The Law of Increasing Poverty

Posted: December 22, 2011 in Class Warfare, Culture War, Education, Healthcare, Lord of the Flies, The Economy, Uncategorized
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Yeah, I used a theory from Marx for the title of my post, what of it?  Does that make me a…….eeeeeekkkkk…..Marxist?  A socialist?  No, but I thought the term of “The Law of Increasing Poverty” to be very applicable to what I have been seeing and hearing in the news lately.  To be honest, I don’t even know what  Karl Marx even says in his theory.

It’s just those words….they remind me of how poverty only begets more poverty and wealth tends to beget more wealth.  I’ve been hearing about studies regarding poverty and how researchers are learning that poverty is multi-generational and it is, in a certain sense, self-perpetuating.  Meaning that if you are poor and your parents were poor before you, it makes working your way up out of that situation even more difficult, and the likelihood of your children being poor is that much higher.  Furthermore there are aspects to poverty that many middle and upper class Americans can’t even imagine because the problems are very subtle.  And all these subtle things add up and produce a noticeable result, like a million tiny dominoes that lead to the denouement in a Rube Goldberg Machine.

There is always more misery among the lower classes than there is humanity in the higher.
–Victor Hugo

Here’s the perfect example of one of these little dominoes….in Burke County, GA people are struggling (as are many around the country).  The coach of the high school football team noticed that his students weren’t performing well during games and at practice.  His students would complain of being tired and sleepy.  He noticed that after the second practice of the week some of the students would be done for the week….they simply didn’t have the energy to continue.  So the coach decided to look into what was going on.

Was it laziness?  Newt Gingrich says it probably is.  He believes the working poor have

….no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day, they have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash’ unless it is illegal.

Mitt Romney, on the other hand, has been careful not to malign the poor, but that doesn’t mean that he understands what they are it means to be poor.

Cutting welfare spending dramatically, I don’t think will hurt the poor.

In fact, look at any of the Republicans running for their party’s nomination this year.  You will find a plethora of statements about the poor that say they either deserve to be poor or they won’t be hurt by taking money and food away from them.  Now back to the real world example.

Guess what the coach found?  The students were hungry.  The only meals they received were breakfast and lunch from the schools (and if you remember what it was like in High School it isn’t a smorgasbord kind of thing).  Now think about this–how many calories does the average 6 ft tall 200 lb man who exercises for more than 60 minutes a day burn?  According to my research this average guy would need over 3,200 calories a day….just to maintain their weight–not to gain and add muscle–just to maintain their current weight.  How many calories does one get from a standard school breakfast and lunch?  On average they would be getting around 820 calories for each meal.  So that means without dinner they were getting only half of what they needed to just to maintain their weight.  Still they went to football practice and gave their all sometimes until they were too exhausted to go on.  That doesn’t sound like laziness to me.  It also doesn’t address the teenagers that also have a part-time job…they make money to help their family, but they also expend more energy.  Moreover, there’s a moral judgement being made against the poor–that they must be immoral, i.e., lazy, to be poor.  But the teenagers can’t be held responsible if their parents can’t or won’t feed them dinner.  They didn’t ask to be born into this world poor, to the parents they have, in the place they live… one does.

If you read the article you can see what happened. The coach made sure they could eat dinner extra meal and the team went on to win the state championship–just that small investment of $3 per day per student made a HUGE difference.  What about all the other kids in that school, whether they play sports or not?  How does not having enough food affect them?  The effects are as follows:

  • metabolism slows down because the body goes into starvation mode and will start to hold on to every excess calorie it can, meaning it is more likely to store fat1
  • nutritional deficiencies are inevitable and that directly affects the functioning of many vital organs
  • long term nutritional deficiencies can result in organ damage
  • the ability to remain alert and retain new information is significantly decreased
  • behavioral problems due to hypoglycemia–symptoms include feeling lightheaded, shaky, experiencing headaches, excessive sweating, irritability and even depression2
  • Weakend immune system and the increased likelihood of injury and illness as a result

We all know by now that children who eat properly do better in school (I’m not going to link to more than one article because this point is so frigging obvious).  Well, that little domino in the perpetuation of poverty gets put into line with all the other dominoes, such as the stigma of being poor, the decreased likelihood of graduating from high school and college,  the likelihood of being a victim of violent crime, the likelihood of your parents’ divorcing, the likelihood of marrying someone else who is poor, the decreased likelihood of getting a job, earning less over a lifetime and having less to pass on to the next generation, complete lack of access to or poor access to health care, likelihood of only being able to afford to live in unhealthy places, etc, etc, etc.

Poverty is like fire, the more it consumes the more it grows and the more it grows the more it spreads and consumes.  This SHOULD give our Galtian overlords pause.  But it won’t.  So I keep asking myself how long it will be before the fire spreads and envelopes them too.

Other Sources:


1.  Which means retaining fat, which is one of the reasons we see obesity more in the poor than in higher socioeconomic–too many people assume that poor people get fat because they are lazy and greedy.  It’s because first they don’t eat enough and their bodies start to hoard fat and then when they do get to eat they can only afford cheap food. Cheap food means bad for you food like fast food or pre-packaged means with tons of fat, preservatives, sugar, etc.  They are more likely to overeat when they do eat because you never know when the next meal is going to come along.  Again, not good for them.  There are a lot more facts than this, such as new information on how obesity rates differ in various racial and ethnic groups), but maybe you are starting to see how this works and how much of a vicious cycle it is.  Historically, before the modern era, obesity was something that only happened to the wealthy (e.g., King Henry the Eighth).  But back then everyone drew from the same sources…the same wheat fields, the same animals in the forest, the same trees in the orchards, etc.  With the advent of modern food such as McDonald’s, the rich can afford to go to farmer’s markets or to specialty stores like Sprouts and buy fresh vegetables and fruit, special bread without corn syrup in it, etc.  The poor don’t get to draw on those same food supplies….they get as much food as they can for every dollar.  And that means pre-packaged items from grocery store chains or fast food.  Now, the poor are more likely to be obese and the wealthy more likely to be thin.

2.  Have you ever seen a hungry toddler before?  They are a pain in the ass. Give them something to eat and they become little beams of sunshine….same thing here.  Some kids that act out in school are just frigging hungry!


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