Sunday, February 20, 2005

What Liberals Think About Poverty

When it comes to worldwide poverty Liberals tend to take the long view. Every year millions of people die of AIDS, malaria, starvation and murder. And the Liberal mind focuses like a laser beam on that ultimate human tragedy … Global Warming! Now that the “Kyoto Protocol” is in effect, the cost to the participating countries will be between $150 Billion and $350 Billion per year. Using the lower figure, the cost of the first phase (2005-2012) will exceed one Trillion dollars. Even in the US that is serious money.

Meanwhile, five million children are in dire poverty, AIDS is devastating Africa and malaria is coming back with a vengeance. And the current worldwide aid budget is $50 Billion per year, a small fraction of the global warming expense. As Mike Crichton said: “Why are we not feeding people in this world who are hungry? Why are we not giving clean water to the almost billion people who don’t have clean water? The greatest source of environmental degradation is poverty. Why aren’t we cleaning up poverty?” The Copenhagen Consensus proposed spending $50 Billion over several years on AIDS, malaria, malnutrition and water yet the top priority for the UN, the EU and liberals everywhere is climate change.

In America, poverty is a more complex issue. The poor in America live, in many ways, better than the middle classes in other developed countries. The average American poor family has a color TV set (97%) with cable or satellite reception (62%), owns a car (73%), and lives in air conditioning (76%). Forty-six percent of poor families own their own homes. Poverty in America has decreased from 22% of the population in 1960 to 12.5% today. The poverty rate would be much lower if the US did not accept more immigrants than all other nations combined.

Most important is the fact that the poor in America do not, in general, remain poor for very long. This is the conclusion of a University of Michigan socioeconomic study that has been tracking over 50,000 Americans since 1968. In Myths of the Rich and Poor, Michael Cox and Richard Alm showed that only 5% of families in the bottom fifth of the income distribution in 1975 were still there in 1991. More than 75% of the families in that lowest quintile in 1975 had made their way up to the two highest quintiles by 1991. Over half of the lowest quintile moved to a higher quintile in only four years. This degree of upward mobility is truly remarkable and not experienced anywhere else in the world.

The remaining question is what to do about that 5% of the lowest quintile who are rooted in poverty. This works out to about 2.8 million Americans (5% X 20% X 280 million). The Liberal solution is to reduce pollution and fight global warming! No, just kidding. Liberals advocate as always more spending on welfare and school administrators and unfettered “choice.” In effect, keep those poor people on “Uncle Sam’s Plantation.” (See the eye-opening book by Star Parker.)


I think we can do better.

6 Comments:

Blogger Ralph said...

Bill,
I immediately tried to check out the Star Parker book. (Star Parker??) Do you have a hotlink?

11:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BTW, I've been posting here as "anonymous" with a "global warming is real, let's take sensible action" position.

I hope you don't therefore typecast me as some sort of liberal. I've been a conservative and a lifelong Repbulican.

If anything, my frustration is that a certain sort of conservative binds themself to a "do nothing" environmental position.

In my day, we thought that freedom and individual responsiblity went hand-in-hand. Indeed the "if it feels good, do it" position was supposed to show up on the liberal side ;-)

1:53 PM  
Blogger narrator said...

You're using funny statistics. Of course, grotesque poverty situations in America were dramatically reduced specifically by "throwing money at them." The Great Society programs of LBJ (and Nixon and Ford and Carter) are responsible for those refrigerators, housing, rural electrification, of course, Medicaid. That UofM study has been so completely discredited though (an absurdly chosen sample), as anyone who has seen rural Mississippi or urban Detroit, Chicago, etc. would find obvious.

But I love how conservatives want to compare our poor to the "rest of the world" (except Europe or Canada, of course), but refuse to compare our rich, who pay, by far the world's lowest taxes, and hold the highest percentage of national wealth of any "developed" nation. If we assume our poor are doing "so well," why aren't we sure our rich are doing the same?

2:37 PM  
Blogger Ralph said...

I'm not sure that I understand anonymous. Global warming is real. Lets take sensible action.
Relative to the environment, liberal are not taking the if it feels good do it stance by embracing Kyoto but conservatives are by not embracing it.
Where do you see the arrogance of assuming a cause from a correlation and that puny man is able to affect the cosmos?

3:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've seen the correlation between ... let's say a "certain type of conservative," and the "do nothing" approach by surfing the web.

On the "if it feels good do it" I was thinking that was the last defense for the Hummer crowd. They certainly aren't excercising their responsiblity along with their freedom. It is instead an in-your-face refusal to believe in any (as you say) "sensible action."

On "puny man" ... I'd say 7,315,447 active blogs (as meausred by Technorati a minute ago) brings that to new levels.

Typing a little bit into that ocean of "listen to me" might help or not. I don't seriously believe it will. It is more a case of "nothing ventured, nothing gained."

6:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And sometimes it's just fun to come up with a good turn of phrase. ;-) Your puny man cosmos thing was one.

6:51 AM  

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