Poverty is often misunderstood simply as a lack of money and material possessions. It is given arbitrary measurements from institutions like the IMF and the World Bank setting the poverty line at less than $5.50 a day. We see this faulty line of logic with statements like “most Americans are in the global top 1% of income”, and that “no one in America is actually poor” that are used to quell any leftists’ attacks on the domestic top 1%. This defining of poverty solely as a number people make is completely inadequate, is anyone’s social class changed from an increase in pay from $5.00 to $5.50 that we can no longer label them poor? Does a person making $5.50 not face the same class defining problems as someone making $5.00? To answer any of these questions, one must know the nuance contexts the person of interest lives in and endures. We come to see poverty more as a question of quality instead of quantity. Institutions like the IMF and the World Bank could set better measurements of poverty trends through qualitative questions like access to clean water, food, education, living conditions etc. Statements like “most Americans are in the global top 1% of income” are completely useless as they compare two people that live in two different contexts. A minimum wage worker in Southeast DC is poor because their income struggles to keep up with their costs of living, a poor farmer in India is poor because their income struggles to keep up with their costs of living. Calling the Southeast DC worker rich because their income would suffice in the context the farmer lives in is illogical because they do not live in India, they live in DC.
The Problem of Poverty and the Choice Made
Understanding poverty through a qualitative lens helps to illuminate why it is such a problem. Poverty is a state of survival. The problems faced by the poor are imperative ones, things like shelter, food, water, healthcare, basic life sustaining things. To be poor is to be in a state of constant living insecurity, tension, and worry, a state of vying to live. The existence of poverty is a stain on human rights as poverty is both inhumane and unnatural. Poverty is not just a passive occurrence in our society that we try but fail to solve. Instead, poverty is fully enforced and perpetuated in the name of profit. An animal living in a healthy ecosystem cannot be properly defined as poor. In a healthy ecosystem with an abundance of food and resources, an animal will eat when hungry. An animal when tired will find shelter and sleep. When thirsty, this animal will drink. By no means is the animal’s life easy, but its continued existence is still dependent on its physical ability. An animal in a healthy ecosystem is never denied taking a step towards its continued existence. In this sense, the unnatural cruelty of poverty is shown. In the US 40% of food goes to waste yet there are people who go hungry because they were denied for not having money. There are around 1.5 million vacant homes across the US yet there are 550,000 homeless people denied shelter for not having money. These homeless people are perfectly capable of finding a vacant home and occupying it, the hungry are perfectly capable of eating with our abundance of food, it is our system that denies them this basic subsistence. Throughout our society, basic human rights are denied in the name of profit. With laws prohibiting the feeding of the homeless to defend property value, forceful police evictions even during the winter for the profits of a landlord, fast food chains throwing away pounds of unused food every night, we see the active enforcing of suffering for profit. This brutality is exemplified in its unnatural cruelty as people in poverty are forced to comply against their own self-preservation. It would be illegal for a homeless parent to occupy a vacant home for their family. It would be illegal and dangerous for a poor family to refuse eviction and deadly exposure from an armed cop. In the US there are 2,000,000 people without access to clean drinking water and sanitization. The US has the money and technology to give these people clean drinking water yet refuses to, and with the slashing of EPA protections water is actively polluted in the interests of cheap waste disposal for corporations. 45,000 Americans die from reasons linked to lack of health insurance each year, yet as seen around the globe universal healthcare is possible. A universal healthcare system is rejected for the profit of a few pharmaceutical and insurance companies and to the detriment of those who cannot afford care, and average people who pay more in copays and deductibles than they would in taxes under a single payer system. Poor people denied health insurance are once again forced to comply against their own self-preservation, like Mississippi mother Nancy Smith who now faces 27 years in prison for “illegally” getting her children healthcare. Greed has turned human rights like water, shelter, healthcare, and food into privileges to be sold back to those who can afford it. Poverty especially in developed countries like the US, comes from the active denial and refusal of human rights based on a person’s income level, enforced by the law for the few who stand to profit from its inhumane existence. In this commodification of human rights, our system only sees value in life in terms of profitability. In this system human life is de-valued to a point where healthcare becomes a commodity, and it becomes okay to let someone die based on their income. In a sense, life is no longer inherently valuable, but life must pay to prove its worth.
Using this perverted logic, the suffering and struggles of the poor are justified. Our education system uses property taxes for the funding of schools. Instead of every child receiving the best education the richest country on earth can afford, poor children learn in underfunded and dilapidated school systems, while rich students attend high schools resembling universities. With this logic children of the poor deserve less than children of the rich because our system values them less. And with education being a tool of upward financial mobility, this disparity in education further perpetuates the poverty that created it. The children of the poor receive low quality education not because we cannot afford to give it to them, but because we choose to, we choose a system where humanity is paid for, and those who cannot pay are pushed into a social class of subhuman treatment. This subhuman treatment fuels obscene wealth as it lays the basis for a society that ignores the suffering while helping the already wealthy through tax avoidance legal/illegal, corporate bailouts, corporate subsidies, mass privatization, un-livable minimum wages, and legal precedence favoring management over labor etc. It also creates profit opportunities that would not exist if people were inherently valuable. For instance, gentrification where property values are purposely risen to displace current residents for big players to buy up and develop (make profitable for them). We allow poverty to exist and perpetuate it for the interests of a few already comfortable people, while denying people actually suffering basic humanity. There is needless suffering for needless wealth. Through extreme tax loopholes allowing Amazon to pay 0 in federal income tax, receiving $129M in tax rebate, a $600M CIA deal, taxpayer subsidies, and terrible worker treatment our system creates a monopolistic company called Amazon with a CEO of $187B net worth. This same system turns around and behaves as if poverty is an unfortunate inevitability that it does not have the money to end. With the top 1% of Americans owning more than the bottom 90% of Americans, and figures like Jeff Bezos having a net worth towering that of whole nations, it becomes clear that we do not necessarily have a problem of poverty. We have a problem of morality, greed, and distribution. Poverty is manufactured scarcity to make room for obscene wealth.
Author: Sir Moodzy ig @raw_and_stoned
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