• No, Sen. Sanders, America’s ‘Poor’ Are Not Worse Off than Many Other Countries

    Surge Summary: Sen. Bernie Sanders – and those like him – regularly claim America’s efforts to help her “poor” are materially inadequate. A new study suggests the socialist presidential candidate is misleading us.

    We’re once again reminded the only way socialists and big government types can make the case for their economic theories it to lie and exaggerate and pass along inaccuracies.

    PJ Media’s Tyler O’Neil relays:

    A new study debunks liberal claims about grinding poverty in the U.S. compared to other developed countries. Accounting for how much America’s poorest 20 percent consumes — rather than measures like income that can be misleading for reasons explained below — the study finds that the poorest fifth of Americans consume more resources than the average person in 64 percent of other countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

    On average, a person among the poorest 20 percent of Americans consumes more goods and services than the average person in Canada, Greece, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Australia, Spain, Portugal, Japan, Denmark, Iceland, New Zealand, Slovenia, Slovakia, Israel, South Korea, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Poland, Chile, Hungary, Turkey, and Mexico.

    Wowzer. That’s quite a roster. Go back and read that again if you didn’t quite get the impact.

    Our study shows that because of unreported income, charity, and non-cash government benefits like Medicaid and food stamps, consumption by America’s poorest 20 percent exceeds the national averages even in developed nations like Japan, New Zealand and Denmark,” James Agresti, president of Just Facts, said in a statement on the report.

    So … it appears America’s welfare programs are making at least some difference for the better — at least materially – in people’s lives?

    Dr. Henrique Schneider, professor of economics at Nordakademie University in Germany and the chief economist of the Swiss Federation of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, pronounced the report and its methods reliable:

    “This study is sound and conforms with academic standards. I personally think it provides valuable insight into poverty measures and adds considerably to this field of research.”

    Published Monday, the study set out to rebut claims from a July 1 New York Times video op-ed insisting there is a need for “a more truthful approach” to “the myth of America as the greatest nation on earth.” Times producers Taige Jensen and Nayeema Raza argue that the U.S. has “fallen well behind Europe” and has “more in common with ‘developing countries’ than we’d like to admit” – a decidedly dubious proposition.

    The video propounds “America is the richest country” in the OECD” and “also the poorest, with a whopping 18 percent poverty rate—closer to Mexico than Western Europe.”

    Unsurprisingly, this condemnation echoes the tireless cant  of Vermont Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders that America has “the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country on Earth.”

    For this U.S. poverty study, Just Facts analyzed data from various sources: the OECD, the World Bank, and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. They “found that the Times is not merely wrong about this issue but is reporting the polar opposite of reality.”

    The Gray Lady, untrustworthy? Imagine that.

    The Times reported OECD poverty rate data. The OECD measures relative poverty within nations, not between them. The figures represent the proportion of people with “less than half the median household income” in their own countries, so “two countries with the same poverty rates may differ in terms of the relative income-level of the poor.”

    Incomprehensibly, the OECD claims the U.S. poverty rate (17.8 percent) is worse than Mexico’s at 16.6 percent.

    This is plainly ludicrous.

    World Bank data however, shows that 35 percent of Mexico’s population lives on less than $5.50 per day, compared to only two percent of people in the U.S.

    Moreover, OECD data focuses on “income”, excluding many non-cash benefits the needy receive from either government and private charities. Among these, Just Facts includes:

    health care from Medicaid, free clinics, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program; food from food stamps, school lunches, soup kitchens, food pantries, and welfare programs; housing and amenities provided through rent subsidies, utility assistance, and homeless shelters.

    Even the World Bank data, which includes these items, is incomplete because it is based on “household surveys.” Low-income households greatly underreport their income and non-cash benefits in these surveys, according to a 2015 paper in the Journal of Economic Perspectives. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Census Bureau have also admitted there is widespread underreporting in these surveys.

    “When politicians and the media talk about income inequality, they often use statistics that fail to account for large amounts of income and benefits received by low- and middle-income households. This greatly overstates inequality and feeds deceptive narratives,” Just Facts reported.

    The more reliable measure of material well-being is the consumption of goods and services. The World Bank prefers this measure due to “practical reasons of reliability and because consumption is thought to better capture long-run welfare levels than current income.

    Using a rather elaborate formula, Agresti calculates the average consumption number for the poorest 20 percent is $21,673 per person.

    Conceding, properly, there is more than life than the bottom-line, the Just Facts analysis admits the poorest Americans’ high consumption lifestyle

    “doesn’t mean they live better than average people in the nations they outpace, like Spain, Denmark, Japan, Greece, and New Zealand. This is because people’s quality of life also depends on their communities and personal choices, like the local politicians they elect, the violent crimes they commit, and the spending decisions they make.”

    As with any people group, no doubt, there is room for improvement in this cohort of American society.

    U.S. households receiving food stamps spend about 50 percent more on sweetened drinks, desserts, and candy than on fruits and vegetables. Households not receiving food stamps spend slightly more on fruits and vegetables than on sweets. Even so, the fact remains that the bottom 20 percent in the U.S. consume more than the average in 64.7 percent of OECD countries.

    In order to answer The Tiimes‘ slanderous claim that the U.S. has “more in common with ‘developing countries’ than we’d like to admit,” Just Facts provided a chart illustrating the consumption of the poorest Americans against that of a selection of developing countries in 2010.

    That year, even America’s poorest consumed 3 to 30 times more goods and services than the averages for all people in these countries.

    These numbers do not prove that America is the greatest country on Earth, but they do show that even the poor in America are better off than millions in other rich countries — and billions in developing countries like China. Bernie Sanders and others like him are misleading the American public with relative rates of poverty, when the poor in the U.S. consume a great deal more than the average in so many other countries.

    No doubt, an able-bodied individual passing his/her existence dependent on public assistance is hardly an optimum arrangement for anyone. But this study puts paid to the tedious, Leftist falsehood that “evil” America is doing nothing to help her needy.

    The biggest adjustment called for in the nations’ welfare efforts? Motivating those addicted to it to break free and find a way to provide for themselves.

    H/T PJ Media/Tyler O’Neil.

    Image: Creative Commons; CC by-SA 3.0; http://picpedia.org/clipboard/social-welfare.html

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