he was inclined to be content with his lot because he did not consider himself poor anymore. But today you can have all those things, with an Xbox, smartphone and $150 shoes to boot and still live under the cloud of “relative” poverty. This twisted logic can only lead to envy. We only have to think back to the flash mobs of the “occupiers” to see that it has. You had people using smartphones from the late Steve Jobs, and laptops by Bill Gates to organize a movement to spend the night in parks that the tax dollars of the rich helped to pay for. Oh and you can’t forget those Starbucks lattes! “That darned one percent!” Despite the obvious reality that envy separates us more than dollars and cents the class warfare rhetoric wages on with calls for redistribution of wealth. What should be even more embarrassing to us in our envy is the statistical evidence concerning the rich and the poor. Only 3.5 percent of Americans have a net worth of one million dollars or more.* A study done by academics at the University of Michigan followed people in the bottom 20 percent for eight years. They discovered that only 3 percent of the American population remained in the bottom 20 percent at the end of an eight year period.** If you were to combine those two you have less than ten percent of the population that make up the “consistently” rich and poor. That leaves roughly 90 percent of us who are significantly neither. You would think that the rich and the poor are the biggest classes that exist if you listen to media pundits and politicians. Obviously they are not. So who redistributes what to who?

 Real Poverty

We have to admit in this era of relative poverty and consequently relative riches, that the real wealth that seems to be lacking is not money or materials. What is scarce is moral capital. The values, standards, and sense of personal responsibility that serve to elevate any person or people. The mere relocation of money from one person to the next does not contribute one iota to alleviate the effects of the self-destructive behavior of many of those in poverty today. Real poverty is spiritual, so if we want to distribute or redistribute anything it should be values.

*Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko, The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy p.16

**Greg Duncan et al., Years of Poverty, Years of Plenty: The Changing Fortunes of American Workers and Families (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press)

6 Responses to “Artificial Poverty II”

  1. Tamika M. Johnson

    It is my opinion that the discussion or debate about the “haves and have nots”, wealthy vs. middle class and poor, is simply another diversion from the real issues. It is an age old tactic that people use to manipulate others into their way of thinking. This brings to mind the French debates over the bourgeosie class rising to power. Their intent originally was to overthrow the monarchy and establish themselves as a higher class of people with the inclusion of bringing the lower class with them. In essence, they wanted to show that more than the nobility had a right to be noticed. However, as time moved on and the movement evolved, it was seen that the lower class proletariats grew in number and thus strife among the classes resumed. I agree that we are supposed to live in the increase that God has given us but not at the detriment and destruction of our moral foundation.

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  2. Micah Stewart

    The greatest thing we can do to help others is get rich spiritually! Minister to multitudes like the Master, unleashing countless miracles moved by compassion. -Micah Stewart

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    • Tamika

      That boils down to loving others. The problem many have with this is that they don’t love themselves and thus nullify their love for others. How can one love another and thus minister to that person effectively, if he/she doesn’t receive the love God has for us within himeself/herlf?

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  3. Gwen Jenkins

    This reminds me of that song, “Let’s Give ‘Em Something to Talk About”, we’ll talk about love! When we talk about it, it’s usually from a physical perspective, but actually since love is the foundation of all things, we love in every moment, whether we realize it or not. One minute we give a thought of love for the baby we hear crying and the next minute we take love away when we have an unkind thought about the rubber neckers holding up traffic. I am grateful for this forum that gives me something to talk about in a way that can lead us back to being in a state of love. Thank you!

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  4. chr1

    Moral capital is always scarce, especially in our own lives, but if we make room for it, and grow it, it gets bigger. Then maybe it can do some good, and in ways we never anticipated.

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