On The Money
Financial Advice for the Working-Class
The Poverty Line
“The poor will always be with us, but it wouldn’t take that long to exterminate the rich.”
WJSHS (What Jesus Should Have Said)
We hear about “the poverty line” a lot on the news. The number of children living below the poverty line, the number of families below the poverty line, jobs that pay “below poverty line” wages have all made headlines recently. What does “the poverty line” really mean?
Allegedly, this is how much it costs to get by in this country. “The poverty line” is an official statistic compiled by the OECD. The poverty line doesn’t take into account things like the cost of housing, food, health care, utilities, transportation. No, instead, the poverty line is based on 60% of median household income. Ultimately, it adds up to a pretty good chunk of change. In 2010 the poverty line for a single adult under 65 was $11,344, a lot more than I made that year.
While people need housing, no one needs a landlord. So a lot of the income it takes to reach “the poverty line”, just goes to greedy bloodsuckers bent on taking advantage of us. If we could get rid of greed, I think poverty would evaporate before our eyes. Really, we don’t need a metric to tell us that we are poor, especially if it only tells us that we make less than other people. We need a metric that tells us when we are being greedy.
I suggest we use the same metric, but call it “the greed line”. Certainly “the poverty line” doesn’t cut it as a gauge of economic hardship. Some people living at the poverty line have miserable lives, while others, like myself, enjoy an enviable lifestyle. Ultimately, income doesn’t have as much to do with how happy you are, as does your health, or how you spend your time. So, we might as well call it “the greed line”, and get some practical use out of it.
If we want to know about economic hardship in this country, I suggest another metric all together. Call it “the slavery line” “The slavery line would take into account how much of your time and energy it takes to reach “the greed line”. If you can make “the greed line” income in less than 25 hrs a week, you’re living pretty well. If you have to work 40- 50 hours a week to reach “the poverty line” your life sucks. If you work more than 50 hours a week, at any income, you qualify as a slave. If you earn an income above “the greed line” you are a slave to greed. If you earn below the greed line, you are just a slave. It’s about time we call a slave “a slave” in this country, and it’s about time we abolish slavery in this country as well.
In cultures that have survived for tens of thousands of years, greed is considered a very bad thing, at best, a childish thing to be outgrown before adulthood. It’s time we outgrew it too. To outgrow greed, we need to understand it. To understand greed, we need to know where it begins, and greed begins where poverty ends. So, it makes as much sense to call it “The greed line” as “the poverty line”.
Actually, both of these terms have too many negative connotations. Both “the greed line” and “the poverty line” make you want to move away from them. You don’t want to be anywhere near “the poverty line”. Heavens no! You want to be well above it, but you don’t want to be accused of crossing “the greed line”. No, you want to stay below that. So, how can you live above “the poverty line” but below “the greed line? You can’t. That’s capitalism’s dirty little secret.
No, we need to call it something else altogether. Let’s just call it “enough”.