Friday, November 18, 2011

Exaggerted Povery levels in the USA

Every now and then the American media cries aloud on how poverty is on a rise in the US and how the government is failing to arrest the same. I find it surprising for the most prosperous nations media's insane cry on poverty rise where both the government and business focus on consumerism and spending as means of economic growth. One fails to understand that spending doesn't mean to spend on unnecessary items and luxury. The context here is seems to be within the developed/Industrial world. The poverty levels are no where comparable to rest of the world.
If a country is getting deep into poverty there should be steps taken by government and public alike to increase savings in view of the tougher times, but he opposite seems to happen here. USA's is building on it debt to finance more and more spending and feed corporate greed and do nothing to stem the financial problems for the long term. No wonder US today has got a debt mounting to 100% of its GDP. Germany's debt accounts to more than 150% of its GDP. Compare that to India which has got only 25% GDP in debt.
About the cartoon: Poverty stricken people all over the world might be starving but the poor fill their diet with cheap fast food like McDonalds. Obesity by poverty and fast food chains is rampant in lower class in the US, while the opposite is true in India. Middle class and effluent communities cherish the American fast foods like the McDonalds, KFCs, Dominos and hence put on weight.
Behind the poverty definitions
Definitions of poverty vary considerably among nations. For example, rich nations generally employ more generous standards of poverty than poor nations. - the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor.
Standard definition - Significant
material deprivation, an inability to provide a family with adequate nutritious food, reasonable shelter and clothing.
What does poverty in India actually mean? It is difficult for those living in an industrialised country to truly appreciate the level of poverty in our country.
In the West, even those living in poverty can live in well-constructed dwellings, with heating, clean running water, indoor toilet facilities, access to health care, and even a vehicle. But such luxuries are a distant dream for India's poor.
In the US, the poverty level defines a earning threshold of $22,350 (total yearly income) for a family of four. If a family of four falls below this level its considered in poverty.


USA - Nearly 46 million in poverty that's 15% of US population (as per US Census Bureau)
India - Nearly 415 million in poverty that's 41% of Indian Population (as per World Bank)
There has been no uniform measure of poverty in India.The Planning Commission of India has accepted the Tendulkar Committee report which says that 37% of people in India live below the poverty line(BPL)

The Arjun Sengupta Report states that 77% of Indians live on less than INR 20 a day (about $0.50 per day).The N.C. Saxena Committee report states that 50% of Indians live below the poverty line.
India has 33% of World's poorest population. India's number of 415 million are more than combined numbers of Africa's 26 poorest countries.

Income Levels of poor
USA - Poverty level for 2011 was set at $22,350 (total yearly income) for a family of four. That's $5587 per person per year. This doesn't take into consideration Social security, unemployment, food stamps and state paid benefits. If one where to consider these benefits most of them are above the threshold.
India - 80% of Indian Population earns less than 2 $ per day. That is less than 750$ per annum if they earn for 365 days. Which is 7 times less than what US follows as its standard.

What do the Poor Own ?
USA - According to data compiled by US government agencies, the typical household considered “poor” by census officials has a car and air conditioning. For entertainment, the household has cable or satellite TV, two color televisions, a DVD player and a VCR. If children (especially boys) are in the home, they have a video game system such as Xbox or PlayStation. In the kitchen, the household has the ordinary conveniences: refrigerator, oven, stove, microwave. Half the poor now have a personal computer. A third have a widescreen TV (plasma or LCD); a quarter have a digital video recorder such as TiVo.

India - In India the poorest are living a life of real deprivation: a large family crowded into a leaky, overcrowded, unsanitary slum-like shelter. In most situation most of the poor might not even have roof when they go to sleep on the hard ground. One can only wonder when was the last time when such person would have had stomach full of food. Life is despair and miserable, with no materialistic possession at all. Government and NGOs alike try to provide Food, Cloth and Shelter as bare minimal, but these efforts are far from reaching the millions and millions.


USA - The media cry with alarm that “nearly one in four kids” in the nation are hungry. Again, government data show otherwise. Fully 96 percent of poor parents stated that their children were never hungry at any time during 2009, despite the severity of the recession, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

India - It is estimated that about 42.5% of the children in India suffer from malnutrition. The World Bank, citing estimates made by the World Health Organization, states that "About 49 per cent of the world's underweight children, 34 per cent of the world's stunted children and 46 per cent of the world's wasted children, live in India. The child malnutrition rate in India is twice as great as sub-Saharan Africa. Data from The World Bank shows that the percentage of underweight children in sub-Saharan Africa is 24% while India has almost twice the amount at 47%.

Moreover, the malnutrition is not just common among children but about one third of adults in the country also come under the same category with their weight less than the set standard (body mass index- 18.5).

Indian Government says that food subsidy would rise if there was any increase in the number of BPL families. Food subsidy stood at about Rs 720 billion (or $16.5 billion) in 2010. Considering the food shortages and inflation in India things are only to get worse.

An Unequal World

In 1960, the 20% of the world's people who live in the richest countries had 30 times the income of the poorest 20%; by 1995 it was 82 times.

The world's 225 richest people have a combined wealth of over $1million million. Only four per cent of this wealth - $40 billion - would be enough for basic education and healthcare, adequate food and safe water and sanitation for all the world's people.

There is a satire in corporate world saying "We are not here to solve World Hunger". May be its time to think beyond making exotic swaps and derivatives and driving economies into recession by self driven greed of gobbling more and more wealth for what ??

THE GOOD NEWS: in the past 50 years poverty world over has fallen more than in the previous 500. Since 1960 child-death rates have been halved and malnutrition has declined by a third. Developing countries have covered as much distance in human development during the past 30 years as the industrial world managed in over 100.
THE BAD NEWS: one in four of the world's people still live in severe poverty. It's worse for women than for men; and for black people than for white. Even in the so-called 'rich' world increasing numbers of people do not have enough to live on.

US needs to ask itself in retrospective....
1) Were you aware of the growing gap between the rich and the poor? May be

2) Why do you think the U.S. has higher income inequality than other industrialized countries? Capitalism

3) Why do you think the U.S. has some of the highest poverty rates among industrialized countries? Overspending

For the US, it's time to focus on human development and raising the standard of living by cutting down the disproportionate wealth between the rich and the poor. Cutting down on spending defense (rather offense) expenditure for all the conflicts they get into around the world. As for the general public it would be more of indulging in conservatism and moderation while trying to let go off unwanted fashion, luxury and fad. On the hind-sight obsession with alcohol, tobacco and other in-toxicants also needs to go.

Regrettably, however, most discussions of poverty in the U.S. are riddled with exaggeration and misinformation. Effective anti-poverty policy must be based on an accurate assessment of actual living conditions and the long-term causes of real deprivation—especially the collapse of marriage and erosion of the work ethic. Does any media houses in the US understand and even remotely interested in this. May its time not to just boost ratings by giving exaggerated numbers of their own country while rest of the world suffers on misdeeds, over consumption and greed of a few. Wake up nation.

Credits - Poverty: Dimantling myths, "How poverty is calculated in India" on, Wikipedia and Robert Rector in Real Clear Politics


Subhorup Dasgupta said...

Very useful information, and well contrasted. The poverty that we see outside us is but a reflection of the poverty within us, as a society. If each person can make an effort to open the eyes of one other person to sustainable and ethical lifestyles, the problem of poverty will start to be addressed. I do not believe that governmental policies and strategies can solve poverty. As long as people feel it is ok to amass wealth beyond ones needs, there will be inequity at all levels, for all resources.

White Bhabi said...

You give some very valid points. However, I urge you to consider that the US does have citizens that suffer in poverty just like some people in India do. Yes, they are less in number but we are also a much smaller nation and much newer. Homelessness is also much higher in the US than it is in India. The US is not all about what you see on TV and like India, you would need to travel many different parts of it to even begin to understand how diverse it is.

Yes, it is stupid to gauge so much on how many useless items Americans buy. I don't get that either but we are often tormented daily by commercials urging us to buy things we don't need and given messages that we need to buy things that we wouldn't normally think of buying. This happens in India as well but your government doesn't justify it's numbers by how much money you spend.

Satya Swaroop P said...

White Bhabi...agreed, they are people who live under the bridges in abandoned sub-ways. But arguably USA government has policies which offer unemployment benefits, Social security and even disability benefits. If these people choose to avail those benefits would they be turned down ? If these people choose to work on the lowest of wages wouldn't they get a job ?
And secondly more than criticism of government it was criticism of both Indian and US media. While one is undermining the reality of extreme poverty and growing income disparities while the other focuses on magnifying and bloating poverty numbers, while political parties are in stale mate on ever growing debt and fears of recessions

White Bhabi said...

It's possible some of them could get benefits but others cannot. I myself was a victim of just such an issue. I couldn't get any type of public assistance, part of which was because I had no address. I was working a job for the lowest wages legally allowed but they could only give me 4-12 hours a week which was not nearly enough even to just pay for groceries. At one point I was working 3 jobs trying to get enough money to survive. The US is a very expensive place to live, that's how these people wind up homeless after all. With the economy going south it only got worse.

I don't doubt one bit the US needs some serious overhaul to it's public policies so things like this don't happen. But the private sector job markets also need a reality check. They avidly refuse well qualified workers for new jobs and promotions based on ridiculous statistics. I know one company that fired people who had received driving tickets. Things like that are what keep people from having jobs and keep the poverty level rising there.

Subhorup Dasgupta said...

Everyone tends to believe that their own difficulties are the worst. Very interesting discussion here highlighting the situation in the US.

White Bhabi said...

Definitely! I know I felt like it was the worst when I was going through it but at the same time I knew that wasn't true. Looking back now I know for sure it wasn't the worst. Thankfully moving to India has helped me see that we all face the same problems, just sometimes in different ways and under different circumstances.

Some people in the US choose to live in poverty and homelessness(sounds strange but I promise it's true) just as some here (Sanyasi - the ones who give up everything to find moksha). We have beggars in the US that do it because they make more money than if they had a regular job and I've heard that also happens in India. Life feels strange when you see things like that.

Satya Swaroop P said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Satya Swaroop P said...

On begging in India, asking for alms and offerings is common thing since hitorical times. It's a bit rampant now a days in big cities and towns. They are begging gangs employing women, children and pysically dissabled people. These groups harass by passers, youth and non-Indians.

On Saints (Sadhus) or Sanyasis its one of the ways of life as indicated in the scriptures for attaining moksha. Sadhu in Sanskrit, basically means; to cut or one who cuts... The one by whose instruction or direction one can be cut free from samsara, the cycle of repeated birth and death. A sadhu can be in any order of life. Sanyasi is a sahdu who is choosen not to marry. In comparision they are spiritual seekers who have given up everything just like the brothers, sisters, fathers or mothers of Christianity, only that they neednot be aligned to any religious institution or cult.
In the the legal rights far more superceed any where else. If someone has no valid address or SSN that person is legally off th radar. Some are forced to be without them because either they have no family or friends to support and thus disconnected or there are enough legal complications and debt they choose to disappear altogether.
For a prosperous country tackling poverty and supporting its poor is easy. Even if 0.1% of super rich get into philantrophy to tackle this issue, it would be solved.

White Bhabi said...

True, if those who had money actually paid their taxes and such then it wouldn't be an issue at all. I'm not sure if you're familiar with the Occupy movement currently going on in the US but they are basically fighting for the rich to stop getting richer by robbing the poor. Much like the corruption that goes on here in India, just that in the US the rich are protected by the government in more ways and the corruption is out in the open and legal. No system is without it's problems and it's just sad that life throughout the world is turning out like it is.

Satya Swaroop P said...

Am following te occupy protest and am fully aware. Hope these people sustain and emerge victorious over the elements.
The police are just hoping the winter sets in fast.
Sadly the democrats and Obama proved to be more conservative and backing the capitalists as well. Politics in the US have turned more selfish than ever. India may be in a worse situation and with all the heriditory and inheritance it will get worse as politics is getting saturated with corrupt people and dynasties continue there grip.

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