“It’s no shame to be poor.  But it’s no great honor either.”  Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof.

New figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show that in 2013 nearly one in five (18.5%) West Virginians live in poverty.  The Charleston Daily Mail reported last week that’s slightly higher than the previous year—17.8 percent—and nearly at the highest rate in recent years of 18.6 percent in 2011.

The Daily Mail goes on to report that 98,000 West Virginia children, or about one-quarter of all children in the state, live below the poverty line.  The federal government defines poverty as a family of four living at or below $23,500 a year.

The state and the country have sizable safety nets, which have raised the standard for living of the poor throughout the years.  According to a study by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, the living conditions of those defined as poor by the Census Bureau are significantly better than they used to be.

Eighty percent of poor households have air conditioning.  Nearly three-fourths have a vehicle and 31 percent have two or more cars or trucks.  Nearly two-thirds have cable or satellite TV.  Half have a personal computer.  More than half of poor families with children have a video game system.

But of course poverty presents myriad challenges.  As anyone who has struggled financially knows, simple problems, such as a needed car repair, a broken refrigerator or new shoes for the kids, can become overwhelming obstacles, especially when they come in bunches.

Wealth redistribution and social programs ease the burden and a compassionate society has an obligation, a social contract if you will, to help those in need.  However, those actions do not solve poverty.  If they did, we would have eliminated poverty by now.

According to U.S. Census figures, the poverty rate in America is 15 percent, and it’s held pretty close to that mark for the last 50 years.

The Heritage’s Robert Rector reports that in the 50 years since President Lyndon Johnson launched the war on poverty, we have spent $22 trillion dollars.  “Adjusting for inflation, that’s three times more than was spent on all military wars since the American Revolution,” Rector writes.

The left wants to solve poverty through more spending on social programs, but that only goes so far.  The best way out is by way of a thriving economy.  As Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman said, “There has never in history been a more effective machine for eliminating poverty than the free enterprise system and the free market.”

The ability of individuals to freely engage in their economic pursuits, a strong work ethic, and personal responsibility are the most powerful tools available for breaking out of poverty.

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Comments

  • susanf1218

    What really annoys me are the "professional do-gooders" whose jobs exist only because of the "war on poverty" and who don't really want to see the statistics improve b/c it would mean their jobs and their livelihood would no longer exist.

  • DWM

    All the War on Poverty with the myriad of social hand outs do is make people with the ability to work and fend for themselves take the easy way out and rely on those social programs.

    It would be interesting to know the avg family household size of people not on social programs the family size getting some sort of government assistance.

  • Bob Melphis

    Perhaps it's time for the wealthy industrialist to take a bite out of their own wallets and bring good jobs back to this country. Lets stop financing the child and slave labor systems over seas.

    • TD

      +1, last year Wall Street "bonuses" alone were $27 BILLION DOLLARS. That's just to a couple thousand people and not like they're not paid well before the bonuses.

      If you want the uneducated masses to rise out of poverty bring the manufacturing jobs back and give them an opportunity to do so, OR make these box stores and the fast food industry pay a decent wage. I remember in the 70's we had a local shoe plant and at that time a worker who hit their quotas could make $400 week and rise out of poverty. Now, thanks to our slave labor system of "free trade" that money goes to the execs/Wall street and the rich get richer while complaining about the poor.

    • Matt Miller

      A big reason that would involve a hit in the wallet is because the laws here make it so. If you are going to make it very difficult to do business here, you cant be surprised when people choose to do business somewhere else.

      • MT

        "very difficult to do business here"..... tell that to Walmart, CAMC, Mylan, Kroger, whitewater rafting companies, all the drug stores, Lowe's and about 50 other companies. I think they'd say it was pretty darn easy to do business here.

        • Aaron

          I'm not so sure Mylan belongs in your example given that various industry must deal with different factors in conducting their business. How for instance does Wal Mart's or Kroger's ability to conduct business relate to companies like Union Carbide, Eaton Corporation, Ensco, Transocean, Noble Corporation, or Weatherford International?

          • MT

            Aaron, I was only addressing the statement MM made about how difficult it was to do business in WV, not the type of business. And, the big boys going overseas has nothing to do with how WV deals with them.

          • Aaron

            You listed a bunch of service businesses that do business as a comparison to doing business in WV.

            I do not believe it is an adequate comparison given the business models of the companies I listed, mainly because those are the largest manufacturers to take their business overseas.

            I do not believe the comparison is valid. Do you think it is?

          • MT

            Never heard of those companies so don't understand the question. Could you elaborate, please?

      • TD

        THEN they should have to pay for access to our market. Trade is you have lemons, I have sugar, we sell to each other and both benefit. What we're sold as "trade" is big businesses ability to have slave labor and pollute all they want with no laws governing their behavior.

        Bring back the tariff system which served us so well our first 125 years.

        • Aaron

          So then you do not favor a one world economy, correct?

  • Hop'sHip

    It is interesting how a google search of "war on poverty" showed dozens of right-wing sites all in the last week quoting this Heritage article. It was like it was coordinated. But when I went to the original article, I found one thing confusing. It declared the "War on poverty" an abject failure because it hasn't reduced the poverty rate significantly. But then it goes on to argue that the poverty rate is overstated because support from anti-poverty programs is not included in determining incomes of the poor. So they are arguing we should greatly reduce those programs that have kept people out of "real" poverty?

    • FungoJoe

      If you included welfare benefits as income, they would be taxable by the IRS and States.
      Medicaid payments, foodstamps, and any other government assistance should count as income. Unemployment compensation counts as income and is taxable, Social Security is counted as income and taxable. But why not welfare benefits?? Welfare recipients are being "disenfranchised" by this exclusion, because they are not paying taxes like the rest of us. It would help out the US Treasury some, and it would help with the "self-esteem" of the welfare recipients. A lot of welfare programs are all about "self-esteem".

    • Matt Miller

      I mean, new Census data just came out, and Heritage is a well known think tank that analyzed the data.

      It doesn't take kooky coordination to get several different people quoting a legitimately quotable source.


      And, what I recall was that they discussed that the Poverty Numbers reflect wages but not standard of living, and assert that the goal of the welfare state as imagined by LBJ was to increase self-sufficiency not increase dependency...and so that war on poverty programs are helping with the poor's standard of living but not helping with the fact that they are poor and dependent on welfare.

      And arguments are never as simple as "reduce welfare programs." They are to re-focus the welfare money and energy onto things that will not only help with standard of living but also with creating independent, self sufficient, upwardly mobile citizens and families.

    • The bookman

      How do we define victory in the War on Poverty? Or is it ENDLESS WAR, where the economic reality is that we accept for the last 50 years more, over 1/4 of our population cannot make it on their own?

  • Mike

    I recently read an article comparing states with the highest "benefits" for those "in need." Maryland ranked # 1. For those in the Peoples Republic of Maryland, benefits add up to $60,000 per year. This for those sitting on their behinds doing nothing, attempting to do nothing and all on the backs of taxpayers. That leaves recipients plenty of disposable cash to spend on vital items such as lottery tickets, cigarettes, and beer.

    • Jason412

      Mike,

      Source for that? Last time an article was referenced saying one can collect 60k from welfare it was based off completely false information that can be easily debunked on government websites. I doubt that has changed in the last few months.

      • Aaron

        That's not quite accurate Jason412. What was debunked was the language referencing "disposable income" when comparing a minimum wage earner in a family of 4 with that of a family of 4 earning $60K annually.

        While the minimum wage earner does not have the income to spend as they please, they do receive benefits that include the annual amounts listed below:

        Earned Income Tax Credit: $6044
        Food Stamps: ~$3300 (based on $275/month from the government website)
        National HS Lunch Program: $1800
        Childcare Cost: $9600
        Healthcare subsidies: $9000 (based on premiums and out of pocket cost)
        Section 8 Subsidies: $6000 (based on % of income required per HUD guidelines minus utility subsidies including paid utilities)
        LEAP-Heating subsidy $750

        Annual total: $36494
        Net Wages: $13000 (the only taxes paid by this income bracket are FICA taxes)
        Total PP:$49,494

        I agree with HH in that you cannot cite these programs as lifting individuals out of poverty and then lament paying them but the fact is, an individual making minimum wage does qualify for the above subsidies. It's not disposable income but it does add to their purchasing power and dispels the myth that we are not taking care of our poor, our tired, our...well, you get the picture.

        • Jason412

          Nope. It was completely false, I can't remember exact amount of food stamps he used but I remember it being highly overestimated($500+/mo I think) with a fake source and me showing you the ND food stamp site.

          • Aaron

            I'm not surprised Jason that you did not address this post.

          • Aaron

            "In absolutely no way, no matter what terms, one can not make 60k, or 50k for that matter, with their only income being government subsidies."

            I would agree with that statement. The extra 13K between my example comes from a minimum wage job. If you don't work, you do not get EITC that Matt cites. It is also unlikely you get childcare but you do get increased food stamps, housing subsidies, and TANF so his number is inaccurate. For one who does absolutely nothing, their "benefits" would be closer to the high 20's/low 30's which happens to be above the poverty threshold.

            However, If they do work a minimum wage job, while they lose some food stamps and the TANF, you increase their EITC plus the wages they earn so they do achieve purchasing power $50K range.

            While Matt's numbers may be inaccurate, his point is made in that one can do absolutely nothing in this country and survive quite nicely if they choose to living well above the poverty level.

            Additionally, if they are willing to put forth the effort a minimum wage jobs entails, they can easily achieve purchasing power numbers Matt cites.

            Would you agree with that statement? If not, can you explain?

          • Jason412

            Aaron,

            Matt says one can make 60k by "sitting on their butt" I say that is completely false. You apparently think it is completely false to, since you're numbers would be 37k without the wages, so someone sitting on their butt would not have the extra 13k.

            37k may be an accurate number, I'm not going to bother looking it up because it's a hell of a long way off from 60k, which confirms it is completely inaccurate to say one can make 60k a year without having a job.

            In absolutely no way, no matter what terms, one can not make 60k, or 50k for that matter, with their only income being government subsidies. That is an indisputable fact.

          • Aaron

            I don't disagree with that which is why the number I used above is based on a family of 4 with a minimum wage income, I used the number you provided when you debunked that amount which was $275 for a family of 4.

            Thing is, I should have checked at the site because apparently there's been an adjustment as that same family now gets $379 meaning the annual total amount above should be 4500 for food stamps and the combined total is now $50,694.

            Disagree all you want but you CANNOT disprove those numbers. You may be able to alter a particular category by a small percentage but everything above is well within the ball park.

            Feel free to try though.

  • GregG

    Actually, I would say you are winning the "war on poverty" Hoppy. The elite and big business are getting exactly what they have been fighting for........eliminating the working middle class. While the middle class slip into poverty the rich and big business are amassing record amounts of wealth. Yes, I would say you are winning the war Hoppy.

    • Matt Miller

      That doesnt even make any sense.

  • Jason412

    "Eighty percent of poor households have air conditioning. Nearly three-fourths have a vehicle and 31 percent have two or more cars or trucks."

    I said it last week when O'Reilly had these same numbers I'll say it again where does Heritage Foundation pull these unrealistic statistics from?

    • Aaron

      Have you been inside a subsidized housing community lately? They are building condos all over Charleston for low income families that would sell for $200K on the open market.

      • FungoJoe

        Aaron,
        You asked Jason412 if he'd been "inside" a subsidized housing community. He responded that he'd been "around" them. That is a huge difference. Doubt he's ever been in one. But he wants to act like an expert, an expert on evrything liberal.

      • Jason412

        Aaron,

        I've spent plenty of time around Section 8 housing and while there may be a few that are nice they are the exception.

        Wasn't Hoppy just ranting recently about the projects going into Huntington? that is far closer to standard than condos.

        • Aaron

          After I laughed for a good 2 minutes (thanks for that by the way, a good laugh always makes me feel better), it occurred to me that all you consider to be government subsidized housing is projects in large cities.

          For the record, the largest subsidizer of public housing is not HUD, it is the USDA through their rural housing funds. Every small town you see one of those little housing symbols represents subsidized housing by the USDA.

          As for the projects along Hal Greer Blvd, yes portions of those are being torn down but rest assured, public housing is alive and well in Huntington as there are ~1850 HUD units listed through the HHA, all with AC and most equipped cable ready to which there always seems to be someone with the knowledge of how to steal it.

          You can doubt the statistics listed Jason412 but I've got 44,486 Sheetz points that says you cannot refute them. Please try though as I can always use a good laugh.

          • Aaron

            You were the one who stated you've been around "plenty" of section 8 housing. I was merely pointing out that it constitutes a minority of public housing.

            I would be interested in what section 8 housing you've been around that is not nice and more importantly, why is it not nice.

            Please elaborate on your wealth of experiences.

          • Jason412

            Aaron,

            Ok. So I say "I've spent plenty of time around section 8. Aren't they tearing down the Huntington projects?"

            You read that and somehow came to the conclusion I think the only subsidized housing is big city projects. How you interpreted that post to say what you accuse me of is beyond me.

            Unless of course, you were just putting words into my mouth to try to make your point?

    • Matt Miller

      http://www.heritage.org/research/commentary/2014/9/miscounting-poverty-again-the-war-on-povert-after-fifty-years

      Apparently from some sort of "government surveys."


      "According to government surveys, over 80 percent of the poor have air conditioning, three quarters have a car, nearly two thirds have cable or satellite TV, half have a computer, and 40 percent have a wide screen HDTV."

      • Jason412

        Matt,

        That's pretty much what I expected. A reputable study would disclose it's sources, not reference some unknown "government surveys" that can't be cross checked.

        I'll believe it when I can see the raw data, not the Heritage Foundation's narrative of the data.

        • Matt Miller

          [4]U.S. Department of Energy, Residential Energy Expenditure Survey, 2005, at http://explore.data.gov/Energy-and-Utilities/Residential-Energy-Consumption-Survey-RECS-Files-A/eypy-jxs2 (June 23, 2011).

          The story at this link contains all of the references. Most of what we had been reading before were pieces of commentary based on this research, I guess.

  • rick

    The left...as you call it...does not want to just give more money directly to the people below the poverty line. They do want to spend money on training programs and help with child care and health care that keep people in that state. No matter what anyone says, everyone is just one big health care problem away from being bankrupt. People should be able to work from the time time they are sixteen until at least sixty five. When these patriotic capitolist start hiring people to make things the world needs and just sit on the trillions they made in profit then poverty levels will go down.

  • Senior Fellow

    The war on poverty can not only be looked at through the lens of being critical of the social safety net. While I agree that the social safety net is very generous, maybe too generous, these people have to have opportunities that result in bettering their lives through work, that means jobs must pay more, which means raising the minimum wage.
    If someone is working 40 hrs a week they should need little, if any, government assistance.
    It is true that people in poverty can raise themselves out through hard work and education, look at Pres. Obama and Pres. Clinton for examples, most don't possess the extraordinary skillsthey do.

    In most cases these people go to work and quickly realize they have not improved their lives at all. We must stop looking down to see where the problems are, those are symptoms of the problem, we should look up and ask why American business is paying so little to workers at the bottom of the ladder. That is if you're really interested in solving the problem?

  • Be a Man

    Poverty, which I grew up in, is a symptom. The causes of poverty may not lead to it in all cases but it can be overcome with responsibility, hard work, and self-determination. The main factors that create low income for people and families are divorce, ABSENT FATHERS, having children out of wed-lock, substance abuse, irresponsibility with money, lack of proper education or job skills to attain a higher wage.

    • ViennaGuy

      (applauds)

    • Aaron

      I couldn't agree more. If one is willing to go to work, on time every day, work hard and show a willingness to learn, they can and will work themselves out of poverty. Education or training of some sort helps but the ultimate responsibility of climbing out of poverty falls to the individual, not his neighbors.

    • Jesse's girl

      Be a Man, you said it so well. You defined what used to be called "The American Dream."

  • Silas Lynched

    Imagine if you will; A country where it is better to be unemployed and undocumented than to be employed and a citizen...

    What an episode for Twilight Zone that would make-- I can hear Rod reading that narrative now....

  • Kelly

    In my opinion, the only way to reduce the number of welfare, disability, HUD receipt enter who truly do not need it is to make the data transparent. A tax paying community should know who specifically is receiving the benefits they are providing. Through this, a big increase in fraud identification should result reducing unwarranted participants. It is worth a try.

  • CaptainQ

    Hoppy, after nearly five decades of the government's "War on poverty," the result are, at best, mixed. Welfare was always meant to be a 'hand up' and not a 'handout' but sadly, that's what it has become to most Americans. It was never meant to foster a 'generational welfare' class of people, but that's exactly what has taken place.

    It will take more than money to solve this problem, and it'll take more brainpower than either major political party has to truly make a difference.

  • Hop'sHip

    As Mr. Burns might say "release the hounds........ err... class warriors."

    • Silas Lynched

      You're unleashed,,, errr, unhinged,,,, err I mean released

      • Silas Lynch

        Um, Cybil, talking to yourself again

        • Hop'sHip

          Silas: I post only under one name here. If you're accusing me of replying to my own post using a different name, you're wrong.

  • The bookman

    "A measure of “market poverty,” that reflects what the poverty rate would be without any tax credits or other benefits, rose from 27.0 percent to 28.7 percent between 1967 and 2012. Countervailing forces of increasing levels of education on the one hand, and inequality, wage stagnation, and a declining minimum wage on the other resulted in “market poverty” increasing slightly over this period. However, poverty measured taking antipoverty and social insurance programs into account fell by more than a third, highlighting the essential role that these programs have played in fighting poverty."

    http://m.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/50th_anniversary_cea_report_-_final_post_embargo.pdf

    The above demonstrates the disconnect that government has in addressing virtually any problem it faces. After 50+ years of a declared War on Poverty, and $22 Trillion spent in its efforts, we haven't moved forward at all in combatting the underlying root cause of the problem, real and substantial economic progress. Redistributing wealth doesn't create lasting impacts. It only masks the reality that 1/4 of our population can't make it on their own in this economy. Now are we prepared to continue down the same path that has actually moved the market backward after 50 years and $22 Trillion?

    • Harvey

      Anti-poverty programs such as food commodity distribution and aid to dependent children of the unemployed existed long before Lyndon Johnson took office. The anti-poverty programs put forward by Pres. Johnson stressed self-reliance, work and equal employment opportunity based on education and ability. Undoubtedly, these foundations of the Johnson program were not successfully put forward and it is time for a fundamental change. They could be met, but only with adequate leadership and motivation. If we had one election in this country with the turnout equal to what happened in Scotland last week we would go along way towards addressing endemic poverty among the able-bodied. We cannot continue to blame the amorphous "they" when it is a problem that "we" can control.

      • The bookman

        More participation from informed adults with a focus on improving this Land of the Free? I'm for that!

        Reaching out to adults for the sake of reaching 85% participation in an election? Not unless those voters can differentiate the emotional spin and the actual facts. Feel good political choices have led to the all encompassing safety net in place of value to work.

        Johnson may have had a different agenda. If so, his agenda became co-opted into a vote generating machine, creating a divisive environment using the poor as pawns in the game of maintaining power.

        • Harvey

          We will never know what progress may have been made against the causes of poverty had the office of economic opportunity not been gutted after the election in 1968. It is certainly true now that the poor are pawns of the political process. The Democrats take them for granted because the poor have nowhere else to turn and the Republicans ignore them because they are not going to get their votes anyway. The office of economic opportunity was meant to promote self-reliance. With its abolition the symptomatic programs were scattered around the government and continue to exist because each now has a constituency to be lobbied for. And that constituency is not poor people