America: The Richest Poor Country in the World

How many times have we heard stories about the poor needing more money and calls for additional wealth distribution? I saw one article that tried to apply the biblical Jubilee laws to modern-day economics to accomplish this.

This would mean all landed property would return to its original owners in the 50th year (Lev. 25). The law also required that one year in seven the land was to be left unplanted. In addition, the only people who could participate were Jews defined by their tribes.

The Jubilee Year was fulfilled by Jesus’ redemptive work, as He declared in Luke 4:18–21. The land of Israel had done its job, so much so that Jewish believers sold it for a new covenant purpose (Acts 2:45; 4:34). They had been warned by Jesus that their temple would be destroyed, their land confiscated, and those who stayed behind would be taken off into captivity (Matt. 24; Mark 13; Luke 21).

So what does a person do who has owned a piece of property for more than 50 years and is still poor? Liberals take the Jubilee a step further and argue for “periodic economic redistribution.” Wealth was not redistributed under the Jubilee law. Only land was returned and debts cancelled. These debts weren’t business loans but poor loans given to people truly in need.

Moreover, owning land is no guarantee of financial success. There’s more to prosperity than land, tools, and commodities. Japan has little land, no oil, and few raw materials when compared to other nations, and yet it’s one of the richest nations in the world.

“Overpopulated” Japan, Belgium, and Holland, with more than 500 people per square mile, have a higher standard of living than Columbia, Kenya, and Ethiopia with less than 100 people per square mile.

Why is it that “very densely populated places like Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore report no famines”?1 Hong Kong has 20 times the number of people per square mile as India, and yet, the standard of living in India is one hundreth of what it is in Hong Kong. Consider Singapore. This tiny nation “has more than 10,000 people per square mile, and its income per capita is more than 200 times higher than that of Ethiopia.”2

Compared to the rest of the world, America’s poor are rich. While there has been a record increase in the number of poor people, Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield of the Heritage Foundation write, “understanding poverty in America requires looking behind these numbers at the actual living conditions of the individuals the government deems to be poor. For most Americans, the word ‘poverty’ suggests near destitution: an inability to provide nutritious food, clothing, and reasonable shelter for one’s family. However, only a small number of the 46 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.

The following are facts about persons defined as ‘poor’ by the Census Bureau as taken from various government reports:

  • 80 percent of poor households have air conditioning. In 1970, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.
  • 92 percent of poor households have a microwave.
  • Nearly three-fourths have a car or truck, and 31 percent have two or more cars or trucks.
  • Nearly two-thirds have cable or satellite TV.
  • Two-thirds have at least one DVD player, and 70 percent have a VCR.
  • Half have a personal computer, and one in seven have two or more computers.
  • More than half of poor families with children have a video game system, such as an Xbox or PlayStation.
  • 43 percent have Internet access.
  • One-third have a wide-screen plasma or LCD TV.
  • One-fourth have a digital video recorder system, such as a TiVo.

If these statistics are true, then why are we increasing subsidies to the poor? We should be cutting back on these programs, decrease overall government spending, and cut taxes dramatically. The economic engine of the marketplace will open up opportunities to the capable poor, that is, poor people who have the ability to work.

What about hunger in America?

  • 96 percent of poor parents stated that their children were never hungry at any time during the year because they could not afford food.
  • 83 percent of poor families reported having enough food to eat.
  • 82 percent of poor adults reported never being hungry at any time in the prior year due to lack of money for food.

Politics is not about helping the poor; it’s about keeping people poor in order to make them dependent on the State.

None of this is to say that there aren’t some truly poor people in America. But once we made it difficult to be dependent on the State, the truly poor could be helped through private charities.

  1. Thomas Sowell, The Economics and Politics of Race: An International Perspective (New York: William Morrow, 1983), 212. []
  2. Sowell, Economics and Politics of Race, 211. []