Poverty and relative poverty / by kevin murray

Poverty can be defined in numerous ways, of which, some people believe that those that are truly impoverished are only the ones sorely lacking in such basics as food, healthcare, housing, education, reliable electricity, and so forth.  So then, it thus follows that the most impoverished peopled in the world are, by that definition, those that live within societies in which those things are hard to come by, and therefore are truly impoverished.


On the other hand, poverty can and should be looked at from a relative perspective, so that, in western nations, one would expect that these countries would first of all, have very few people living in abject poverty, simply because of the sheer size of the wealth within that country.  So that, for instance, as reported by fortune.com, the USA has a grand total of an astonishing 41.6% of the global personal wealth, which would presuppose to the uninitiated, that certainly this would mean that there is no poverty in the United States, whatsoever.  Rather, the USA in 2012, as reported by vox.com, found that "17.9 percent of Americans lived on less than half the median income, after taking taxes and transfers into account;" whereas, in Denmark, that percentage was just 5.4 percent.


This signifies that in America, despite having by far the most wealth in aggregate, and despite the fact that the per capita GDP of America is greater than Denmark, has on percentage terms more than three times the amount of people living on less than half the median income than Denmark, and therefore have far more people suffering from being relatively impoverished.  While some pundits are quick to point out that those that are impoverished in America, frequently, still have reliable access to food, healthcare, housing, education, and electricity, what they do not so frequently mention, though, is that the quality of all of these things, are sorely lacking for those that live in poverty.


Additionally, perceptions do matter to people, so that, in a country in which citizens are bombarded constantly with advertisements and social media posts of all types night and day about the super-wealth of America, those that suffer from the lack of good nutritional food, good education, good housing and safe neighborhoods, as well as good and affordable healthcare, are not only living lives of a lower quality and are disadvantaged, but they most certainly in comparison to their fellow Americans, are not only living in relative poverty to them, but are forced to eat crow, day in and day out.


Further to the point, the United States, is an incredibly unequal society, of which, visibly, one not only sees that inequality in any major metropolis, but this is further demonstrated by the fact that the Gini coefficient for America is considerably higher than virtually any other nation, demonstrating the vast chasm between those that have and those have not in this country.  Not too surprisingly, the poor in America, suffering from the lack of so many essentials, as well as the unfairness of their plight, are frustrated in their lot.


This thus means, that though the poor in America do have so much more than those lacking in the basic necessities of life, such as what we find in developing nations; what the poor and impoverished do not have in America, is much respect, compounded by the fact, that the blame for not having that respect and success is placed upon their shoulders, for, after all, America is in theory, the land of opportunity. So then, America effectively blames the poor for being poor, and until such time, as America recognizes its complicity in this unfortunate situation, America though perceived as being rich, is in spirit, very, very poor.