Grandma P and I have been fortunate in that we have done extensive traveling and have visited over fifty countries. Many, but not all, of these visits were done from the comfort of a cruise ship. In many instances, a one-day visit was more than enough.
The one thing that Grandma P and I agree on during these travels is the definition of poverty, of being poor. We both agree that most Americans have not seen what real poverty looks like. How many people live in the United States in houses that lack both windows and doors and have dirt floors? Not too many. Yet, we have seen it many times in countries in the Caribbean and in both Central or South America.
Many people have to grow the food they eat. We saw this on a recent trip to the South Pacific. Did you know there are two Samoas? Yup. One Samoa is Western Samoa which is directly north of New Zealand and is also an independent country. It is beautiful! What was memorable about Western Samoa was that everyone, regardless of their meager homes, had beautiful gardens that provided fruit and vegetables. Many raised animals. Everyone was busy making a living in whatever manner was available. Everyone was outwardly happy and appeared to be productive. There are no welfare programs in Western Samoa. It gets back to that age-old principle of, ‘you eat what you kill.’
The next day we went to Eastern Samoa, more commonly known as America Samoa. It is the only US protectorate of the four US protectorates in the southern hemisphere. It was also beautiful. As we were touring America Samoa, the gardens were not as prevalent. Many yards did not have gardens. The homes and yards were not as well kept as we had seen at Western Samoa. I noticed this and could not figure out the reason for the big differences between the two islands. This was especially perplexing as many of the people on both of the islands are related. The airplane shuttle service between the islands is always busy. As we were at the end of the tour and heading back to our ship, the answer became evident. As we were passing one of the biggest groceries on the island, there it was – the answer– in big letters prominently displayed in the window – ‘We Accept Food Stamps.’
Who knew? Did you know that our protectorates receive welfare? Want to guess who is paying for this? Oh yeah, the American taxpayer. We are also paying for Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
I digress. One of the most poverty stricken cities we have visited is Cairo, Egypt. Pretty much everything is filthy and dust covered. The Cairo system of garbage removal is to push all garbage into the Nile river. When the spring floods come, it all gets washed north to the Mediterranean. If Egypt did not have the pyramids or the sphinx, tourists would never go there. Talk about poverty!
Now I am going to do something that I have not done in over a year of writing this blog. I am going to republish an article that appeared in my local newspaper this week in its entirety. I am doing this for three reasons. Firstly, the winter Olympics are on, and I am an Olympic junky. I have been since 1960. Secondly, I have four brothers-in-law and four sisters-in-law coming to stay at our house this week. I need to store up my limited amount of ‘niceness, best behavior and tolerance.’ Lastly, Walter Williams has punched this poverty/dependency issue squarely in the face and has done an excellant job of writing about it. Walter’s columns are syndicated, but obviously do not appear in many newspapers. I never knew who he was, or saw his columns until I moved to the South from the Midwest. Why? He is black, and he is conservative. That does not bode well in the blue states or in the liberal media. He is a professor of economics at George Mason University. His article:
America’s problem isn’t poverty, it’s dependency ( by Walter Williams)
“There is no material poverty in the United States. Here are a few facts about people whom the Census Bureau labels as poor. Dr. Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield, in their study “Understanding Poverty in the United States: Surprising Facts About America’s Poor,” report that 80 percent of poor households have air conditioning, nearly three-quarters have a car or truck and 31 percent have two or more. Two-thirds have cable or satellite TV. Half have one or more computers. Forty-two percent own their homes. Poor Americans have more living space than the typical non-poor person in Sweden, France or the United Kingdom.
What we have in our nation are dependency and poverty of the spirit, with people making unwise choices and leading pathological lives aided and abetted by the welfare state.
The Census Bureau pegs the poverty rate among blacks at 35 percent and among whites at 13 percent. The illegitimacy rate among blacks is 72 percent and among whites it’s 30 percent. A statistic that one doesn’t hear much about is that the poverty rate among black married families has been in the single digits for more than two decades; it’s currently at 8 percent. For married white families, it’s 5 percent.
Now the politically incorrect questions: Whose fault is it to have children without the benefit of marriage and risk a life of dependency? Do people have free will, or are they governed by instincts?
There may be some pinhead sociologists who blame the weak black family structure on racial discrimination. But why was the black illegitimacy rate only 14 percent in 1940, and why, as Dr. Thomas Sowell reports, do we find that census data “going back a hundred years, when blacks were just one generation out of slavery…. showed that a slightly higher percentage of black adults had married than white adults. This fact remained true in every census from 1890 to 1940.”
Is anyone willing to advance the argument that the reason the illegitimacy rate among blacks was lower and marriage rates higher in earlier periods was there was less racial discrimination and greater opportunity?
No one can blame a person if he starts out in life poor, because how one starts out is not his fault. If he stays poor, he is to blame because it is his fault.
Avoiding long-term poverty is not rocket science. First, graduate from high school. Second, get married before you have children, and stay married. Third, work at any kind of job, even one that starts out paying the minimum wage. And finally, avoid engaging in criminal behavior.
It turns out that a married couple, each earing the minimum wage, would earn an annual combined income of $30,000. The Census Bureau poverty line for a family of two is $15,500, and for a family of four it’s $23,000. By the way, no adult who starts out earning the minimum wage does so for very long.
Since President Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty, the nation has spent about $18 trillion at the federal, state and local levels of government on programs justified by the “need” to deal with some aspect of poverty. In a column of mine in 1995, I pointed out that at that time, the nation had spent $5.4 trillion on the War on Poverty, and with that princely sum, “you could purchase every US factory, all manufacturing equipment, and every office building. With what’s left over, one could buy every airline, trucking company and our commercial maritime fleet. If you’re still in the shopping mood, you could also buy every television, radio and power company, plus every retail and wholesale store in the entire nation.”
Today’s total of $18 trillion spent on poverty means you could purchase everything produced in our country each year and then some.
There’s very little guts in the political arena to address the basic causes of poverty. To do so risks being labeled as racist, sexist, uncaring and insensible. That means today’s dependency is likely to become permanent.” (the end)
Whew! I could not have said any of this better than Walter Williams himself did in his article. If you are not familiar with any of Walter’s articles, you should acquaint yourself – right after you read mine. His perspective is both astute and refreshing.
My heart rate has just jumped! Olympic curling is back on the TV. You must be familiar with curling. It is the only Olympic sport where a fat man with a beer gut can realistically fantasize about being an Olympic medal winner! Those other sports are too physical and would actually require me to move off the couch and train! Pass the pretzels.