Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely baby daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
Here we go again. News that Milwaukee has the 7th highest poverty rate in the nation is sure to bring out the usual cast of hand wringers, wailing and gnashing their teeth, crying out for the same tired old demands: a higher minimum wage, a redistribution of wealth, increasing taxes, creating more programs.
The headline could be considered alarming, but the entire poverty issue must be put in perspective. Just how poor are the poor? You’d be surprised.
Robert Rector wrote a paper for the Heritage Foundation in 2004 entitled, “Understanding Poverty in America.” Here are some key excerpts:
To understand poverty in America, it is important…to look at the actual living conditions of the individuals the government deems to be poor.
For most Americans, the word "poverty" suggests destitution: an inability to provide a family with nutritious food, clothing, and reasonable shelter. But only a small number of the 35 million persons classified as "poor" by the Census Bureau fit that description. While real material hardship certainly does occur, it is limited in scope and severity. Most of America's "poor" live in material conditions that would be judged as comfortable or well-off just a few generations ago.
The following are facts about persons defined as "poor" by the Census Bureau, taken from various government reports:
• Forty-six percent of all poor households actually own their own homes. The average home owned by persons classified as poor by the Census Bureau is a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.
• Seventy-six percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, 30 years ago, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.
• Only 6 percent of poor households are overcrowded. More than two-thirds have more than two rooms per person.
• The average poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens, and other cities throughout Europe. (These comparisons are to the average citizens in foreign countries, not to those classified as poor.)
• Nearly three-quarters of poor households own a car; 30 percent own two or more cars.
• Ninety-seven percent of poor households have a color television; over half own two or more color televisions.
• Seventy-eight percent have a VCR or DVD player; 62 percent have cable or satellite TV reception.
• Seventy-three percent own microwave ovens, more than half have a stereo, and a third have an automatic dishwasher.
As a group, America's poor are far from being chronically undernourished. The average consumption of protein, vitamins, and minerals is virtually the same for poor and middle-class children and, in most cases, is well above recommended norms. Poor children actually consume more meat than do higher-income children and have average protein intakes 100 percent above recommended levels. Most poor children today are, in fact, supernourished and grow up to be, on average, one inch taller and 10 pounds heavier that the GIs who stormed the beaches of Normandy in World War II.
Eighty-nine percent of the poor report their families have "enough" food to eat, while only 2 percent say they "often" do not have enough to eat.
Overall, the typical American defined as poor by the government has a car, air conditioning, a refrigerator, a stove, a clothes washer and dryer, and a microwave. He has two color televisions, cable or satellite TV reception, a VCR or DVD player, and a stereo. He is able to obtain medical care. His home is in good repair and is not overcrowded. By his own report, his family is not hungry and he had sufficient funds in the past year to meet his family's essential needs. While this individual's life is not opulent, it is equally far from the popular images of dire poverty conveyed by the press, liberal activists, and politicians.
There are two main reasons that American children are poor: Their parents don't work much, and fathers are absent from the home.
While work and marriage are steady ladders out of poverty, the welfare system perversely remains hostile to both. Major programs such as food stamps, public housing, and Medicaid continue to reward idleness and penalize marriage. If welfare could be turned around to encourage work and marriage, remaining poverty would drop quickly.
Read Rector’s entire paper.