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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Is it time to consider social democracy? – Part 4

What is poverty? On it is defined as: “the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor; indigence.” Ah, indigence is a good place to start because its opposite meaning is wealth. In other words those in poverty are in the extreme, indigent, with those on the opposite side of the spectrum also in the extreme, but very wealthy. Put simply, does that seem fair?

Poverty has been defined as being “cyclical,” which would indicate some fluctuation of significance over a period of time. And according to the Census Bureau, it has been cyclical for at least ten years in a steady growth pattern from 11.9 percent of the population to 14.3 percent in 2009. And now the projections are that it will hit 15 percent in 2010. That figure may even be conservative, considering the wave of new foreclosures expected, and the slow decline in joblessness.

The Census Bureau’s “Summary of Key Findings” in their 2009 poverty report makes for good reading. No kidding, unless you have absolutely no empathy for this issue. And if you have never felt the fear of losing a job or your business, losing your house, or having to decide between rent and food, eventually experiencing this bad fortune, you’re in a select group these days, so perhaps your concerns are limited.

Most of the well off population isn’t particularly interested in broadening their horizons on this subject, so we experience an abject apathy from the very group that could help. Others like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are trying to do something about it. This personal approach by two billionaires is in its own way a type of social democracy, a leveling of the playing field by donating their fortunes to charity.

It will be interesting to see what effect, if any, their philanthropy will have on the 2010 projections on poverty.

Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

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