Liberal/progressive dogma and main stream media all too frequently claim that an increasing gap between rich and poor is somehow unfair, or socially unjust. This gap conflicts somehow with their “so-called liberal” notions of fairness and social justice. I say “so-called liberal” because there is absolutely nothing liberal or progressive about enslaving people economically or otherwise to their government, yet that is precisely the result produced by people who claim the moniker of liberal and progressive today caused by the policies and candidates they support. “Class warfare has always been a mainstay of liberal politics. Politicians frequently depict the United States as a nation starkly divided between the rich and poor.”(1) I think you will find the work of Robert Rector et al at Heritage instructive. A review with an open mind of demographic data and a few studies easily refutes this “so-called liberal” dogma.
The book titled “The Population Bomb” which most of us read in the 1960’s and 1970’s contains so many errors, logical fallacies and overly simplistic or poorly developed theories that it should have been wiped from the memories of baby boomers. Some boomers still have not found their reset button and exploded that bomb. Instead, these neo-Malthusian ideas live on, having been adopted by true believing elites such as The Club of Rome and many graduates from Ivy League schools who went on to become bureaucrats in the DOE, DOI, EPA, etc. These easily refuted concepts are still used today to maintain status quo, even though none of the dire outcomes forecast by Paul Ehrlich in that book or Malthus have come to pass.
There is a strongly positive statistical correlation between (1) the trend of increasing economic status of the rich and (2) the trends of increasing economic status of the poor. In other words, when the gap is increasing, the wealth and well being of the poor are increasing. When the gap is decreasing, the well being and wealth of the poor are decreasing.
I doubt that you wish to advocate for decreasing the wealth and well being of the poorest quadrants of the economy. Statistics can be illuminating, or they can also be misleading and used against us.
Please don’t assume, as “so-called liberals” and progressives usually do, that I am advocating for the rich and wealthy. I advocate liberty for all responsible people. More liberty results in higher quality of life.
Taxes and government (as configured today) are barriers to individual liberty. I believe the indoctrination of “so-called liberalism” today is another significant barrier to freedom of thought. Taxes and government (as configured today) are barriers to economic freedom and upward economic mobility by individuals in both lower and middle classes. Taxation and government regulations as used today in developed countries are the preferred means to maintain status quo and to maintain the wealth and power of global corporate and government elites…the oligarchy. For example, federal government employees in the U.S. are far better educated and make much higher salaries and have better healthcare, better retirement programs and more assets than the general population who pay taxes to support those federal employees. The oligarchy truly believes they know what is best for the rest of us. Their primary job is to sustain and grow their budgets. Government today is a perfect example of Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy producing the Iron Law of Oligarchy. We are all being economically and otherwise enslaved to our government by taxation and other laws. Don’t believe me. Check it out and think for yourself.
Government welfare is institutional slavery. “Since President Johnson launched the “War on Poverty” in 1964, federal means-tested welfare spending has increased exponentially. Today, the U.S. spends 13 times the amount it spent on welfare in the 1960s—or about four times the amount needed to pull every poor family out of poverty. However, welfare programs have failed to address the causes of poverty, and the federal poverty rate remains nearly unchanged.”(1) This does not mean that the same individuals who were in poverty are still in poverty today. It means that the rate, i.e. the percentage of the total population, is the same. The population has grown significantly during the period, so the total number in poverty has grown significantly, and the official income levels determined by government to be classified as poverty has increased significantly. Not only do the poor become addicted and enslaved to welfare payments, middle class working people become enslaved by taxes and ever increasing regulations and ever increasing government debt. The “War on Poverty” is a means to drive the increase in government jobs, government payrolls and government budgets and thereby the power and control of government over American lives, all paid for by taxpayers, primarily middle class taxpayers, and their children and grandchildren.
“While the 1996 welfare reforms successfully moved people from welfare into work, it did not, as some believe, “end welfare as we know it.” In fact, these reforms restructured only one of the more than 70 federal means-tested programs. Today, these programs are spread over 13 government agencies and amount to almost $900 billion in spending per year. The growth of welfare spending is unsustainable and will drive the U.S. into bankruptcy if allowed to continue unreformed. Since the 1960s, the U.S. has spent approximately $16 trillion on welfare. Over the next 10 years, welfare spending is projected to cost taxpayers $10.3 trillion. Today, means-tested assistance is the fastest-growing part of government, with our nation spending more on welfare than on national defense.” (The Heritage Foundation.)
Franklin Delano Roosevelt: In 1935, President Roosevelt said: “Continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fibre. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit.”
“Poor persons in the United States have far higher living standards than the public imagines. Overall, the typical American defined as poor by the government has a car, air conditioning, a refrigerator, a stove, a clothes washer and dryer, and a microwave. He has two color televisions, cable or satellite TV reception, a VCR or DVD player, and a stereo. He is able to obtain medical care. His home is in good repair and is not overcrowded. By his own report, his family is not hungry, and he had sufficient funds in the past year to meet his family’s essential needs. While this individual’s life is not opulent, it is equally far from the popular images of dire poverty conveyed by the press, liberal activists, and politicians.” (The Heritage Foundation.)
“The major causes of child poverty in the United States in any year will be the absence of married fathers in the home and low levels of parental work.” (The Heritage Foundation.)
The following are facts about persons defined as “poor” by the Census Bureau as taken from various government reports (2):
- 80 percent of poor households have air conditioning. In 1970, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.
- 92 percent of poor households have a microwave.
- Nearly three-fourths have a car or truck, and 31 percent have two or more cars or trucks.
- Nearly two-thirds have cable or satellite TV.
- Two-thirds have at least one DVD player, and 70 percent have a VCR.
- Half have a personal computer, and one in seven have two or more computers.
- More than half of poor families with children have a video game system, such as an Xbox or PlayStation.
- 43 percent have Internet access.
- One-third have a wide-screen plasma or LCD TV.
- One-fourth have a digital video recorder system, such as a TiVo.
For decades, the living conditions of the poor have steadily improved. Consumer items that were luxuries or significant purchases for the middle class a few decades ago have become commonplace in poor households, partially because of the normal downward price trend that follows introduction of a new product. Liberals use the declining relative prices of many amenities to argue that it is no big deal that poor households have air conditioning, computers, cable TV, and wide-screen TV. They contend, polemically, that even though most poor families may have a house full of modern conveniences, the average poor family still suffers from substantial deprivation in basic needs, such as food and housing. In reality, this is just not true. Although the mainstream media broadcast alarming stories about widespread and severe hunger in the nation, in reality, most of the poor do not experience hunger or food shortages. The U.S. Department of Agriculture collects data on these topics in its household food security survey. For 2009, the survey showed:
- 96 percent of poor parents stated that their children were never hungry at any time during the year because they could not afford food.
- 83 percent of poor families reported having enough food to eat.
- 82 percent of poor adults reported never being hungry at any time in the prior year due to lack of money for food.
(The Heritage Foundation.)
That’s America. How about the rest of the world?
“Globally, average annual incomes tripled since 1950. As a result, the proportion of the world’s populationoutside of high-income OECD countries living in absolute poverty, traditionally based on average consumption of less than $1 per day in 1985 International dollars (adjusted for purchasing power parity), which had been at 84 percent in 1820, has been halved since 1981, from 40 percent to 20 percent (Goklany 2007a; WRI 2008; World Bank 2007).” (6)
“Equally important, the world is more literate and better educated. Child labor in low income countries declined from 30 to 18 percent between 1960 and 2003. People are freer politically, economically and socially to pursue their well-being as they see fit. More people choose their own rulers, and have freedom of expression. They are more likely to live under rule of law, and less likely to be arbitrarily deprived of life, limb and property. Social and professional mobility has never been greater. It’s easier to transcend the bonds of caste, place, gender, and other accidents of birth in the lottery of life. People work fewer hours, and have more money and better health to enjoy their leisure time (Goklany 2007a).” (6)
President Roosevelt and I wonder how much better off all of us would be if there had been no “War on Poverty” ?
Cloward and Piven have long been intellectual leaders of the progressive movement. “…their most significant achievement is their insistence upon the crucial role of structural crises in social and economic institutions in giving birth to social movements. Most of the time, despite inequality and oppression, the lower classes do not mobilize or are ignored or suppressed if they do. The authors argue that only under exceptional circumstances involving a sequence or a combination of structural dislocations can the poor mobilize successfully for their class interests. Further, the impact of institutional disruptions created by the mobilization of the lower classes is mediated by the political system, and only under conditions of severe electoral instability are reforms favoring the poor achievable.” (7) I assert that Cloward and Piven are correct in this insistence.
The problem for the poor and for about half of the middle class is that they have been misled by their social, educational and political leaders to believe that government is the answer, when in fact government is the tool used by elite and especially “so-called liberals” to control them. The government-controlled educational system is the means they used to gain compliance by the population.
Jacques Ellul said, “Politics is an illusion,” and asserts that the education system is the technique used to achieve oppressive normality and compliance. Ellul would assert that a man who has managed to escape the typical education provided by the technological society has the best chance for freedom. It is not what one learns but instead what one understands that enables liberty. (5)
Having said all of that about the improvement in economic status/quality of life/well being of everyone since WWII, unfortunately, all of that is now changing for the worse, but the trend is not yet captured in many reported demographic statistics. You can read more about that in my short note in Facebook, here: The Real Population Bomb, http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=10150866204695018
(1) Heritage Foundation. Two Americas: One Rich, One Poor? Understanding Income Inequality in the United States
By Rea Hederman, Jr. and Robert Rector, August 24, 2004 http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2004/08/Two-Americas-One-Rich-One-Poor-Understanding-Income-Inequality-in-the-United-States
Income Inequality: How Census Data Misrepresent Income Distribution
By Rea Hederman, Jr. and Robert Rector, September 29, 1999 http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/1999/09/Income-
Air Conditioning, Cable TV, and an Xbox: What is Poverty in the United States Today?
By Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield, July 19, 2011 http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2011/07/What-is-Poverty
(2) Understanding Poverty in the United States: Surprising Facts About America’s Poor
By Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield, September 13, 2011 http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2011/09/Understanding-Poverty-in-the-United-States-Surprising-Facts-About-Americas-Poor
(5) Revolution Revisited: Jacques Ellul, politics and morality, Bud Bromley. 2011. http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=10150731639225018
(6) HAVE INCREASES IN POPULATION, AFFLUENCE AND TECHNOLOGY WORSENED HUMAN AND ENVIRONMENTAL WELL-BEING? By Indur M. Goklany
(7) Review of Frances Fox Piven and Richard A. Cloward, Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail. (1977; New York: Vintage Books, 1979). From Rural Sociology, Vol. 45, No. 1 (1980), pp. 171-173. http://www.sonoma.edu/users/w/wallsd/poor-peoples-movements.shtml