I thought I’d toss a little religion and politics into the blog. Combating poverty is something I want out of government. I think that disparity is acceptable as long as the floor in a society is not too low. In the United States we are solidly in the center of this measure. We do way better than developing countries and not nearly as well as EU, Japan, etc.

Also, combating poverty is an absolute mandate from the Old and New Testaments and 2000 years of Christian tradition. (Although, using your government to do it is not necessarily required.) So here is how I rank the candidates on this score, including links to what they have to say.

Barack Obama is my favorite. He talks about helping the working poor. He specifically focuses on making sure that those who work can get by. He also talks about addressing poverty by addressing the crisis caused when fathers are not responsible for their children. I love Obama.

John Edwards is a close second. He seems a little more about class warfare. But in truth, we don’t elect kings. So the difference between him and Obama is completely eclipsed by the difference between what they’ll want and what they can get.

Hillary Clinton doesn’t list poverty as an issue for her. She did lead off with a bit about the middle class. Which is cool. I think the middle class is being squeezed by rising gas prices, rising healthcare costs, and the mortgage crisis. So, okay. But nothing about poverty.

Next would be Mike Huckabee, who I think is against poverty. He, like Hillary, doesn’t have poverty as an issue. He does say this in his anti-abortion rights section:

To me, life doesn’t begin at conception and end at birth. Every child deserves a quality education, first-rate health care, decent housing in a safe neighborhood, and clean air and drinking water. Every child deserves the opportunity to discover and use his God-given gifts and talents.

That’s nice. It is clearly not a center piece of his campaign.

None of the other Republicans even give lip service to poverty. Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney. Actually, I suppose it is possible they could have a paragraph buried somewhere like Huckabee. But their websites are pretty scary now. Full of anti-science, anti-choice, pro-war noise. Mitt Romney’s top three issues: (1) Keeping America Safe (2) Confronting Radical Jihad (3) Combating Nuclear Terrorism. Seriously. I think his fourth issue should be Samuel Jackson screaming at you, “What does Marcellus Wallace look like!”

9 replies on “Poverty”


You realize that she is socially liberal, pro-business, moderately to solidly hawkish in her foreign policy, and a feminist, right? She is basically Matt Dick without the– well, you get the idea.


I was excited when I read the title and the beginning of your post but I am confused by your top ranking of Obama on poverty. HIs rhetoric may be more clever but when it comes to substantive policy proposals he’s difficult to distinguish from Clinton.

I’m also disappointed by your characterization of Edwards as being “about class warfare.” I think this tells us more about your own philosophical (and perhaps theological) view of poverty than it does about Edwards’ policy proposals. It seems you see poverty as primarily a sociological phenomenon rather than a political one. In other words it seems you may see poverty as being endemic to human society rather than largely a political outcome.

We can see many European societies were poverty is largely not an issue. How could that be if poverty is primarily a sociological phenomenon? The difference, I think, is that those societies take the political character of poverty seriously and have therefore engaged in some serious “class warfare” in order to counter it.

David Johnson, Chandler, Arizona


Why so aggressive? Goodness, I said that Obama and Edwards were within the margin of error. Hillary Clinton doesn’t have a poverty policy listed on her website.

Response 1: On his websites and in his talks Edwards talks the most about sticking it to the bosses. That is how Edwards distinquishes himself from Obama. I’m pretty sure Edwards would proudly wear the lable class warrior.

Response 2: It seems you see poverty as primarily a sociological phenomenon rather than a political one. . . .We can see many European societies were poverty is largely not an issue. Do those societies include the EU, Japan, etc.? Because if they do then, I think I said that. That notwithstanding, what is your distinction between sociological phenomenon and political outcome?


The US Census Bureau’s 2002 report on poverty reports a 12.1% (of households) rate of poverty in the United States.

A 2000 study from the World Bank lists the following (percent of population):

Denmark: 12%
Netherlands: 12%
Austria: 13%
Germany: 16%
France: 16%
Belgium: 17%
Ireland: 18%
Spain: 18%
UK: 19%
Italy: 19%
Greece: 21%
Portugal: 22%

EU aggregate: 17%


I didn’t mean to sound “aggressive” and for that I apologize. I was, as I said, confused and disappointed by your preference of Obama over Edwards.

By “sociological” I meant a view that accepts that poverty is endemic to society, that it “has always been with us and always will be with us.” You can often see this view take on a theological component, as when some folks point to poverty in the Bible as evidence that it is a constant in human society.

If one rejects this view, as I do, and believes that poverty is instead a political outcome, resulting from various policy choices in society, then one accepts that any effort to reduce or eliminate poverty will be a _political_ one. Such a struggle will look very much like “class warfare” because vested political interests will resist efforts to change those policies which are at the root of poverty.

(I was pleased to see your expansion on Obama and Edwards and will comment on it there. As you might guess I am still unconvinced.)

David Johnson, Chandler, Arizona


The poverty determination by the US Census is an arbitrary number that isn’t useful for cross-country comparisons. You might start instead with the UNDP’s Human Poverty Index to assess comparisons across OECD countries (the U.S. ranks 17th).

(I’d be curious to learn where the US ranks in the World Bank study you’ve excerpted here.)

David Johnson, Chandler, Arizona


You may well be right that the studies I cited are indexing different things. I guess I was only really trying to point out that it’s a huge statement to say that Europe has conquered poverty, and in any event I think that is simply wrong.

If you take the US as ranking 17th in poverty, I would point out that even if you confine that to Europe alone you are in the top half of that continent. I suspect that ranking probably includes Europe, Brunei, the UAE, Qatar, Japan and if it does, we don’t look so terribly bad.

I am not even arguing that the US is so great for the poor (although in historical and world terms it is), I’m arguing that regardless of whether poverty must exist, it certainly always has and everywhere does.

Leave a Reply