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Poverty, equality, and the free-market

John Goodman writes:

If left wing political theory is true, we should expect to see huge inequalities in the ownership of goods sold in the market, but fairly equal consumption in health care and education. But there’s the irony. The exact opposite of this prediction has been borne out!

More than 30 million Americans are living in “poverty,” according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s one out of every seven people. But what does it really mean to be “poor” in America?

A Heritage Foundation report by Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield finds there is more here than initially meets the eye. To most Americans, the word “poverty” implies significant material deprivation, including inadequate food, clothing and shelter. The actual living conditions of America’s poor are very different, however. According to the government’s own survey data, in 2005:

  • The average household defined as poor lived in a house or apartment equipped with air conditioning and cable TV.
  • The family had a car (a third of the poor have two or more cars).
  • For entertainment, the household had two color televisions, a DVD player and a VCR.
  • If there were children in the home (especially boys), the family had a game system, such as an Xbox or PlayStation.
  • In the kitchen, the household had a microwave, refrigerator, and an oven and stove.
  • Other household conveniences included a clothes washer, clothes dryer, ceiling fans, a cordless phone and a coffeemaker.

Why the Poor Need the Marketplace | John Goodman’s Health Policy Blog | NCPA.org.

A related point is how much low-income households spend on non-essentials such as alcohol, tobacco, sweets, and entertainment: Gov. Hickenlooper’s Veto of SB 213 Insults Low-Income Parents.