Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Calculating Poverty

This article points out that the government underestimates the number of poor people by not counting certain expenses; when you add those, the number of poor goes up.

Here's the honest way to calculate poverty.  First, add up the survival expenses: food, housing and utilities, clothing, health care, etc.  Next, add in all the things that society expects; it's not okay to demand things of people if they aren't counted here, so if you want to require stuff like going to college or saving for retirement, it must be added.  Also include things like taxes and random essentials such as gasoline.  Then figure a buffer to account for extras and unexpected expenses, because that always happens.

Compare the total to what people make.  Everyone who does not make enough to cover all those expenses routinely is poor.  Poor means there are more demands than resources to meet them.  An ordinary person's ordinary work should support the standard needs for their culture; if not, someone is cheating and/or oppressing them.  Further consider that inflation drives up expenses over time, and if wages don't keep pace -- as they haven't in America for some time -- that pushes more people into poverty.  Same with newly added expenses, such as a computer and Internet connection, now demanded by society for most people.

Governments do not like to tally things this way, because it tends to reveal ways in which their society does not work.  That doesn't make the problem go away, and if a lot of citizens aren't getting their needs met, that's a society-level threat that WILL manifest sooner or later.  That's not politics, it's history.  A castle built on sand cannot stand.  If your base isn't stable, nothing is.  Sooner or later the system will either fix itself, fall apart from within, or be destroyed from without.  You'd think people would pay attention to the real threats, but no, that isn't sexy or fun.  They'd rather play war.

It makes me glad that history has  that safety catch of demolishing unfit societies, because otherwise nothing would get done.
Tags: economics, news
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