One of the major subjective classifications of sociology and economics globally is the concept of “poverty.” Poverty or impoverishment is not universal contrary to what Marxists, liberals, socialists and anti-globalists may contend. The reason being is because the standards and measurements of poverty are all determinable by the governmental apparatus or bureaucracy for statistical and redistributive purposes. Mollie Orshansky, an economist of the Social Security Administration of the United States, developed the modern poverty measure in 1963. Orshansky created financial thresholds for households determining if they were “poor” or “impoverished” based on their net income after additional living expenses. Her calculations specifically were mainly derived from a household’s minimum food diet multiplied by 3 to account for the family’s living expenditures. Ironically, the utilization of her poverty threshold coincides with the era of the implementation of The Great Society programs which were domestic programs created by President Lyndon Johnson for the purpose and intentionality of the federal government to eradicate poverty.


The Great Society programs initiated the augmentation and expansion of the Welfare State at the cost of $22 trillion adjusted to today’s rate of inflation from 1964 to 2014. Within 50 years the poverty rate has declined from 19% in 1964 to only 14.8% in 2014! Hence, at the cost of $22 trillion all America has to show is 4-5% points for the exorbitant costs of eradicating poverty. The Chicagoian economist Milton Friedman stated, “the only effective way to redistribute wealth is to destroy the incentive to have wealth.” Henceforth, with the expansion of wealth transfer programs through the government coercing citizens to appropriate and allocate their funds to the “impoverished” element of the society, it disincentivizes the productivity of the group of people in poverty which stagnates ambition, diligence and the attempt to extricate one’s self from poverty. Henceforth, what the federal government created is welfare anesthesia and entitlement intoxication in which the welfare recipient depends on welfare benefits to enhance their comfortability, contentment, and “high” off of the appurtenance of “impoverishment.” This gets to the point that the welfare dependency becomes a perennial addiction that leads to somniferous idleness by the poor and increased apathy and bitterness generally by the middle and upper class towards the “impoverished” due to their generally perceived lack of work ethic which was created in the name of the governmental equality.


According to Webster’s dictionary, the definition of poverty is the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions. The second definition of poverty, according to Webster is scarcity or dearth and the last definition of poverty is debility due to malnutrition or lack of fertility. According to the first definition of poverty which is “the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions”, then that would mean that if I were around an affluent aggregate of people in the Hampton’s, Martha’s Vineyard or Beverly Hills, I would be “impoverished” too just like the majority of Americans. Yet on the other hand, when I am in various inner city aggregates throughout New Jersey and New York around generational peers who receive governmental benefits, then I am considered rich, even though some of these welfare recipients sometimes wear more expensive clothes than I and drive luxury foreign vehicles. Henceforth, since I lack a lot of the “material possessions” compared to some welfare recipients in my state and region, the majority of American citizens and I are considered “impoverished” as well jocularly speaking. In addition, when I was a study abroad student at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, I noticed that poverty in Egypt makes poverty in the United States look paradisiacal and luxurious and even though I am not “poor” nor rich (yet) according to the federal government’s standards, I am still perceived as rich to the average Egyptian from my experiences and studies of Egyptian sociology and economics where the GNI per capita income is only $1,214.95 a year. Additionally, the second definition of poverty according to Webster is “scarcity or dearth” yet all resources are universally scarce and the key definition of economics is the study of how to utilize scarce resources for the purpose of utility maximization and satisfaction. Hence according to this definition, everyone is “impoverished” because one can never be fully satisfied due to scarcity of resources available to meet our unlimited and infinite demands. The last definition of poverty according to Webster is “debility due to malnutrition or lack of fertility.” The irony behind this definition is that studies have corroborated that throughout the United States, there have been a correlation between obesity and poverty. In 2010, according to the Diabetes Journal statistics of 3,139 counties, counties with poverty rates above 35% have 145% greater obesity rates than wealthier counties!!! Henceforth, there is a plausible probability that when Mollie Orshansky created the poverty thresholds for the federal government based on the affordability of the minimum food diet in addition to other living expenditures, that a lot of the welfare recipients that meet her mathematical criteria eat a little too much government cheese.


Interestingly enough, 96.1% of families in poverty in America have a television compared to 95% of France’s entire population!!! Also, 80% of poor households below the poverty line in America have cellular phones, 97.8% of them have refrigerators and 93.2% of impoverished families have microwaves!! Also not to mention, the average impoverished person in America has more living space than middle class citizens in London, Paris, Vienna, etc. Additionally, the bottom 10% of America’s poor lives better than the upper middle class of Russia, Portugal and Mexico, and ironically the bottom 10% have a similar living standard to the plebeians of Denmark and Finland, which are countries with large welfare states compared to the rest of the industrialized world. Also an impressive, yet an ironic fact is that 40% of poor households in America own their homes!!!


In closing, poverty is globally relative based on the cultural and governmental standards of what’s considered to be financially and economically acceptable for survival. The minority of the United States’ population and the minority of all of its ethnicities are in poverty compared to other countries globally so the problem is not merely economic poverty but cultural and psychological poverty. This poverty was created partially by the government with intentions to meet the needs of its constituents and possibly for altruistic and humanitarian purposes of eliminating impoverishment in America. One of the biggest lessons in economics is that great intentions do not necessarily equate to great effects. Alternatively, one of the most effective ways to eradicate poverty is for the government to allow people to work and pursue their own destinies of life, liberty, property and happiness as long as it is not coercively infringing on the rights of others. Henceforth, the concept of “poverty” is relative and whatever “poverty” is to you, it is through the free market that you could earn your ticket out of poverty and get on the road to prosperity, and it is through the government intervention that poverty becomes comfortable and perpetual which transcends generations.

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