Poverty is of serious social concern. But exaggeration and misinformation about poverty obscure the nature, extent, and causes of real material deprivation, as the well known political scientist and scholar James Q. Wilson has observed.
As Wilson stated Americans today have a better life than “more than all but the richest persons a hundred years ago.” Even as early as 2005, the typical household defined as poor by the government had a car and air conditioning. For entertainment, the household had two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR. If there were children, especially boys, in the home, the family had a game system, such as an Xbox or a PlayStation. In the kitchen, the household had a refrigerator, an oven and stove, and a microwave. Other household conveniences included a clothes washer, clothes dryer, ceiling fans, a cordless phone, and a coffee maker.
“The home of the typical poor family was not overcrowded and was in good repair. In fact, the typical poor American had more living space than the average European. The typical poor American family was also able to obtain medical care when needed.”
The motley mob of discontents and zealots gathering in Zuccotti Park and in a number of locations around the country have demonstrated their vast ignorance of capitalism and economics as well as a frightening lack of social grace—often resorting to violence, which attracts undesirables, ranging from labor union thugs to socialists (sometimes one and the same).
As Hoover Institution senior fellow Thomas Sowell has said: “Americans are generally given ‘class’ labels on the basis of their transient location in the income stream. If most Americans do not stay in the same broad income bracket for even a decade, their repeatedly changing ‘class’ makes class itself a nebulous concept. Yet the intelligentsia are habituated, if not addicted, to seeing the world in class terms.”
A “sense of economic anxiety” and a “combustible climate” helps to explain both the volatility in the presidential campaign and the protest movements posing as Occupy Wall Street, purportedly to express grievances against banks, perceived income equality, and a belief the poor and the middle class have been stomped on. So said The New York Times October 26.
The total ignorance by so many in the public and in politics about the nature of shifting income levels at different life periods is at the root of much of today’s climate of unrest. But for some the truth is easily pushed aside by the well-developed politics of class warfare.
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