Skip to main content

Are Welfare Thresholds Too High or Too Low? What Does It Really Take to Survive in America?

ME has spent most of his retirement from service to the United States studying, thinking, and writing about the country he served.

MANY HUBS HAVE BEEN DEVOTED TO THE SUBJECT OF POVERTY AND WELFARE and I have had my share. My most popular has been Poverty: What % of Your Tax Dollar Really Goes to Help the Free-Loading, Indigent, Ought-to-Get-a-Job American's? [56] which is also my second most popular hub as well. Brought up in many of these is the subject of what is the minimum amount of income is needed to provide for the basic needs in American society. The Federal government has one idea based on an archaic formula derived from some study back when the Social Security law was passed. We each have our own idea and I certainly have mine, which I am sure is recorded in one of my hubs on the topic.

What I propose to do with this hub is to discuss a little bit about what goes into basic survival, at least from my point of view, and then, if you aren't "polled out" from my hubs, go through a series of polls to see what you think the minimum income for a working family of three is to barely survive in America.

To give you a sneak peek, the answer, according my Hub audience, is that the official poverty level does not come close to providing what you consider a barely survivable living. Hubbers think it takes about twice as much to survive than the Federal government does.

Why Are There Poor in a Capitalist Society

THE ANSWER is ... because it is a capitalist society. Now that doesn't answer the question of why is this person poor or what that person is poor, but it is the of why there is a poor class in America. It results from these three realities:

  1. In a capitalist society, even a regulated one, wages run the gamut of very low to very high; it is the nature of the beast. It is the "price" a society pays to reap, writ large, the benefits of capitalism.
  2. Prices are not set by what the lowest earners make, but by some version of supply and demand (there is not, nor can there ever be a true free-market other than in the very short-term for certain fungible products). Prices, excluding the effects of inflation, find some sort of average which ends up being more than the low wage earner can afford and small enough so that that the very high paid have a lot left over to spend on other things.
  3. It is the both the size of the income gap and the degree it is skewed to a small number of people receiving the lion's share of income which play a large (but not only) role in the size of the poor population.

Socialism (using its proper definition and not the misleading popular vernacular in America) was meant to fix this problem of have's and have nots. It might have worked if human nature worked like the socialist theorist said it would. But, human nature wouldn't play by the rules they wanted so socialism as a solution failed miserably.

The issue America faces is how do you help those who simply don't make enough to even barely survive without changing the fundamental nature of our society?



What Does It Take To Survive In America?

IT ISN'T TOO HARD TO THINK OF WHAT THE MINIMUM ESSENTIAL items are that it takes for a family three to barely make it in American society while still keeping their pride intact. The first two the come to mind obviously are food and shelter. We said this is a working family, so at least one member has a job and will need transportation. Depending on where one lives, that might be mass transit or a personal vehicle. But at this point, it becomes more complicated. If you have a vehicle, then you have gas, insurance, and maintenance.

Assume the third person in the family is a school age child. Now you have a lot more to deal with. Until I moved in with my wife and became an instant grandfather of first a day-care kid and then an elementary age boy a few years later, did I understand how bad school funding really has gotten. In my day, the 1950s, all my parents had to buy for school was the close on my back and some pencils and paper. Today, my stepdaughter has to take out a loan to get her 6-year old through 1st grade; and that is just for the mandatory stuff!! In addition to that, teachers often have to spend out of their own pockets to provide for decent materials with which to teach their charges. Fundraisers are held to buy basic necessities got school now, not to do special outings which we did when I was in elementary school; times have certainly changed.

Anyway, that is another cost facing our family as are utility bills, some form of minor entertainment, health insurance and medical bills, and the like. All-in-all, here is the list of things I came up with that our family of three is likely to spend money on in a year, whether they want to or not:

  • Rent or a mortgage, whichever is cheaper
  • Food for three (no dining out or fast food)
  • Auto loan
  • Fuel for auto
  • Auto insurance
  • Health insurance/Medical bills
  • Water/gas/electric/garbage/telephone, etc (no Internet or cell phones)
  • Minor entertainment
  • School
  • Laundromat
  • Personal care for three
  • Clothing costs
  • Other (no pets)

On To The Polls

FOLLOWING ARE A WHOLE LOT OF POLLS to determine what y'all think our working family of three will need for a year as a minimum. The polls will work as follows: For each of the items listed above I will have a range of costs to choose from, for a given time period. Depending on the item, some periods will be monthly, some weekly, others daily, and some annually.

The first poll, however, will be your initial estimate of how much you think it should in total for a year. Please do this one first, before moving on to the rest or looking at the bottom for the total of the parts. Then move on to the parts. At the bottom, I will total the individual items up and present a table which represents the ranges of total costs on an annual basis.

I hope this will be fun and educational for all of you and encourage you to participate!

PLEASE START WITH THIS POLL FIRST (Assume this is a suburb of Omaha, NE)

With 90 responses, I am reasonably convinced the pattern you see in the poll above will not change substantially. While the mean may move noticeably, the shape (which is for the most part Normal) will probably not. Consequently, I can start deriving some statistics regarding what you see that have some relevance.