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Yes, Deniers, Millions of Americans are Among the Poorest People in the World

Yes, Deniers, Millions of Americans are Among the Poorest People in the World

Paul Buchheit

In 2015 it was reported that up to 50 million American adults had negative wealth and thus numbered among the poorest 10% of the world's adults. This was disputed by Vox writer Matthew Yglesias, who said, "..that's absurd. The poorest people in the world are the people with rock-bottom material living standards."


From the article:

“It’s hard for people with wealth and power to admit all this. Because then they might feel obligated to do something about it.”

Yes. They’ll feel obligated to dial up the propaganda and blame the victims—“I’m rich because I work hard. If you’re poor, it’s because you don’t.”

It’s NEVER the fault of the system.


66 years old and disabled, is $1.59 an hour income while buried in a mountain of debt I’ll never be able to pay off poor enough? Sure feels poor to me!


All very true! This is the American Reality 2018. Thank you, Paul Buchheit, for saying the truth that the MSM will never say!


Yeah, but they have flat screen TV’s & cell phones, & cars (20 yo ones) and a genuine fake leather couch and …

Just take a 2 or 3 week drive through Ms, Al, Fl (not Disneyland), La, Tx, or Ar where I retired to mainly because the cost of living is so cheap. Then you can tell me “no, there is nowhere in the US with extreme poverty”. Look at ALL the trailers, Uh I mean “mobile homes” all over the US. That is one business that is doing quite well in this country.


“It’s hard for people with wealth and power to admit all this. Because then they might feel obligated to do something about it.”

Yes. It is difficult to see oneself as the enemy of life on Earth and to admit billions of people see you the same way.


Just wait folk’s, Congress is going to “reform” the safety-net. Our dear leader’s have promised us that it is next on their agenda.

What we desperately need in the Second Bill of Rights as proposed by FDR in 1944. I keep pushing for it. Maybe not hard enough, maybe you all could help by contacting those that don’t listen and get as frustrated as I am :slight_smile:


PBS is currently airing The Gilded Age from The American Experience series. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should. At the end of the 19th century the inequality divide was as great in the US as it is now. Labor movements/parties arose, as did populist movements, and poor people’s campaigns. Voter participation was much greater then than now, and despite large working class rebellion and energy it was never enough to overcome the duopoly power, even then, in any major electoral victories. Here we are over a century later, right back there. The awareness of the working class then was that both the Republican and Democratic Parties were conspiring against the poor to keep them poor. It seems the moderate advances of the FDR/JFK/LBJ era was a one-off in the trajectory of the US, and there is no-one of the privileged class today that is going to develop the sentiments that Mr. Buchheit alludes to.


Yes. Other growth industries are storage facilities, “rent-to-own” furniture shops and payday lenders, in increasing order of predation on the negative net worth demographic.


That is one right-wing meme I’m sick to death of hearing. Rich people always think that poor people are poor because they don’t work hard enough. I got into a rather intense argument with my parents about that a few weeks ago. I’d love it if every rich person suddenly lost every cent they had and all their connections, and was forced to “reset,” then see how many of them could “pull themselves up by the bootstraps” and get wealthy once more from scratch. I’d be willing to bet the majority would fail.

Not very easy to get a college degree if you have no money, and there are hardly any grants given out anymore, and student loans will leave you in staggering debt for decades that can never be bankrupted away. And even assuming you can get a degree, you’d have to work full time (assuming you can find a job. If so, without a college degree, it would be a low-paying, no-benefit, shit job) while going to school to put a roof over your head and food on your table - assuming you don’t have a family, which would mean even more. And unless you get a medical or law degree - way out of reach for most people, and definitely out of reach for most poor people - the pickings after college are slim, and the competition fierce for them. With decent-paying blue collar jobs being mostly outsourced to other countries, and even many decent-paying white-collar jobs as well, (all by DESIGN by the Corporate Elite to lower wages/costs here to cause the masses to take whatever is available and like it - please sir, may I have another?) even an undergraduate degree doesn’t mean much anymore these days.

I have several friends - in their 40’s - with good undergraduate degrees (accounting, finance, business, etc.) that work at video rental stores or Walmart or grocery stores because they can’t find anything better. These are smart, well-educated people who have been trying for years. My parents and their ilk look down on them and say they deserve their place because they are obviously not trying hard enough. To them I say FUCK YOU. There but for the grace of God go most of us, them included. All it takes is one setback, one medical crisis, one “downsizing” to discover how different the country is now opportunity-wise from what it was when my parents were just becoming adults.


Can you say NEOFEUDALISM ?

Where the 1% own everything and the 99% own nothing.


Also, I have heard this many, many times from the wealthy who have inherited their wealth: " IF YOU ARE POOR, IT IS BECAUSE YOU ARE EITHER TOO LAZY OR TOO STUPID TO BE RICH LIKE ME!"


Excellent article.

I have lived in other countries that have extreme poverty; but they have no debt, and that is the difference. Their poverty is real, but America’s poverty in many cases, seems unreal because most poor and middle class Americans are in debt and do not seem to realize how poor they really are!


A lesson I learned from my Grandfather when i was just a child. I do not recall the particulars but it was either a television program or a newspaper he was reading (I think the latter as he did not watch a lot of TV) that angered him. There was some similar commentray being made that the reason so many immigrants to Canada prospered was because of "hard work’.

He ridiculed the nottion saying in his heavy Polish Accent “What do they think I did not work as hard in Poland? I could work all day and night there and get nowhere because the rich people OWNED everything. Here I got free land”. He came to Canada around 1922 therebouts) .

These modern day Libertarians that wax poetic about some Golden Age will never acknowledge that the settlers and investors laying claim to the Natural resources of the Americas was “Wealth redistribution” and that they created NONE of that land, or those Forests or that Coal in the ground. They just TOOK it very often at gunpoint.



The Centre for Financial Services Innovation, a non-profit group, reckons that payday-loan volumes have fallen by 18% since 2014; revenues have dropped by 30%. During the first nine months of 2016, lenders shut more than 500 stores and total employment in the industry fell by 3,600, or 3.5%

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Yep, in that same vein, watched the movie “Grapes of Wrath” last night on TCM. Both me and my wife recalled reading the John Steinbeck novel in high school (70’s) - required reading. Think the powers that be would allow THAT book to be read now by today’s young impressionable high schoolers?
Such a matter of fact depiction of depression era poverty in the US and cruelty of law enforcement back then.


The epic struggles of the Joad family in Steinbeck’s novel are being rediscovered and honored in classrooms, theaters and lecture halls this month and throughout the year, according to a CTA news release.

Northgate High English teacher Daniel Reynolds has taught the book for nine years to his high school juniors in the Mt. Diablo school district.


Michael Harrington’s “The Other America” (1962) is as relevant today as it was 56 years ago.

From 50 Years Later: Poverty and The Other America:

HARRINGTON’S MOST famous appeal to the American conscience, The Other America, was a short work (one hundred and eighty-six pages in the original edition) with a simple thesis: poverty in the affluent society of the United States was both more extensive and more tenacious than most Americans assumed. The extent of poverty could be calculated by counting the number of American households that survived on an annual income of less than $3,000. These figures were readily available in the census data, but until Harrington published The Other America they were rarely considered. Harrington revealed to his readers that an “invisible land” of the poor, over forty million strong, or one in four Americans at the time, fell below the poverty line. For the most part this Other America existed in rural isolation and in crowded slums where middle-class visitors seldom ventured. ”That the poor are invisible is one of the most important things about them,” Harrington wrote in his introduction in 1962. “They are not simply neglected and forgotten as in the old rhetoric of reform; what is much worse, they are not seen.”

THAT WAS then. Fifty years since the publication of The Other America the poor are still among us—and in a testament to the lasting significance of Harrington’s work, not at all invisible. Whether or not the poor exist is thus no longer a matter of debate; what if anything can be done to improve their condition remains at issue.

From: Wikipedia - The Other America:

A widely read review, “Our Invisible Poor,” in The New Yorker by Dwight Macdonald brought the book to the attention of President John F. Kennedy. The Other America argued that up to 25% of the nation was living in poverty. Many (such as historian Maurice Isserman[1]) believe that this book is responsible for President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” The Penguin Books paperback editions have sold over one million copies.[1] The Boston Globe editorialized that Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps and expanded social security benefits were traceable to Harrington’s ideas. With the book’s acceptance, many believe Harrington became the pre-eminent spokesman for democratic socialism in America.

Available on Amazon


The private household net worth in the US is about $400,000 per adult ($388,000 says Credit Suisse Bank report). That is the average, per adult net worth (assets minus debt). One would hope that the average would mean about normal, or typical, but it’s meaningless. The median (the middle rung) is about $50,000. ($55,876 says the Credit Suisse Databook). The Databook also states that 28% of adults own less than $10,000, 32% between $10,000 and $100,000, 34% own 100,000 to a million . Yes, 6% over a million $. This wealth was created by millions, not just a few who own it. I was reading the OECD (advanced nations) stats about government social benefits, seems that France spends the most, 24% of GDP, on social benefits, Germany spends 19%, the U.S. 9% or 8%. They tax more, but they have a higher standard of living for their lower-earning half. In France the average income per adult in the lower 50% is over $19,000 a year, even though the French economy is a third poorer or less productive than the US per person. If we had the same ratio of income distribution in the US, the lower half would earn $29,000 a year, not $16,200. The French manage to share their prosperity. They have reduced child poverty to about 6%, we to about 16% (Supplemental Poverty Measure, USCensus). This nation needs a tax on wealth, and a Individual Development Account, IDA, meaning a subsidized savings account for every adult, an idea that was popular in the 1990s. Adults could save a meager amount and it would be matched by the government to augment the total. The Credit Suisse says that 70% of U.S. adults own 6.5% of all wealth. That’s too little, they should own about 25% to 35%, at least. An IDA can be spent on housing, education or business development, not on gambling or vacations. There are numerous ways to improve the lives of millions of Americans, a wealth tax for instance. We need leaders to push new ideas. My blog, http://benL8.blogspot.com, with a new essay about stagnant income. Thank you Paul B.