Something of a rum do here.

By the numbers:

  • Approximately 45 million Americans were living in poverty in 2009.
  • 2009 saw the largest single year increase in the U.S. poverty rate since the U.S. government began calculating poverty figures back in 1959.
  • The U.S. poverty rate is now the third worst (above only Turkey and Mexico) among the developed nations tracked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, on a year-over-year basis, household participation in the food stamp program has increased 20.28 percent.
  • The number of Americans on food stamps surpassed 41 million for the first time ever in June.
  • Approximately 50 million Americans could not afford to buy enough food to stay healthy at some point during the last year.
  • 1 out of every 6 Americans is now being served by at least one government anti-poverty program.
  • More than 50 million Americans are now on Medicaid, the U.S. government health care program designed principally to help the poor.
  • Nearly 10 million Americans now receive unemployment insurance, which is almost four times as many as were receiving it in 2007.
  • 1 out of every 5 children in the United States is now living in poverty.
  • (I\’ve taken out a couple of points as they\’re not relevant to my point).

    Now, as all fans of economic statistics know, the US poverty figures are calculated on the basis of market incomes plus direct cash transfers. They do not include benefits in kind (housing vouchers, health care or food stamps) nor the impact of the tax system (so they ignore the nation\’s largest anti-poverty cash handout, the EITC, equivalent to our tax credits).

    So, one and two are measures of how many people there would be in poverty if the government didn\’t try to aid those at risk of living in poverty.

    Three is very odd as it\’s using an entirely different measure of poverty, one that is in fact a measure of inequality, not poverty. The last is the same as the first point. That is a measure of how many children would be living in poverty if aid wasn\’t offered. It is not the number of people or children living in poverty after aid is given.

    The rest, well, they\’re a list of the things that the government does to alleviate poverty. Things which, as we\’ve noted, are not included when we estimate how much poverty there is to alleviate.

    But there\’s always someone who doesn\’t get it, right?

    That’s the problem of insufficient state spending


    That the US Government spends, in order, over $50 billion to provide food for the poor, provides anti-poverty assistance to one in six of the population, spends $400 billion providing health care for the poor, provides unemployment benefits to those out of work, all of which undoubtedly alleviate poverty, this is proof perfect that the state is not spending enough money?


    The existence of tax credits shows that we don\’t spend enough money on the poor in the UK? The existence of the NHS shows that we don\’t spend enough?


    3 thoughts on “Blimey!”

    1. No. You have got it all wrong. Number three is a measure of poverty – a widely accepted measure of poverty too. It may also be a measure of inequality in poverty terms, but it’s still a poverty measure. And you say of “Approximately 50 million Americans could not afford to buy enough food to stay healthy at some point during the last year.” that this is one of the “the things that the government does to alleviate poverty.”


      There’s always someone who doesn’t get it, right?

    2. Rule one of Socialism: however much the State taxes and spends of the National Income, its never enough, right up to the point where it confiscates 100% of all income and redistributes it back as it sees fit (which of course is where the Socialist wish to go – each according to he need etc). Rule 2 of Socialism: Do as we say or else. Rule 3: See rules 1 and 2.

    3. That OECD measure of poverty — is that the usual “poverty threshold” set at half of median income?

      So if the George Soros finds another currency to break and single-handedly raises the median, I could fall under the “poverty line” even if my income and “purchasing power” have remained the same?

      I’ve never understood how that is a measure of poverty.

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