• http://peoplespolicyproject.org/2017/09/12/who-was-in-poverty-in-2016/
  • http://www.demos.org/blog/12/2/15/why-education-does-not-fix-poverty

Today’s topic is on poverty.

Poverty is actually an extremely simple issue. In the reading for today, this was shown very compellingly in graphs. If you have a smartphone handy, you can take a look.

First, nearly half of all Americans had no income whatsoever. This might seem to be impossible–how can half of the country have no income whatsoever? Who are these people?

About half are children, and another quarter are elders. 10% are disabled, 8% cannot work because they are responsible for caring for a child or a family member with a disability, and 6% are students.

Added up, about 95% of people who have no income are people who should not be working: children, elders, disabled, caregivers, and students.

Because they have no income, these groups are disproportionately among the poor. 80% of those in poverty are people without an income–primarily children, elders, disabled, caregivers, and students. The majority of the remaining 20% are either unemployed but looking for work, but fully employed. Fully employed people are usually poor because they have nonearners, like children to support. So about 95% of the poor are people who should not work (children, elderly, caregivers, students), cannot work (disabled), cannot find work, or are already working full time.

In capitalism, if you can’t work, you don’t get paid. If you’re poor, you need to work more.

But if the typical poor person is a child or an elder, then capitalism has no humane solution to poverty.

Finally, women and people of color are grossly disproportionately represented among the poor. In particular, women are particularly grossly overrepresented as carers.



Discussion questions

  • Nearly all people in poverty cannot work or should not work. This is not the popular perception of poverty. Why not?
  • As long as income is linked to work, around half of the population will be at risk for poverty. Is there a way to break the link between income and work?
  • Some leftist schools of thought hold that workers should be entitled to all of the profits of their labor since they are the ones who produced it. Others hold that this type of system could not address the issue of poverty. Is there a way to resolve this tension?