In 2012, in the middle of Barack Obama’s presidency, the official poverty rate in the U.S. was 15 percent, equal to 46.5 million people. (The poverty level is defined as having an annual income equal to or less than $24,492 for a family of four.)
Five years later, that number had fallen to 12.3 percent, based on the U.S. Census Bureau's 2017 estimates when an estimated 39.7 million Americans lived in poverty according to the official measure. Improvements in the “real median income of households maintained by non-Hispanic Whites ($68,145) and Hispanics ($50,486) increased 2.6 percent and 3.7 percent, respectively, between 2016 and 2017.”
These numbers are all pointing in the right direction and have continued to improve, reflecting an economic policy rich in capitalism. Currently, with unemployment at historic lows (3.5% - the lowest rate since 1969) opportunities flourish for anyone looking to find work. In fact there are more job openings than people unemployed.
Our American Economic Reality – it’s called prosperity by the way – is the result of capitalism and affordable fossil fuels.
One doesn’t have to travel very far to appreciate what we have here in America.
For the last 20 years, I have been a frequent visitor to the Developing World in South America, traveling to several different countries with various missionary organizations. On one such trip to Peru’s farm country in the Conchucos Valley behind the eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains, I experienced stark reminders of what real poverty is. In short: Rural Peru is a country with little infrastructure, limited opportunities, no healthcare and no government safety net.
We had hiked for days to reach several villages of indigenous Quechua in places so remote that walking or horseback was the only means of transportation to travel from one village to the next. The map our Peruvian guide had with him wasn’t drawn quite to scale and about three days into our hike he realized that it was not going to be possible to walk the required distance to get to the pre-determined meeting place on the last day of our circuit through five villages where a van was scheduled to meet us for the six-hour ride back to civilization.
Unbelievably, there was spotty cellphone service in the valley where we had camped the previous night and he was able to contact a truck driver back in Huaraz, our jumping-off point from where we had started the 5-day trek. The driver drove almost 10 hours through the night to meet us the next morning on a bridge spanning a small river where we had hiked from our campsite shortly after daybreak.
We loaded everything into the back of the truck; our gear, four llamas and then we all jumped into the cargo area. We spent the next three and a half hours being tossed around in the back, as the truck bucked and swayed on a dusty, two-way dirt-and-gravel road no wider than two truck widths. The truck struggled through several steep grades as it hugged the side of a mountain; the road having no guardrails, a 1,000-foot abyss to the right, the llamas whining the entire way.
Barely able to hang onto the wooden sides of the truck, I stood on one of the duffel bags, wide-eyed as I peered over the top, watching as we passed through village after village.
All were littered with the dusty debris from the detritus of daily life. There were people and farm animals running everywhere. Children were dressed in filthy clothing. Garbage was strewn in the streets among the rubble of half-built adobe brick structures. Occasionally I smelled smoke from a wood fire in someone’s kitchen. It was a ride back in time to the Middle Ages, where hundreds of years lay ahead for any real 21st-century development in this part of the world.
While a few of the villages had electricity, none had paved roads or potable water. But oddly, in every one of them, there were several houses featuring posters on their dry, bleached adobe walls of politicians running for local office. They all promised something – obras (jobs), desarrollo (development) or progreso (progress).
As scene after scene of life in the Third World rolled past us, my heart broke. These were empty promises. These poor people had little hope of ever lifting themselves out of real poverty.
Several days later back in Huaraz, as we were eating dinner in a restaurant, there was a large protest gathering of health-care workers outside near the Plaza de Armas located in the center of town. We watched from the second-story windows as the angry mob chanted: “Ollanta! Mentira! La misma Porqueria!”
Ollanta Humala, Peru’s socialist president from 2011 to 2016, was elected in the midst of an economic expansion with the country’s GDP topping 7%. It didn’t take long for most of the people who voted for his empty promises of social reform to find out that his campaign promises were nothing but lies and “the same old garbage.” (In 2017, he along with his wife were jailed, charged with money laundering).
From my experiences comprising over 20 trips to Central and South America, it would be an educational experience for liberal politicians and their media sycophants to get out more. Perhaps if they spent some time in places where the socialistic form of government they find so endearing has failed the people so miserably, they would wake up.
Unfortunately, the Washington Echo Chamber provides them with an unchallenged level of comfort, enabling them to perpetuate self-delusion.
While Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez blubbers that “humanity is at the crossroads of extinction or opportunity,” and Greta Thunberg continues her I double dare ya tour, history contradicts their narrative.
Over the last 100 years, climate-related deaths have decreased by 95 percent and “[p]lentiful energy, mostly from fossil fuels, has lifted more than a billion people out of poverty in just the past 25 years.”
We can thank fossil fuels and capitalism for that and more.