Friday, May 04, 2007

Capitalist America: We don't know how good we've got it

I've often commented to bewildered friends and acquaintances how rich Americans are and how all Americans should be thankful everyday that they live in this fantastic country, including those considered poor or living under the official poverty level. I tell them how the majority of the rest of the world would give their right arm if they could live as well as our so-called poor do. America's economy is so strong, so developed, that even our poor are rich by most other countries' standards.

With that in mind, Arnold Kling's recent TCS Daily article is a must read:

In the United States, the poverty threshold for a family of four is just under $20,000 a year in income. However, consider what would happen if you were to force every family of four all over the world the world to live on $20,000 a year. The majority of families would say, "Thank you." Outside the United States, there are more people living under our poverty threshold than over it. Perhaps as many as one billion people are living on less than one-tenth of our poverty threshold, or less than $2000 a year for a family of four.
Overall, as David R. Henderson and Charles L. Hooper wrote three years go for TCS, virtually every American alive today is in the top one percent of income, if one takes a worldwide historical perspective. It would be better to live on $20,000 a year in America today than to be a relatively wealthy person living here one hundred years ago.

He also quotes Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation who points out that:

Nearly three-quarters of poor households own a car; 30 percent own two or more cars.

Ninety-seven percent of poor households have a color television; over half own two or more color televisions; Seventy-eight percent have a VCR or DVD player; 62 percent have cable or satellite TV reception; Seventy-three percent own microwave ovens, more than half have a stereo, and a more than a third have an automatic dishwasher.

Rector would not deny that there is real poverty in the United States. The point is, however, that the standard definition of poverty includes many families who are far from destitute.

Hat tip to PajamasMedia.

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