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My Take: Five misconceptions about poverty in America
Bread for the World President David Beckmann explores five poverty myths.
September 23rd, 2011
12:29 PM ET

My Take: Five misconceptions about poverty in America

Editor's Note: Rev. David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World and the Alliance to End Hunger. He is the 2010 World Food Prize laureate.

By David Beckmann, Special to CNN

(CNN) - In the midst of a ballooning deficit, an unbalanced federal budget and the upcoming presidential election, Congress doesn’t need to be worried about poverty in America, right?

Wrong.

Poverty is an all-too-familiar struggle for many Americans, and they have a stake in how these issues play out over the next months.

I believe God is calling us to change the politics that render our friends, neighbors and co-workers hungry and poor. To do so, we have to first tackle some common misconceptions about poverty.

1. “Poverty doesn’t exist in the United States.”

Although poverty often appears less extreme in the United States than in other countries, it is nonetheless real. There are 46.2 million Americans living in poverty, according to data released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The poverty rate increased to 15.1% in 2010, from 14.3% in 2009. That's nearly one out of every six Americans — the highest rate since the Census began tracking poverty data in 1959.

Children and multicultural groups were hit hardest. The poverty rate increased for those under 18, from 20.7% in 2009 to 22% in 2010. Among Hispanics, the rate went to 26.6% in 2010 from 25.3% in 2009. And for African-Americans, the rate soared to 27.4% in 2010 from 25.8% in 2009.

2. “There is no such thing as extreme poverty in America.”

If you don’t believe poverty exists in this country, you’ll be hard-pressed to understand that there are people in America living in “deep poverty.”

Deep poverty means living below 50% of the poverty line, which would be an income of $11,157 for a family of four and $5,672 for a non-elderly person living alone.

Many think this level of poverty is exclusive to people living in developing countries, but the number of people in America living in extreme poverty has reached a record high: 20.5 million in 2010.

3. “If you live above the federal poverty line, you’re doing just fine.”

$23,000 a year is too little for most two-person households to live comfortably in America, let alone a family of four. Most people don’t understand that having a job doesn’t mean you’ve made it out of poverty.

In fact, working full-time at minimum wage earns you only $14,000 a year. But there are also millions of Americans living above the federal poverty line who are struggling to make ends meet.

Why is it so easy for us to overlook poverty in the United States? Because to a certain extent, it is being managed by federally funded safety-net programs that help families make ends meet when times are tough.

4. “These so-called safety-net programs cost American taxpayers money when we need to be focused on balancing our budget.”

Neither SNAP benefits (what used to be called food stamps) nor refundable tax credits such as the earned income tax credit is accounted for in the census poverty figures.

If these benefits were included, they would show that SNAP lifted 3.9 million people above the poverty line in 2010, and the tax credit lifted 5.4 million people above the poverty line in 2010.

Programs like these can mean the difference between getting by and going hungry.

For example, despite increases in poverty, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's recently released hunger data shows that the percentage of families struggling to put food on the table remained unchanged for the third consecutive year.

This means that nutrition programs such as SNAP and school meals are keeping hunger at bay.

5. “Fifty percent of all Americans do not pay taxes.”

This is a powerful point that some members of Congress like to argue, without providing any context.

By context, I mean that many Americans do not earn enough to pay taxes. For those who do, when payroll taxes are taken into account, really only about 15% of Americans did not pay taxes in 2010 (excluding Social Security recipients, who do not pay taxes on their Social Security benefits), and this still fails to account for state and local taxes.

Everyone pays taxes in some way or another.

At the end of the day, Matthew 25 teaches us that what we do unto the “least of these,” we do unto God.

It is clear that the needs of hungry and poor people are at the center of the congressional budget debates, whether we want to acknowledge them or not.

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction has until November 23 to identify $1.2 trillion in funds to reduce our nation’s deficit. We pray that the needs of hungry and poor people are at the center of their decisions.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Food • Politics

soundoff (902 Responses)
  1. Lance

    While I take no issue with supporting those around us in need I find Rev. Beckmann's arguments weak. First, he's using poverty rates based in the U.S. yet there are people in many parts of the world where the average age is no more than a dollar a day. Second, most who live below the poverty line in the U.S. would be considered wealthy in many parts of the world so saying we have people who live in poverty let alone deep poverty when compared with the real poverty that exists out there is disingenuous. Third, if you live below the poverty line in the U.S. you are doing quite well compared with the nations where the real poverty exists but not so well compared to those living in the wealthier countries. Fo

    September 23, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • William Demuth

      You are correct.

      Christ demands we starve them more.

      September 23, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • Reality

      It is always interesting to see what the directors/founders of "non-profits" pay themselves. For example, the Rev. Beckman president of the Bread for the World, the Bread for the World Insti-tute and the Alliance to End Hunger as per IRS Form 990 (www.guidestar.org) pulls in $263,802/yr. To say the least, he has not taken a vow of poverty. Please do not contribute to his groups. There are groups serving the poor with significantly lower overheads to include local, state and federal government agencies.++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

      September 23, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • chalmus

      so if you starve in a third world country then shame on that government but if you starve in America shame on yourself. one can be in a hopeless situation no matter where one lives.

      September 23, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
  2. Yvonne

    There should be a massive crackdown on all the people that collect government benefits because they say they can't work but work cash paying jobs. Use that money to pay for the really poor

    September 23, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • chalmus

      that would cost even more money.

      September 23, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  3. UrWhtUr

    Plenty of cold statements posted. Sudden illness, death of spouse, living in recently depressed area and of course lay off afters years of working for same company have caused plenty of hardship on the best of us. Are people stupid for having kids? If so, why did your parents have you? We are currently in the most depressed time since the depression so of course good people are suffering. Just remember if your doing well, some day you might not. No one is forcing us to help the less fortunate but if you do you might feel better about yourself. Wishing all the best.

    September 23, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  4. Wall Street

    First, tax poverty and give the money to the rich. Rewarding the rich will encourage rich behavior so we'd have more rich and fewer poor. This is the prevailing GOP argument. If that fails – people are food. The young and tender (long pig) can make for a festive holiday table. The old and infirm can be rendered into any number of useful products.

    September 23, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • Soylent Green is people!

      .

      September 23, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  5. William Demuth

    All you people yelling about the poor people with cell phones listen up.

    GW Bush actually began a program that GIVES them free phones and 250 minutes a month.

    He then put a special tax out to pay for it.

    The ads are on TV, because they want to give as many folks as they can your money.

    And it was a BUSH program

    September 23, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  6. buttery_comp

    The biggest misconception is: Poor people like being poor and everyone has the opportunity to become wealthy...

    September 23, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • Nicole

      I think this is your own misconception. Poor people remain poor because they can continue to receive benefits. I don't think anyone is saying that everyone and anyone can become wealthy.

      September 23, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • Wall Street

      What poverty means is you are always treading water. You might get that decent job to begin pulling yourself up, but you'll need to choose between things the middle class takes for granted. Perhaps you have a choice between medical insurance and reliable transportation. Progress is fragile and if you think the poor LIKE that you are a fool. More likely, the poor have given up.

      September 23, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  7. taxpro

    Context my butt. I've been a tax pro half my life and I can tell you that 50% of americans do not pay any Federal or State income tax, and many of them get refunds of $1000 to $5000 in the form of federal aid called Earned Income Credit.

    Yes, all these working folk pay social security and medicare tax, 7.5% of income. They also pay sales tax if they live in a state where that exists. But that tax is general not on food or housing.

    Bottom line, when people complain they pay too much tax, they are referring to federal and state income tax, and yes 50% of americans don't have to deal with that. The writer needs to get his facts straight.

    September 23, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • ScrewU

      Ironic whine given that your job is basically to hunt for ways -not- to pay taxes... but only for people who can afford your type of 'professional help'.

      September 23, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • Dana

      The writer mentioned proper context. Different states have different income tax brackets for state income tax, and then there is the federal income tax. Pay roll taxes are paid in two different ways (but always at the same time) where money is held from a worker's pay check and also where the employer holds money directly for employing someone (not seen by the worker, but is tax directly related to, and usually ultimately paid by the worker).

      The writer has his facts straight, you simply cannot read correctly.

      September 23, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  8. Sandy

    The poverty line should also be changed depending on where one lives. One can't live in San Francisco or Manhattan with a just above poverty level income. $30K-$50K a year in those areas would mean a family of four is still horribly stuggling, but makes too much to get any help. But making that income in middle America may mean something totally different. And those families can't just move to another area, where there are no jobs at all, no family, no support system.

    September 23, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • kevin d.

      Maybe you should not be living in San Fran. if you don't have alot of money . S.F. is one of the most expensive cities on the planet in which to live!!!! I can't afford to live in S.F. so i don't...- Why should i pay for someone else to live there????

      September 23, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • Cash

      I hate to burst your bubble but $50K won't get you much in Minneapolis either – especially not a fam of 4.

      September 23, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  9. Ooz

    There should be not such thing as comfortable dependency on the government. The government has done real damage in making dependency comfortable – destroying self initiative and self responsibility among the poor. An able bodied poor person can, with the same level of financial reward, either do nothing or work hard to take the first two steps up the ladder. We have the fattest poor people in world history and they seem to have creature comforts that would make the rich of 100 years ago drool. Social security should focus on enabling uncomfortable subsistence. Such a cheaper Social Security program and truly fairer taxation would enable people to VOLUNTARILY contribute their own money to the poor while ensuring that their own money is making a positive difference. Instead we have distant and indifferent bureaucrats extracting our money INVOLUNTARILY and making poverty much worse generation after generation using Socialist principles that people should get something for nothing.

    September 23, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Nicole

      Well said

      September 23, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • MSB

      What are you talking about Social Security? You can only get SOCIAL SECURITY RETIREMENT if you were employed? You obviously don't know what you are talking about!

      September 23, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  10. Nicole

    Yet every American living in poverty somehow has a big screen TV and a game console. A lot of those living in poverty choose not to better themselves or their situation and the rest of us pay for it. By the way, you want to know how our money is really being spent and what type of people we are "helping out". Good job to our government programs like EBT and SNAP. A$$ wipes...

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o64Fz-KW1Dk&w=640&h=360]

    September 23, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • MSB

      Nicole, how do you know that "every American living in poverty has a big screen TV and a game console." Have you visited every household in the United States? How can you make a statement like this.

      September 23, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • Nicole

      MSB-
      Have you been inside a low income apartment? I have been in many and all of them have big screen TV's.
      Have you opened your home to someone who was in need only for them to lie about going to work and trying to better themselves?
      Have you given your family money because you know they could use it to eat and pay their bills only for them to spend it frivolously.
      Have you seen people you know abuse government aid programs "just because everyone else is doing it".

      I know exactly what I am talking about, but thanks for asking.

      September 23, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  11. Tom W

    You quote Matthew 25, but you have the context entirely wrong on taking care of the poor. Jesus wasn't saying that the government should be taking care of the poor, but that the people should be taking care of the poor.

    This is the main reason why Republicans consistently, and significantly, out-give Democrats when it comes to charitable contributions (sadly, that's fact, not opinion). Democrats feel as though it's the governments job to do it so they give less, and less often. It's quite ironic when you think about it.

    September 23, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Nonimus

      "This is the main reason why Republicans consistently, and significantly, out-give Democrats when it comes to charitable contributions (sadly, that's fact, not opinion)."
      I do not know if this is true or not, but I will not take your word for it. Show us the numbers.

      September 23, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Danny

      As we are the ones who elect those in government we have a say in what should happen don't you think? He is not taking that out of context. And different verses can be interpreted differently or mean something different to another person. We as people should be helping those less unfortunate than us. Whether we are in positions of government, or work 9-5 jobs... we are all people.

      September 23, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Don

      There are multiple studies that show that conservatives give more to charities than liberals. Here is a quote from a 2006 ABC news story. The link below it will take you to the full story. It says that conservatives give 30% more than liberals in the cases they studied.

      "It turns out that this idea that liberals give more…is a myth. Of the top 25 states where people give an above average percent of their income, 24 were red states in the last presidential election... Turns out conservatives give about 30 percent more, [despite] making less money."

      http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=2682730&page=1

      September 23, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • Don

      Here is another link to a study reported on by a newsletter for non-profits.

      http://philanthropy.com/blogs/prospecting/conservative-voters-are-more-liberal-with-charity/19091

      Google "conservatives give more to charity" and you will find many similar results.

      September 23, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  12. Bobby

    Folks need to visit the projects. Look at the fancy vehicles. Watch all the kids with cell phones and tattoos everywhere. Drive by section 8 housing. See the fancy cars.See the wide screen TV's and electronics. This is poverty. Don't take my word for it, go see it yourself. Watch as able bodied men sit around and drink beer. There is some true poverty in the US...truly disabled, sick, and elderly. But there is way more laziness and expectation that the government is here to take care of folks that have many kids but refuse to work. The truth hurts.

    September 23, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Walter

      I worked in social services. I rarely saw any of that. I think you should stop considering Law and Order episodes to be an accurate reflection of reality.

      September 23, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Karen

      Maybe it's something else that is giving them money....or not....one thing for sure in our city gangs are up.

      September 23, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • peick

      Yes, there are abuses at every level of society. But if we can find a way to help the ones who want help, that is doing something.

      September 23, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Bobby

      Walter, living in denial won't get you anywhere. Perhaps you need to get out more. You can't dissolve what they eyes can see. You cannot deny folks don't abuse the "free" system. But you try, and it is like feeding the piegeons. Walter....once upon a time there were NO SOCIAL SERVICES and guess what....people lived without anything and made it fine.

      September 23, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • KeninTexas

      You said "There is some true poverty in the US...truly disabled, sick, and elderly" ,,,, These people really do need help and I don't mind doing what we can for them. The other folks you mentioned, not so much. There are generations of people who are ruined from the hand outs that they have become accustomed to receiving and have passed this "sorriness" trait along to their children. What a disaster. This has to be corrected and it will take years to do.

      September 23, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • MSB

      How do you identify "Section 8" housing?

      September 23, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • Walter

      I conducted home visits, often without warning. I didn't drive through a neighborhood of people who in my mind fit the characteristics of being poor and then generalized to everyone who actually lived in poverty. By the way what do you think a poor person looks like?

      The poverty rate in the U.S. was over 50% when there were no social services. I guess my definition of 'living fine' is a bit different than yours.

      Of course some people abuse the system. Look at Eltothe T's statement bellow. But because a small minority of them do shouldn't mean that we should end social services.

      September 23, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  13. rhiogan

    A lot of these comments make me feel worthless and sad..We have food stamps and 2 kids, my husband works and goes to school.We both graduated from High School.We moved across the U.S so we could have better Opportunities luckily it was the best thing we have ever done.We are still struggling, I have been sick for the past few years which has made it harder since we have no insurance.We do own a PC that was a gift and we do have a flat screen TV that we saved up for.We do not have cable or a PS3 we do have cellphones but not smart phones.We bust our asses everyday to survive and yes we have food stamps and my kids have free healthcare, without that help we wouldn't be able to make it.So please be nice!!! Not everyone fits into the stereotype of lazy ass people that keep breeding and lives off of the Government. :o(

    September 23, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • Ann

      It's called prioritizing and its something alot of people under the poverty line fail to do. Not saying ALL of them but many- why wouldn't you save up for something like a temporary health insurance plan instead of a flatscreen? Or maybe not have children until you both have stable and consistent incomes that can support them? Not trying to make you feel badly, sounds like you are doing your best but sometimes people would be able to limit their struggles immensely just by planning a little. A little bit of planning can be so beneficial in the long run.

      September 23, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Well keep plugging away.

      My only question is which came first your poverty or your kids?

      And if it was the poverty, why not use birth control?

      September 23, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • Hari Seldon

      Do you love your kids? Do you treat the people around you with respect? Do you attempt to make the world a better place in some way by your actions? If so you're good people – case closed. As a fellow American citizen I'm glad to help out; maybe someday the tables will be turned and your help will make the difference to us.

      September 23, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • rhiogan

      I cant get insurance easily because of a health condition they don't like to cover me.I had my first daughter when I was 23 did we have enough money for her no..We didn't know that at the time.We made a lot of mistakes but we did do something about it.My hubby is a veteran he was in Korea during 9/11 we never thought we would end up the way we did.I came from a family were my father worked 7days a week he still does but its taking a toll on him.We have no credit cards at all nothing like that.I must say though, we did pull our lives together.My Hubby got promoted and has a 4.0 in college after November we will no longer have food stamps and we are going to look for a house to buy, next year.It still bothers me though I know why there is a stereotype but not everyone is like that.Everyone has a story :0)

      September 23, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • P Sullivan

      It astounds me that people are quick to say "then you shouldn't have kids". Personally, I don't know anyone who would say "i'm going to start off my life at poverty level and have a bunch of kids" I would bet every young adult starts off with dreams of a good marriage, a house with a white picket fence, a good job, and 2.5 kids. Then reality sets in. The economy tanks. The government fights itself. Jobs get shipped overseas. People who were trying to make their way are now sinking.
      How is it constructive to tell people they shouldn"t have had kids when the kids already exist?

      September 23, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • dinabq

      You can get a flat screen TV for around $200. The TV is a one time purchase. You would be lucky to find health insurance for $200 a month, and the moment you get sick, the price will go up or your policy will be canceled.

      September 23, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  14. Hari Seldon

    Isn't it ironic that we all work so hard and spend so much time chasing the almighty dollar and in the end what is there to show for it? We have little to retire on, many of us lack health insurance, we are all stressed out and squeezed just trying to make all those payments if we are lucky enough to have a job. Why not relax and enjoy life a little. Why not strive towards a lifestyle that is sustainable, healthy, fun. Most of us will never be millionaires so why organize our society so only a privileged few can enjoy leisure time. I would gladly trade away all those cheap consumer goods from China form some free time to travel, play sports, or make art. After the Republicans have finished ripping up the fabric of our society and trickle-down economics finally breaks the back of capitalism I think a new more practical form of socialism will emerge that will promote sustainability, personal initiative, and the pursuit of happiness.

    September 23, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  15. Bobby

    First of all, how can all these folks in poverty afford fancy cell phones? Fancy cars? Fancy clothes? I know folks who are on the gubment cheese. They sure as heck don't live like they are in poverty! Next, preacher all your great churches take in billions of dollars of free income. Why don't you save those in poverty? You clearly have the tax free profit to do it? We need responsibility in this country. There are some sick and truly disabled and elderly folks that need the help. But a vast majority of folks in "poverty" are lazy, and I know a bunch of them!

    September 23, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • jeanettejs77

      Most people that live in poverty CAN'T afford all these fancy things. You see one person highlighted on the news and make an assumption about over 40 million people? Most of the people that are living in poverty are children. You want them to be born, but you want them to suffer. What kind of sick reasoning is that? If you want to support reducing the amount of poor going after your tax dollars then maybe you shouldn't be ruining our right to family planning services????? And for a complete reality check. Most of these people work and just don't make enough to get above the poverty line. When you are hiring people for minimum wage (if they are lucky enough to find a job) then they are still living in poverty. Maybe some of these fat cats should pay their employees more so they don't have to rely on food stamps to pay their families, but then you wouldn't be able to work your ass off at the golf course as much.

      September 23, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • jeanettejs77

      You know a bunch of lazy welfare people????? Really???? I doubt someone as hardworking and spectacular as yourself would hang out with such people...

      September 23, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • peick

      Shouldn't you be working instead of posting inflammatory comments on websites?

      September 23, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • ate the cheez

      I grew up below the poverty line most of my life, and yes we ate the government cheese. (My dad liked it. But he refused all other forms of assistance. )
      And, I've been to places in the world that know real poverty.

      You are 'in poverty' here if you can only afford 2 flat screen TV's, one car and basic cable.
      You are 'in poverty' in most of the world if you can barely afford one meal a day, a one room shack, and consider selling a child to feed the rest of the family.

      Honestly. We are all compassionate people and want to help the less fortunate, but lets not overplay the sympathy card here on domestic poverty. When our biggest health concern for 'the poor' is that they over-eat, forgive me if I am less than sympathetic. I will gladly help the 55 who are actually need help. I don't want to finance the latest i-Phone for the rest of the 'poverty-stricken' in our town.

      September 23, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • Rob

      I know a bunch of people getting government help also, and they have none of things you mention. One example is my cousin. He's a single dad going both to nursing school and working a full time job at a nursing home making $10/hr. There is no way he could live on this pay without government assistance. His car is a complete piece of junk, his cell phone is pretty much the cheapest bare bones thing he could get, and his clothes are from either family or thrift stores. Until he graduates and get his RN, this is the only way he can live. I know countless other people in this same situation, they're not all lazy bums.

      September 23, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Marion

      I truly believe you are "full of it" that you know a "bunch of these folks" who drive "fancy cars, fancy cell phones, fancy this or fancy that". Did you do a survey of their incomes? You are totally full of baloney!

      September 23, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • Mike

      Fancy cell phones? You mean the bargain basement pay-as-you-go devices you can get at Wal-mart, that are cheaper than a land line? How are these people supposed to get a job without a phone? In many cases they are living out of their "fancy cars" and can't get a landline.

      September 23, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  16. Theory of relativism

    Probably what is defined as Poverty in the US is what would considered as the 'rich' Somalia/Kenya.

    No able bodied person should be sitting around lazy not going for work and live on welfare.A Governance structure needs to be in place so that folks are given an 101 Anti Poverty class to stay off "Poverty", on the same lines in would be callous to see a neighbor hungry and turn a blind eye. That would be inhuman.

    September 23, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • Tom

      ...and what is defined as poverty in Somalia would be wealthy on Mars.

      Apples

      Oranges

      September 23, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Unfortunately, this is a begging the question fallacy that assumes that there are always enough jobs of sufficient quality to fulfill the need to gainfully employee every able bodied adult.

      September 23, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Nonimus

      ^ employ

      September 23, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  17. jdoe

    The problem with poverty in America is that while people may be able to find jobs and earn a modest living, large expenses like housing, utilities, and transportation eat up most of the income, leaving little for anything else including food. From my experience with food drives, clothing drives, toy drives, etc., a lot of people who work hard have very little money left after the major expenses. Add a major medical problem and they're wiped out. So yes, poverty in America is very, very real.

    September 23, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • chalmus

      yes medical bills are the number one poverty maker. But as long as Reps can throw out words like socialist and scare everyone nothing will be done. As long as people think oh, they are all just lazy. nothing will be done. Americans care more about citizens of other countries than their own. number one killer in America is stress, number one stresser is debt, number one debt cause is medical bills. Medical bills = number one killer in America

      September 23, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  18. jl

    natural selection

    September 23, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Not sure what you are trying to imply, but there is nothing natural about it, it's a man-made economy.

      September 23, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • Jon

      Then you have the free right to rob and kill any elderly, disabled, or any other vulnerable people around you, because, hey, "natural selection", brah. Weed those "weaks" out, so the strong like you can prosper and multiply.

      September 23, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Coyote

      How very republican of you.

      September 23, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Chris Rutledge

      Perhaps it would have been better to say Social Darwinism. Our government is not doing any favors by bailing people out. All the government does by probiding welfare benefits is allow a person a meager exsistence but does nothing to encourage a person to improve their situation. In the end, all you breed is a cycle of dependency where people live beyond their means and have children they cannot afford and then expect the rest of us to pick up their slack. I see this a couple times each month when I go grocery shopping. Being frugal, my wife and I will shop at one of those discount stores (Aldi's, Price Rite, Save-A-Lot, etc...). Every time we go, I see people using government benefits while talking on an iPhone or some other smart phone. I see people load these groceries into automobiles I could never afford (and by afford, I mean being able to handle the expense while still being able to save for the proverbial rainy day as opposed to being poor because I wanted some bling on wheels). This is who I am supposed to feel sorry for/ This is who I am supposed to bail out with my tax dollars? For all the talk about bailing out businesses, at least they are paying us back and at least they provide jobs and pay taxes. These people on all sorts of government benefits - they use more in benefits than they ever pay in taxes and then somehow get refunds each year (I know because, as a side job to save money, I do taxes in season).

      Our government would be wise to look to Thomas Malthus for advice. If you don't get the reference, read some of his works. His advocacy is (paraphased) that we shoulld avoid providing this type of assistance because it is not sustainable and that it is better to let people fend for themselves so that the population does not exceed what can be provided for. It's kinda like what that Representative from South Carolina said a few years back... if you stop feeding them, maybe they will stop reproducing. Sounds harsh, yes... but if you are living off my dime, stop making stupid decisions.

      September 23, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • RichieP

      Then you're exactly the kind of uneducated idiot natural selection would promote in humans. Natural selection chooses whoever has the most offspring that survive to have their own offspring. Since ignorant boobs like you have more kids, you are right, natural selection will lead to a world with more people like you.

      September 23, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  19. Michael

    Here is the real problem: In a free market society if you give people more money for food, the price of food will increase. This is also the case for housing and education.

    This may seem odd, but if we stop the ethanol subsidies there would be more food produced and food prices will go down. Presently it is more profitable for corn farmers to sell to refineries than provide corn for consumption and feed for livestock.

    Tragically there will always be a portion of the population at the bottom of the income scale. I have been there and done that. Local food pantries worked for me.

    September 23, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • Henry

      You seem to ignore the solution...not all portions of an economy have to be free market. Technically 70 cents of each dollar in food production is already a government subsidy. Since this is the case it seems reasonable to steer food production to feeding all citizens in a cost effective manner.

      September 23, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Michael

      Technically a subsidy is a purchasing proxy. The population is the source of government income. The farmer would still have to decide if it is in his best interest to accept the government subsidy or sell his product elsewhere.

      September 23, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • Michael

      Just to address the addition problem were the government just prints money which lowers its value vs other currencies. This increases the cost of imported items likes oil. Which drives up energy costs to produce and deliver products.

      I think you can see the cyclical nature cost go up affecting the poor, more money is printed to give to the poor (so politicians get reelected and show compassion) which again cause prices to go up.

      September 23, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  20. Eltothe T

    How many of these people are just tax cheats. My dad drives a cab and for years after all his deductions, he would write that he only made $19,000 a year (he took in 60-70k a year), and that was for a family of 5. My mom works under the table cleaning houses. Yea we grew up kind of poor, but always had money for rent, clothes, and good food. I think there are many people who make decent money in cash that fall under this "poverty line".

    September 23, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • William Demuth

      So true.

      On paper I am a pauper, yet I live VERY well.

      Once you are in buisness, you can have almost ALL your needs filled by the company.

      September 23, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Fizgigg

      If your dad brought in what you say he brought in, you were NOT raised "kind of poor."

      September 23, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • MakeThemEatCake

      I have read that argument in many blogs whenever the conversation turns to who does and does not pay taxes. when speaking of numbers in the millions, the number of people you define as "tax cheats" is extremely small. Yet it is front and center as the reason federal programs geared toward feeding and supporting the poor in this country need to be eliminated. My taxes, my taxes, my taxes.. the cry from a lot of people who feel they pay too much tax toward the running of this country. there is ALWAYS something in the federal budget that they have no problem with. Items that "their" taxes do not cover with only their contribution. So, focus on the stuff you do like, not the stuff you don't like, and quit your b**ch**g.

      September 23, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Tom

      Just because your parents cheated on their taxes doesn't mean the majority of other people cheat.

      September 23, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Cando

      All the more reason for a value added tax or consumption tax rather than an income tax.

      September 23, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • chalmus

      so there is no starving or poor they are all just cheaters...........right. try going to a local soup kitchen and help feed some of those cheaters. maybe then you'll have a little compassion or sympathy. Wait that is not the American way anymore.

      September 23, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.