A lot of Americans are. And their ignorance feeds common fictional narratives about poverty in America.
For most Americans, the cure for poverty is hard work, frugality, education, and drive. Most American poor have ample resources if they would only use them well. But the typical narrative about the poor is that they are helpless victims who scarcely manage to survive.
Obama's poverty humbug
We saw this in the 2015 State of the Union speech
, where President Obama, pushing for a rise in the minimum wage, declared: “If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, try it.” In reality, it would be a grave mistake to have children if one could only earn minimum wage. But were a famiily so improvident, our current state welfare would shower benefits on them: the Earned Income Tax credit
($5,000) and the SNAP food benefit
($7,200) alone could easily add over $12,000 per year to the income of a family of four making $15,000. Do you think a family of four can't live on $27,000? I promise you, it can. And that doesn't even mention the free food the kids would get at public school or any private charity.
So the humbug narrative of pity just ignores the existing welfare state in order to argue for even more subsidies for poverty and improvidence.
SNAP is a rich subsidy
The pity narrative also has drummed up the idea that the SNAP food benefits are meager
at $600 per month for a family of four. Well, my partner Susanna Fessler and I examined that issue and found that our luxurious, cosmopolitan foodie-ism was perfectly achievable within a SNAP diet of $1.50 per person per meal. Read Sue's account of the ridiculous whining
that lay behind the pro-SNAP subsidy activism. Read about our principles of sensible food buying
If you have never thought about how rich you are, I recommend you read Mr. Money Mustache.
In the developed world, we reap the benefits of the Great Enrichment
, which has put industry to work providing us with an amazing array of products and life options at very low cost. Of course, plenty of people try to sell luxury products that are expensive. But if you mostly ignore the expensive products, it’s incredible how much real luxury you can enjoy, from cheap travel, to free books and movies, to low cost food, comfortable housing, and on and on.
It's time to stop keeping up with the Joneses
. It's time for everyone to start keeping up with their own needs and possibilities. It's time to stop excusing the improvident and blaming the productive.
Make the most of what you earn, and if you want more, earn more! That's good advice no matter what your income: that's what those who claim to sympathize with the poor should be preaching. The key is to make your own values the center of all your decision-making. That's what it takes to live and make the most of life, on your own terms, for yourself.