War on Poverty Over: We Won!

There aren't any really poor people in America.

For years and years, Democrats have asked us to let them raise taxes so they can take care of "the poor."  They want us to think they're all warm and fuzzy and altruistic, but it's just another scam.  It's a scam because there are no poor people in America!

How do I know this?  I have a friend whose church wanted to do something for the poor.  Church people collected clothes, washed and ironed them, hung them up by size, and invited people to come get all the free clothes they wanted.

They had a lot of clothes.  When my friend walked in, he was blown away; there was a thousand bucks worth of shoes in the front hall.  Clothes were all over the place, nice garments that had hardly been worn.  My friend figured maybe $10,000 worth at retail.  "And," he tells me, "people have a lot more clothes at home they couldn't bring to church because we ran out of space."  They filled the church with clothes they didn't need and had to stop bringing them.

Church women put out snacks, coffee, and coke.  They got ready to take care of the poor.  And what happened?  Nobody came.

That's right, not one poor person showed up to get free clothes.

They'd put out posters.  In case people didn't have cars, they listed the church phone number and told people they'd drive them to the church.  Leaflets were passed out all over town.  Nobody called.  Nobody came.

Nobody needed free clothes.  Why?  Because there aren't any really poor people in America.  We're a rich country.  The average American garbage grinder eats better than 2/3 of the world's population.

But why do we read so much about the poor?  That's simple - we set up a bureaucracy to fight poverty and we give the bureaucrats a lot of money.  The bureaucrats spend some of our money setting up web sites like http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/poverty06/pov06hi.html to tell us how hard they fight poverty.

That site says, "The official poverty rate in 2006 was 12.3 percent, down from 12.6 percent in 2005."  Poverty going down sounds good to us, but it's bad news to bureaucrats who need poverty to justify their budget.  They added, "In 2006, 36.5 million people were in poverty, not statistically different from 2005."  They admit poverty is going down, but they claim it's not statistically significant, so they still need our money.

They couldn't resist adding, "The poverty rate in 2006 was lower than in 1959, the first year for which poverty estimates are available."  Poverty is lower than when they started measuring it, but that doesn't stop them asking for more money.  The Health and Human Services budget is at http://www.hhs.gov/budget/docbudget.htm which has a link to "Budget in Brief" which gives a neat little table.  This budget is in millions, so they're talking about $682 billion dollars in 2006 and $697 billion in 2008:

  2006 2007 2008 2008





+/- 2007
Cont. Res.

Budget Authority










Full-Time Equivalents





The bulk of the budget goes on Medicare and Medicaid; about 10% goes for fighting poverty.  We the People spent $68 billion dollars fighting poverty in 2006.  But what do they mean by poor?  There's a document at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/datawh/nchsdefs/povertylev.htm which says:

Poverty statistics are based on definitions originally developed by the Social Security Administration.  These include a set of money income thresholds that vary by family size and composition.  Families or individuals with income below their appropriate thresholds are classified as below the poverty level.  These thresholds are updated annually by the U.S. Bureau of the Census to reflect changes in the Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers (CPI-U).  For example, the average poverty threshold for a family of four was $17,603 in 2000 and $13,359 in 1990.

Here's where the scam comes to light.  The bureaucrats define poverty in terms of "a set of money income thresholds."  A family of four people with income less than $17,603 in 2000 was "poor."

That sounds scanty, but they don't tell you that government payments are not counted as income.  The $17,603 does not include food stamps, rent supplements, heating subsidies, free medical care, or the negative income tax (Earned Income Tax Credit).  If you include everything we give the poor, you'll find that they aren't poor even by the bureaucrat's own definition.  That's why nobody came to my friend's church for free clothing.

The bureaucrats know this, which is why they're so careful not to include anything they or any other charity gives the poor when counting who's poor and who's not.

According to Dictionary.com, poverty is, among other things, "The state of being poor; lack of the means of providing material needs or comforts."  When was the last time somebody literally starved to death in the United States?  1933, maybe?  This happens all the time in Africa - that is true poverty.

We went to war on poverty.  We won!  There aren't any poor people left.  There is income inequality - obviously, many Americans have less wealth than many other Americans.  But even the poorest American is richer than most citizens of Third World nations.  In the United States, there aren't any truly poor people left.

But the bureaucracy goes on forever.

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for Scragged.com and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Society.
Reader Comments

You could send the clothes to BATA, MLK Boulevard, Boston.  Students there come and get clothes because they need them. Slum rents are about $1900/month. Though, many poor students get more than I ever had to spend on clothing, many refuse to wear second-hand clothes.  They'll wear no coat over a second-hand coat.  Plus people give them things all the time.  

If you addressed the middle class, people would come for the clothes.  They need them.  So much of their money goes to clothe and feed and educate the poor.  Elderly need clothes, too,.  But, many elderly can't get out to get them.  

Note:  Teachers teaching the students who have $600 quarterly clothing allowances do wear second-hand clothes.  But, teachers are "PAWs" (Prodigious Accumulators of Wealth...See The Millionaire Next Door) whereas the students often get full scholarships to college, drop out and stay in poverty.  We are able to reach some but not all.

There are plenty of people who would gladly use your clothes.  You just haven't reached them.  I commend the effort your church made, however.  It is a great start.

September 19, 2007 7:44 PM

Your reasoning for there being no need for aid to the poor is that the government classifies them as poor...without figuring in the aid.

September 20, 2007 6:33 AM

I'm sorry I didn't express the point very well.  I started out saying,   "Democrats have asked us to let them raise taxes so they can take care of 'the poor.'"

What I was trying to say was that we are taking care of the poor very well and that the Democrats should not be permitted to get away with wanting to raise taxes for that reason.

Even by the Government's measure, poverty is going down.    Given that, why should we let them raise taxes?

September 20, 2007 10:33 AM

While attempting to make what could be a very legitimate argument, your argument completely falls over and dies when you attempt to pin this on a single party.

Your argument perpetuates a misconception that there is significant differences between the two parties.    Your attack on the Democrats doesn't hurt the Democrats - it helps both the Democrats and Republicans keep things exactly as they are.

September 22, 2007 3:32 PM
what about the rest of the world?
October 2, 2008 9:04 AM
what about the rest of the world?
October 2, 2008 9:04 AM

They're the rest of the world- AKA Not us... let them fend for themselves... I'm tired of worrying about the rest of the world.
October 2, 2008 9:07 AM
Brandy expresses a point which has not escaped the armies of bureaucrats whose livelihood depends on convincing us that they are capable of spending our money to lift the rest of the world out of poverty.


discusses a world-side aid plan sponsored by Sen. Obama among others which would cost us roughly half the Federal budget every year.


discusses an article in Time Magazine which documented the fact that misguided food-aid projects in Ethiopia have increased the likelihood of starvation by destroying the local agriculture system.

Isn't it somewhat arrogant to believe that we know how to relieve poverty in the rest of the world? Have any of our projects in Africa actually benefited the people there, as opposed to fattening the Swiss bank accounts of the rulers?
October 2, 2008 9:13 AM
Why doesn't the rest of the world worry about us?

We ship more than $100 Billion to other nations in foreign aid.

We employ countless millions of people in China and Japan.

We buy 25% of the world's oil.

If anything, the rest of the world should care about us. We sign their paychecks.

October 2, 2008 9:17 AM
Hello this is Denish from Kenya Africa. I'm very please with your kind of work your doing as per now. I do understand my position as an African and more so as a Kenya citizen. It is our back ground that we are poor naturally. But my big question to put across is that do you still help the needy with whatever come your way, be it cloths,shoes,food and e.t.c.

Otherwise thank you looking forward get from you
December 9, 2009 11:57 AM
In America, there is a saying: "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man a fish, and you feed him for life." For a hundred years, the West has been giving Africa fishes in the form of food aid, when we should have been teaching them to fish (and they should have been learning.) Compare to India, where the nation of India has learned to fish excellently and is well on their way into the first world.

For myself, I know that I don't "just give" to the needy. I try not just to help them, but to help them to help themselves. That's the only way a permanent improvement can be made.

I'm not totally sure how this works in the international context of Africa. But it's for sure that foreign aid has been a total failure.

Have you ever heard of Dead Aid, by Dambisa Moyo? She is an African who argues that foreign aid has been very bad for Africa.

December 9, 2009 9:05 PM
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man a fish, and you feed him for life."

Actually, the problem in Africa is that they have no place to fish or farm...we've payed off their local warlords with money and guns so we could mine their land for natural resources, destroying the arable land and watersheds in the process. Unable to eke out a living from the polluted soil or sea, they have moved into the ever-expanding slums of the cities.

The simple fact is that there is not only plenty of poverty in the world (and this nation), but that it is a vital source of wealth for those who prefer to pretend it doesn't exist.

July 2, 2010 6:05 AM

There aren't any poor people in America? Have you idiots gone to LOS ANGELES & 6TH? There are over 300,000 homeless people JUST in los angeles. How dare you turn around and try to manipulate the public into thinking that there aren't any poor people America. Instead of having 'war of drugs" and "war on terror" lets have war on poverty. By that i don't mean feed the needy so they come back for more. I mean create more jobs for the needy. Not everyone has the opportunity to be well off in life. People need to open up their eyes and do some more research on AMERICA. This country is all about business. Nobody gives a FU*k about the people! That my friend is the bottom line.

November 25, 2012 5:33 AM

No, people need to do some more research on Africa. There are no poor people in America - no, not even in Los Angeles. The "poor" there are vastly richer than 99% of everyone in human history, and than billions of truly poor overseas.

November 25, 2012 8:09 AM
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