Friday, July 16, 2010

American Hubris

I don’t recall now where I heard this most recently, but it’s so common a meme that it doesn’t matter, so I won’t bother with a citation. The theory is that we should be aware that to be poor in America is not so bad because, relative to many other places in the world, it is actually rich. Other places in the world people live under a sheet stretched between poles and get by on $1 per day. Of course, when using this meme, being “poor in America” usually remains conveniently undefined.

Poor might, for instance, mean being homeless; without even a sheet to stretch between poles or a place to do that. There are people in this country who fit that definition, you know; quite a lot of them. There are private charities who care for them on a rather hit-or-miss basis but, as a nation, we do nothing for them.

Poor might mean living in a one-bedroom house and feeding a family on, say, $10 per day by working at two jobs, neither of which provides what we call in this country “benefits.” That certainly is better than the person living under the sheet on $1 daily, but if the person comes down with a preventable illness and dies from it because they could not afford medical treatment, what good does the one-bedroom house and the $10 per diem do them? They are unnecessarily dead.

Being poor is not good. It does not matter where you are poor, being poor is a miserable and unsustainable condition. A great nation does not tolerate it.

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