Shifting the Mindset on Poverty: Part 1 of 3

The United States has the largest GDP on earth, estimated at $18 trillion. For perspective, China is the second-largest at about $11 trillion; Russia has an estimated GDP less than the state of Texas, and North Korea’s economy is smaller than Vermont’s. As Warren Buffet recently said about America’s high poverty rate, “You expect unequal results in a market economy, very unequal. But you really shouldn’t have an economy with over $50,000 in GDP per person and have lots of people living in poverty who are willing to work. I mean, that does not make sense.”

We have been conditioned to believe poverty is an unavoidable problem in society. What if that’s not true? What if we have normalized an abusive condition that we could actually  solve? That seems to be what Buffet is suggesting.

One could say that the United States has a 70% success rate in generating prosperity for its citizens. More than 15% of our households live at less than 100% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, which means that a family of three makes less than $20,008 a year in income. If you double that rate to 30%, which is $40,016 a year for a family of three, you come closer to estimating just how many households do not earn enough income to meet their basic needs and to set something aside for the future.

The 70% rate is not bad if you put our nation’s history in the proper context. We came from a European feudal system in which most people were poor. The United States was founded on the high ideals of democracy and meritocracy, even though much of our political, legal, cultural, and social structures continue to create disparity. Nonetheless, these fundamental principles run deep in our psyches and remain intact due to our belief that everything in life is possible if you work for it. I own this amazing optimism, so much so that I have built my career around the idea that our nation “can and should end its poverty in our lifetime.”

For many of us, getting over our initial refusal to become emotionally committed to the journey of ending poverty requires a better sense of how it might be accomplished. People want clear direction as well as proof that these ideas can work. The strategies to ending poverty in the United States, while somewhat complex, are not rocket science as “experts” would have us believe. We have made it far too complicated to motivate people to take necessary actions. And we have allowed ourselves to be distracted by arguments that mostly protect our cherished ideals, values, principles, mythology, and beliefs. What the United States needs is a straightforward agenda to end poverty.

From the book: Enough Money, Meaning & Friends ~ By Scott C. Miller

To learn more about Scott Miller, please see his website here.