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Dr. E. Calvin Beisner- there's no "real poverty" in the US


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I had the "pleasure" of listening to this guy being interviewed on the radio today. He works for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation. Anyway, he went on this rant about how we must look to a biblical definition of poverty, rather than a social one because:

1) The definition of poverty varies from place to place and the poor people in the US live a far better life than those in the third world. Therefore, poor people in the US are not actually living in poverty.

2) People living at the poverty line are actually living a better quality of life than middle class families were in the 1950s and 1960s.

3) Minimum wage is preventing people from working. Those who are so unskilled that they should be making less than minimum wage are unable to find jobs.

4) He went hungry for a few weeks when he unexpectedly lost his job. Being hungry made him strive even harder to find employment. If we want people to be motivated to find work we ought to let them starve.

The level of bullshit spewing from this guy is through the roof.

If anyone's interested, he has written a book on social justice that is available as a free e-book

http://downloads.frc.org/EF/EF13E133.pdf

Edited for clarification

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Why would I want to read a book on social justice from someone who so clearly doesn't know what he's talking about?

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I had the "pleasure" of listening to this guy being interviewed on the radio today. He works for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation. Anyway, he went on this rant about how we must look to a biblical definition of poverty, rather than a social one because:

1) The definition of poverty varies from place to place and the poor people in the US live a far better life than those in the third world.

I will agree with this except that someone who lives in a third world country can not be directly compared to any other first world country. Just as someone who lives in an urban setting needs a different amount of money than someone who lives in a rural area. If you can't keep a safe roof over your head and food in your stomach that is an issue, not whether or not YOU think the person is poor enough for your taste.

2) People living at the poverty line are actually living a better quality of life than middle class families were in the 1950s and 1960s.

Citation, study, something, anything other than your word for it. Not being able to pay your bills and feed your family doesn't discriminate due to the decade.

3) Minimum wage is preventing people from working. Those who are so unskilled that they should be making less than minimum wage are unable to find jobs.

Da faq? I will admit I really don't know how to rebut a statement that is so...hell, I don't even know the word I want to use for describe how stupid that statement is. :think:

4) He went hungry for a few weeks when he unexpectedly lost his job. Being hungry made him strive even harder to find employment. If we want people to be motivated to find work we ought to let them starve.

Yeah, I've been the working poor. I didn't work, I didn't eat. I was already working as hard as I could so the only thing being hungry caused me to do was, surprise surprise, be hungry. It's mighty hard to think straight when you haven't eaten in 2 days. It's even harder when your children haven't eaten in days either. :music-tool:

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Fuck you, Dr. E. Calvin Beisner. By that logic, the pneumonia I had recently shouldn't be a "real" sickness, because other people are dying of lung cancer.

I have some church friends who have been weathering a tough spell. The husband only recently got a job (in IT) after a long layoff and a series of temp jobs for which he had to travel for weeks at a time. The wife, under meds for breast cancer, is a SAHM with two kids on the autism spectrum. It was a hardship when their daughter aged out of WIC, and she's thanking God that the kids qualify for free breakfast and lunch at school.

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Da faq? I will admit I really don't know how to rebut a statement that is so...hell, I don't even know the word I want to use for describe how stupid that statement is. :think:

Yeah, I was left speechless at that statement too because minimum wage jobs are often for the unskilled. It doesn't take much effort to bag groceries, flip burgers or hang up clothing in a store. Minimum wage is nice for the high-schooler, but you can't live off minimum wage and I live in a rather cheap area of the US. $7.25/hr will go a lot further here than it will in NYC, yet the minimum wage is apparently the same when it's obviously going to be 3x more expensive to live there. But, yeah, he's like the rest of the nuts who think minimum wage should be dropped cause it made inflation go up, when in reality minimum wage was finally increased here by force a couple years ago due to it not keeping up with inflation.

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I just got told here on FJ that carless people in food deserts should just get groceries delivered!

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He’s right only to the extent that people in developed countries likely have access to more resources to alleviate poverty than people in destabilized or impoverished countries.

In the US, only some people are poor. Other people in better circumstances can help those worse off than themselves.

In a place where everyone is experiencing major loss – by natural disaster, war, high unemployment, etc. – then there are far fewer people in a position to help and far more people who need help. There is where one begins to see absolutely appalling levels of poverty.

The rest of Beisner's argument looks like bullshit from here.

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Urgh. He shares a last name with an awesome UU minister. Stop sullying a good name, Dr. Calvin. :x

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2) People living at the poverty line are actually living a better quality of life than middle class families were in the 1950s and 1960s.

Let's see, I grew up middle class in the 1960's. We lived in a nice, well maintained, 3 bedroom brick ranch house on a 1/2 acre lot. We always had plenty to eat and were able to buy new clothes. We only had 1 car, but my father was able to use his company car for personal use. We had a summer membership to a local pool, took swimming lessons at the YWCA in the winter. Not exactly a poverty-level lifestyle.

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He’s right only to the extent that people in developed countries likely have access to more resources to alleviate poverty than people in destabilized or impoverished countries.

In the US, only some people are poor. Other people in better circumstances can help those worse off than themselves.

In a place where everyone is experiencing major loss – by natural disaster, war, high unemployment, etc. – then there are far fewer people in a position to help and far more people who need help. There is where one begins to see absolutely appalling levels of poverty.

I do see and understand what you are saying and to a point I agree. Where people like Beisner and others of his ilk piss me off to no end is they are happy to stand on their soapbox and decry how the US is enabling people to live in poverty and "if only we would do as a good christian" everything would be fine. But so much of whether or not you succeed in life is nothing more than luck. I can name off dozens of people I know who work their fingers to the bone, excel at their jobs and they still are just above the poverty level. While my life is good what started me on the job track I have now was a hiring manager who didn't want to hire someone too pretty. So me being not pretty led to great opportunities. So much of it is right place, right time sort of luck.

Pointing out that yes, some countries have it worse is a shit argument because that is an apples to orange type of argument. :angry-banghead:

PS Not directed at you Burris, directed at people like 2 chicken breasts Kelly that glorify starving.

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I do see and understand what you are saying and to a point I agree. Where people like Beisner and others of his ilk piss me off to no end is they are happy to stand on their soapbox and decry how the US is enabling people to live in poverty and "if only we would do as a good christian" everything would be fine. But so much of whether or not you succeed in life is nothing more than luck. I can name off dozens of people I know who work their fingers to the bone, excel at their jobs and they still are just above the poverty level. While my life is good what started me on the job track I have now was a hiring manager who didn't want to hire someone too pretty. So me being not pretty led to great opportunities. So much of it is right place, right time sort of luck.

Pointing out that yes, some countries have it worse is a shit argument because that is an apples to orange type of argument. :angry-banghead:

PS Not directed at you Burris, directed at people like 2 chicken breasts Kelly that glorify starving.

That really bears repeating. One might be doing everything "right" and have a catastrophic illness or injury, or a death in the family, that derails one's life plans for good. Or one might have the right idea at the right time and become a billionaire.

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I never understood the argument that since poor people in the US live better than some people in third world countries, then there must not be a poverty problem in the US. We are a wealthy nation! Surely, we would expect that our poor can be better off than the citizens of Uganda and Sudan. There's certain expectations we should have from living in one of the wealthiest nations on the planet. The ability to have the basics of life met should be one of them. Otherwise, what makes us so "great" if our poorest citizens is no better than a migrant worker in China?

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I just got told here on FJ that carless people in food deserts should just get groceries delivered!

You are a fucking liar, August. That is a thread with a lot of different conversations going, one of them which was OKTBT asking if grocery delivery was available in the US as a general question about the availability of that service in the US, and me answer that in my area it is with a 5 USD fee. It was not a suggestion that the working poor get their groceries delivered for 5 USD. Keep shooting yourself in the foot.

Sorry ladies, didn't mean to interrupt the thread, but wasn't going to let that lie stand.

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1 word: BULLSHIT!!!!!! (To the "there's no real poverty in the US" topic)

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Poverty in a stable and established country is going to appear “better†than poverty in a destabilized or developing country. If one takes a deeper look at the politics of water and waste, however, then one can see that people a world apart can suffer much the same - even if that suffering is inflicted different ways.

For people outside areas where government regulation is effective or enforceable, whether the nation around those people is developed or not, there’s no guarantee something as basic as clean water will be available at all.

Most poor people in the US do have access to safe (or relatively safe) drinking water. They can draw the water from any tap where (a) the pipes aren’t rotting and filled with decay and (b) where the source of water is cleaned, tested, and managed.

But those people in developed countries who do not have access to safe water - who maybe draw from wells contaminated with industrial waste, for example - are in only slightly better condition than their peers in poorer countries.

On a closely related topic, the definitions of “garbage†and “waste†change depending on location.

Because people in the US generally have access to cheap and easily replaced technology, and to an abundance of subsidized food, then the garbage created by members of that society will still be highly useful and valuable to poorer people who know how to take full advantage of the leavings. (ASIDE: Yes, food deserts do exist in developed countries. People in those locations - especially people who don't or can't drive - usually have no choice but to purchase substandard food at inflated prices.)

In other places around the world, however, an item becomes garbage only after every bit of usefulness is taken out of it. (Even human waste can be used as ‘night soil’ – and it is, either safely or unsafely.)

No matter where people on the bottom-rung live, whether in an affluent country or a poorer one, they all have a few things in common:

(1) They live off the leavings of wealthier people.

(2) They’re generally part of marginalized groups.

No matter where these people are, they have far fewer options for places to stay, food to eat, jobs to fill, and access to power than do their wealthier counterparts.

Beiser inhabits that fantasy world where so many modern political conservatives live:

Beisner compares these poverties to more easily maintain the comfortable fiction that he himself will never be needy because poverty only exists in the US for those who lack the will to reach out and grab all the goodies that are allegedly just waiting for those with a good work ethic.

Beisner pretends – he is either so dumb or so disingenuous – that hard work is usually rewarded with a higher standard of living. He can use this fiction to absolve himself of any social responsibility to care for the poor. In his view, anyone poor in a rich country obviously deserves it for their lack of initiative, and should be left to rot as a “motivation†to work harder.

If Beisner were to admit that poverty exists in his backyard, and is the result of forces beyond the control of many people who experience it, then he must also admit what a flimsy illusion economic and social stability can be.

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Poverty in a stable and established country is going to appear “better†than poverty in a destabilized or developing country. If one takes a deeper look at the politics of water and waste, however, then one can see that people a world apart can suffer much the same - even if that suffering is inflicted different ways.

For people outside areas where government regulation is effective or enforceable, whether the nation around those people is developed or not, there’s no guarantee something as basic as clean water will be available at all.

Most poor people in the US do have access to safe (or relatively safe) drinking water. They can draw the water from any tap where (a) the pipes aren’t rotting and filled with decay and (b) where the source of water is cleaned, tested, and managed.

But those people in developed countries who do not have access to safe water - who maybe draw from wells contaminated with industrial waste, for example - are in only slightly better condition than their peers in poorer countries.

On a closely related topic, the definitions of “garbage†and “waste†change depending on location.

Because people in the US generally have access to cheap and easily replaced technology, and to an abundance of subsidized food, then the garbage created by members of that society will still be highly useful and valuable to poorer people who know how to take full advantage of the leavings. (ASIDE: Yes, food deserts do exist in developed countries. People in those locations - especially people who don't or can't drive - usually have no choice but to purchase substandard food at inflated prices.)

In other places around the world, however, an item becomes garbage only after every bit of usefulness is taken out of it. (Even human waste can be used as ‘night soil’ – and it is, either safely or unsafely.)

No matter where people on the bottom-rung live, whether in an affluent country or a poorer one, they all have a few things in common:

(1) They live off the leavings of wealthier people.

(2) They’re generally part of marginalized groups.

No matter where these people are, they have far fewer options for places to stay, food to eat, jobs to fill, and access to power than do their wealthier counterparts.

Beiser inhabits that fantasy world where so many modern political conservatives live:

Beisner compares these poverties to more easily maintain the comfortable fiction that he himself will never be needy because poverty only exists in the US for those who lack the will to reach out and grab all the goodies that are allegedly just waiting for those with a good work ethic.

Beisner pretends – he is either so dumb or so disingenuous – that hard work is usually rewarded with a higher standard of living. He can use this fiction to absolve himself of any social responsibility to care for the poor. In his view, anyone poor in a rich country obviously deserves it for their lack of initiative, and should be left to rot as a “motivation†to work harder.

If Beisner were to admit that poverty exists in his backyard, and is the result of forces beyond the control of many people who experience it, then he must also admit what a flimsy illusion economic and social stability can be.

Burris, you summed up my thoughts perfectly. Thank you for your perfect rebuttal to Beisner's bullshit.

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You are a fucking liar, August. That is a thread with a lot of different conversations going, one of them which was OKTBT asking if grocery delivery was available in the US as a general question about the availability of that service in the US, and me answer that in my area it is with a 5 USD fee. It was not a suggestion that the working poor get their groceries delivered for 5 USD. Keep shooting yourself in the foot.

Sorry ladies, didn't mean to interrupt the thread, but wasn't going to let that lie stand.

Thanks for confirming that. I read that and was :evil-eye: because no one on this thread ever said such a thing.

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2) People living at the poverty line are actually living a better quality of life than middle class families were in the 1950s and 1960s.

I have seen this argument before. The gentleman I work with was making the same argument based off cars, phones, and TVs. In the 50s and 60s a middle class family had 1 small screen black and white TV, poor families maybe had a radio. Now, many poor families have at least 1 TV. The same for cars one car vs. multiple and phones. He seemed to forget that technology has advanced, and items like TVs have gotten less expensive, relative to average income. He also seemed to forget that those middle class people now have multiple TVs

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I have seen this argument before. The gentleman I work with was making the same argument based off cars, phones, and TVs. In the 50s and 60s a middle class family had 1 small screen black and white TV, poor families maybe had a radio. Now, many poor families have at least 1 TV. The same for cars one car vs. multiple and phones. He seemed to forget that technology has advanced, and items like TVs have gotten less expensive, relative to average income. He also seemed to forget that those middle class people now have multiple TVs

A poor person today might own a "pay as you go" cell phone that would have cost infinity dollars in 1950 - because it didn't exist!!

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and don't even get me started about homeless people and cell phones!!! arrrgh.

They're not buying Verizon service and IPads!!!! And if you want them to get a job so badly, how would an employer call them for an interview if they don't have a phone? I have personally witnessed some homeless people use their phones to find the next night's shelter on the days another shelter will not be open. And even so, who cares if they have a pre-paid phone, anyhow?

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In my youth, this was the "South Africa" argument. Meaning that nothing more had to be done to ensure the civil rights of African Americans, because they were sooooooo much better off than the South African blacks living in the townships. It was a tool's argument then, it's a tool's argument now.

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I have seen this argument before. The gentleman I work with was making the same argument based off cars, phones, and TVs. In the 50s and 60s a middle class family had 1 small screen black and white TV, poor families maybe had a radio. Now, many poor families have at least 1 TV. The same for cars one car vs. multiple and phones. He seemed to forget that technology has advanced, and items like TVs have gotten less expensive, relative to average income. He also seemed to forget that those middle class people now have multiple TVs

By this logic I am significantly richer than Marie Antoinette -- I have way more light bulbs in my home than she ever did!Good. I won't worry about my crippling student debt any more (at least not until the alleged "actually poor" people stage a revolution...)

Seriously though, this blows my mind. Technology has improved therefore we aren't poor? These people have no understanding of context, do they?

(and I maintain that a smartphone is just about the smartest technological investment a poor person can make (if circumstances allow for it, of course). It does everything! It's a kindle and an ipod and a camera and a television and a computer and, er, a phone, all rolled into one. Even if just the internet access and phone are necessities in our world, the other things are all really good to have from a quality of life perspective. But I guess poor people don't deserve to have any kind of joy, right?)

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It's the difference between absolute and relative poverty. Both, however, are forms of...you guessed it...poverty.

There is also a significant overlap. I have dealt with adults who haven't had enough money to buy food and who couldn't afford heating. They were sometimes mentally ill and sometimes illiterate and innumerate due to undiagnosed mental issues and/or the sheer effort of staying alive in a chaotic family. And sometimes both.

Expecting a woman from a family where she's been exposed to drug addiction, a mentally ill single mum (so she has to take days off school because her mum's threatened suicide and miss major exams because her mum's said "See if ye leave me today, Ah'll huv slit ma wrists by the time ye get back") siblings taken into care for mental health and abuse issues, and having to help her mum negotiate benefits and welfare (which often run out because her parent isn't right and doesn't pay attention to letters) to negotiate life in the same way as a self righteous blog poster from an impeccably stable and middle class background is bizarre.

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I'm so sick of hearing "but they have a cellphone so they can't be poor". Maybe the phone is from before they lost their good paying job, maybe it's a prepaid deal, or maybe its a gift from a family member who added them to their plan so that they have a phone for interviews, emergencies, etc. Believe it or not where I live in rural WV it's cheaper for me to have a cell phone than pay the deposit to have a land line installed. I can't use a landline if my car breaks down on the side of the interstate. Yes hubby and I have smart phones but everybody in my family (both of my parents) are on the same bill with 4 lines on it and on months we've got the money we pay half the bill, when we can't my parents pay the whole bill for us so we've got a way to stay in touch.

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I'm so sick of hearing "but they have a cellphone so they can't be poor". Maybe the phone is from before they lost their good paying job, maybe it's a prepaid deal, or maybe its a gift from a family member who added them to their plan so that they have a phone for interviews, emergencies, etc. Believe it or not where I live in rural WV it's cheaper for me to have a cell phone than pay the deposit to have a land line installed. I can't use a landline if my car breaks down on the side of the interstate. Yes hubby and I have smart phones but everybody in my family (both of my parents) are on the same bill with 4 lines on it and on months we've got the money we pay half the bill, when we can't my parents pay the whole bill for us so we've got a way to stay in touch.

I recently had to deal with someone who argued that we shouldn't have free birth control because if people can afford cell phones they can afford birth control. :roll: I'm personally going without hormonal birth control right now due to a lack of health insurance and steady income. I do have a cell phone though (because yeah, its cheaper for me to keep the phone than break the contract I entered prior to unemployment) so I guess that means I'm financially A-OK :angry-banghead:

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