The never-ending war against poverty

There are two main reasons why 17.4% of all children in America live in poverty. The first one is that their parents typically work for pay only sixteen hours a week. If the adults in a poor household worked a total of 2000 hours a year, as most full time workers do, over 70% of poor children wouldn't be poor any more.

Two thirds of poor children live in single parent homes. If poor mothers married and formed families with the fathers of their children, almost three quarters of the children would immediately be out of poverty.

Beyond a disinclination to work and marry, many able-bodied adults (and thus their children) live in poverty not because of genetic shortcomings, accidents, serious childhood abuse, or plain bad luck, but because they have made poor decisions. Some examples: dropping out of high school, choosing low ethical standards, neglecting diet and health, using drugs and booze, and managing money poorly, notably by spending too much on tobacco, booze, drugs, entertainment, prepared food, and interest on debt.

This observation will instantly send the politically correct into shock. These folks tend to view people who live in poverty as victims of unseen forces that exploit them against their knowledge and will. They have trouble facing up to the unpleasant fact that for reasonably healthy American-born or legal immigrant couples who completed high school, stay married, conscientiously work, stay out of trouble with the law, and steer clear of booze and drugs, the poverty rate is in the low single digits.

Of course, no one is likely to make this point to the new Vermont Child Poverty Council. Its members will listen sympathetically for months to the urgent voices of the advocates for the poor. Eventually the Council will produce a report focusing on the "root causes of poverty." And surprise! The Council will find that a civilized society like ours must identify and overcome the root causes of poverty through increased regulation and more government spending.

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