Poverty is killing us.

According to a new study from the Brookings Institute, wealthy Americans are living considerably longer lives than Americans who are struggling with poverty. The report points out that the by the age of 55, the average American man in the top10 percent of the income bracket can expect to live another 35 years or so. But, by the age of 55, the average man in the bottom 10 percent of the country's income bracket only has around 24 years left to live.

The lifespan discrepancy between wealthy and poorer women is even worse. While these new findings are startling, they shouldn’t be surprising. That’s because poverty has a very, very long list of negative effects.

For example, poverty is the biggest predictor of educational outcomes. A staggering 40% of children living in poverty aren’t ready for a primary education, and by the end of 4th grade, low-income students are already 2 years behind where they should be. Meanwhile, a study by Professor Sean Reardon at Stanford University found that the gap in standardized test scores between wealthy and low-income students has grown by nearly 40% since the 1960’s. Thank you, Reaganomics.

Similarly, a study by researchers at the University of Michigan found that the gap between rich and poor children completing college or university has grown by around 50% since the late 1980’s. Reaganomics again.

Americans struggling with poverty are also more likely to be struggling with obesity. A 2005 study found that body mass index or BMI, an indicator of body fat and obesity, was higher each year between 1986 and 2002 among adults in the bottom income bracket than adults in the highest income group.

Meanwhile, a 2010 study found that Americans making low wages were more likely to have higher BMI’s and higher risks of obesity. And, obesity rates increased by 10% for all American children aged 10 to 17 between 2003 and 2007, but increased by 23 percent over the same time period for children living in poverty.

Even worse, poverty doesn’t just increase the risks of obesity and prevent children from getting a proper education. As Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett point out in their brilliant book The Spirit Level, poverty and wealth inequality influence a host of other social ills. Drug use, mental illness, violent crime, STDs, and teen pregnancies are all higher in countries with greater wealth inequality and poverty.

We must do something to combat poverty, and thus stop amplifying all of the social ills that it creates. And we need to do it now. LBJ's piecemeal approach to poverty was a start, and it worked, but because it had so many different pieces, it was also fairly easily taken apart bit by bit by 33 years of Reaganomics and even by Bill Clinton.

So, instead, let’s take a couple of simplifying steps. First, end most all of the remaining anti-poverty programs. They're a complicated mess. Then roll back the Reagan tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy elite, and, like Reagan did, tax Capital Gains at the ordinary income rate - that will generate enough money for step three. And that final, third step is to take a page out of Thomas Paine’s "Agrarian Justice" - yes, THAT Thomas Paine, one of the Founders of our country, and give EVERYBODY a Guaranteed Minimum Income.

Conservatives win because they get rid of all those “anti-poverty” programs they hate. Progressives win because we end poverty in America altogether. And, if a Guaranteed Minimum Income were made an entitlement like Social Security, rather than a welfare-type program, even billionaires would get a piece of the pie. Most importantly, a Guaranteed Minimum Income isn’t some new and radical idea. It’s been tried and tested, and it works.

Countries throughout Europe, including France, Sweden, and Germany have some form of a Guaranteed Minimum Income right now. And currently, Switzerland is considering a plan that would guarantee every citizen, whether they work or not, a yearly income of 30,000 Swiss francs, or roughly $34,000.

Back here in the U.S., Alaska has had a permanent fund in place since 1976, which collects money from oil production in that state, and redistributes it to the people of Alaska each year. An Alaskan family with 3 children gets about $10,000 annually from the state government, and Sarah Palin was very, very happy to write those checks every year. The bottom-line is that a Guaranteed Minimum Income works and would instantly eliminate poverty in America.

In his 1967 book Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote that, “I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective — the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.” He’s absolutely right.

It’s time to eliminate poverty in America, and give everyone a shot at living the American Dream.


chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 10 years 8 weeks ago

Thom forgot to mention that Milton Freidman, of all people. thought a min income was needed to make his supply side economics work.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 10 years 8 weeks ago

Kend, in case you reading the blogs today, I have a question. With Canada's welfare system, how is the welfare payment effected when a person becomes employed?

ckrob's picture
ckrob 10 years 8 weeks ago

As our freeloader rancher (Bundy) was doing his drive-by watching the elderly Blacks and the kids on the porch, he was seeing the child rearing pattern of hunter/gatherer societies which was both a result of American slavery's systematic destruction of the Black family and reliance on a preslavery cultural practice. They were forcefully excluded from adopting the white familial pattern. The U.S. still suffers from the echo of this evil and those who do not understand our history in this regard will insure its continuation.

jkh6148's picture
jkh6148 10 years 8 weeks ago



REPUBLICANS believe the government should help the rich live long and prosper.

REPUBLICANS believe the government should let the rich exploit the working classes until they die from hard work and exhaustion.

REPUBLICANS believe the government should just let the poor die off from disease and starvation because they never will amount to anything anyway and are just a drain on the rich.

leighmf's picture
leighmf 10 years 8 weeks ago

Something I don't understand is why Reaganomics is used as Milestone 1 on the ludicrous road on which we as Americans find ourselves. Financial misconduct amongst government officials, state officials, and high-ranking military has been going on for a long time. Our Treasury has been a free-for-all since 1913, The Federal Reserve Act.

I always regarded Reagan not as a policy-maker, but just another celebrity shill for the International Harvester, Norfolk Southern, Pepsico-General Dynamics, Bush, Harriman, Rockefeller et al. establishment which have been looting the United States under one name or another since The Civil War- the same establishment which by hook or crook got Nixon, then Reagan in office.

Our trouble is a big noxious weed- if it is not dug out roots and all, for once and for all, each generation is doomed to repeat the struggle to keep their shirts, lives, and limbs, as did their forefathers.

Willie W's picture
Willie W 10 years 8 weeks ago

I think the desire to live a healthy life style is directly proportional to the degree of quality that lifestyle holds for you. If your future is bright, you want to prolong it. If you're dodging debt collectors, your health is probably the last thing on your mind. So, indirectly, poverty is hazardous to your health.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 10 years 8 weeks ago

Take the Senator Bernie Sanders poll: Do you support the latest Koch brothers Libertarian agenda. Pole here and see the results. They are most exposing...

Senator Bernie Sanders Poll of the Koch brothers Libertarian platform.

michaelmoore052's picture
michaelmoore052 10 years 8 weeks ago

That's a big reason the Doctor was eliminated. I'm afraid the oiligarchs have a cure for poverty in mind. It'll probably explode, noiselessly, over Nebraska. As a matter of fact, we're going to watch "Nebraska" tonight. It stars Bruce Dern of "Silent Running" fame. Remember, in that movie he saved the last vestige of a Forest by detonating a nuclear device. Dern's grandfather was former Utah governor and Secretary of War. His godfather was Adlai Stevenson. Eleanor Roosevelt babysat him when he had a concussion at age 8 when FDR was at the Yalta Conference. His great uncle was Archibald McLeish, the poet.

They wouldn't get just anybody to play in a movie like this. He thinks he just won a fortune & takes off with his son to collect his winnings. I think it's a kind of tribute to Nebraska.

It's over Nebraska that Flight MH370 will most likely reappear, thanks to certain intelligence services, and deliver the nuke it picked up in Pakistan (you don't think Boeing & Rolls Royce have GPS aboard that "lost" plane?). The nuke will soar up through the atmosphere and detonate, sending an Electromotive Pulse (EMP) across the US, southern Canada and northern Mexico.

They just can't be prosecuted for 9/11 and it'll take care of that pesky Constitution.

michaelmoore052's picture
michaelmoore052 10 years 8 weeks ago

It's in black and white. So was Dr. Strangelove.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 10 years 8 weeks ago

"ckrob", I tip my hat to you for such an enlightened and inspiring post. - AIW

Kend's picture
Kend 10 years 8 weeks ago

Chuckle as far as I know every province is different. in Alberta where I live once you get a job you have to report it to your social worker and you are cut off. But, we have a lot of government housing that even though you are employed if your income level is low you can have your rent subsidized and I am sorry I don't remember what the number is. In Edmonton AB. I heard they are selling homes at subsadised price for those who qualify as well. Keep in mind we all receive the same level of health care no matter how much we make. If you are on welfare your glasses, teeth, meds etc are all covered but you loose those when you get a job But most employeers give those extra benefits. So unless it is a good job they are kinda forced to stay on welfare. Let me be clear Though no one is left on the street Or without healthcare. Unless of course it's by choice. Hope this helps.

Our native Indians oh sorry. Aboriginals now I guess. Are in a whole different plan though. Basically everything is free. They don't have to work a day in there lives. Free homes, school, all healthcare, they don't even pay taxes if they work on the Rez. It is a mess I feel sorry for them it is a shitty life.

Let me know if I answered your question.

SHFabian's picture
SHFabian 10 years 8 weeks ago

Actually, the final point should be attributed to Democrats. It was Bill Clintoin who wiped out welfare aid (1996). He also gave us NAFTA, resulting in significant job loss in the US. With very rare exception (such as Mr. Hartmann), this issue has been virtually ignored by lib media ever since. With the latest budget, Democrats voted with Republicans to cut food stamps to the elderly, disabled and working poor. Again. Not everyone can work, due to health or circumstances, and there aren't jobs available to all who need one immediately. It is Democrats who remain indifferent. At most, we hear the routine calls for job creation (as we've been hearing for over 30 years...). You can't buy a day-old donut with promises of eventual jobs. You can't get a job once you no longer have a home address, phone, bus fare. When was the last time you heard a Dem suggest restoring basic poverty relief?

David in Vegas's picture
David in Vegas 10 years 8 weeks ago

Thom, as usual you mis-evaluate the data and assign the wrong target as source of the problem. Education is the 'great equalizer' when it comes to income potential, but since the 1960's Education Know-it-Alls have mis understood the connection between poverty and education. Poverty does not mean the student cannot learn, but it does mean that he is less able to benefit from the current system of education championed by the left. He requires more attention in training until he can operate more effectively on his own, and the system has no understanding of this or that it is their responsibility. The truth is that our system of education delivery prevents all but the exceptional child of poor parents from any form of achievement. Better educated and economically situated families have both the inclination and resources to teach their children when the 'system' fails to produce results.Children of poor and generationally poorly educated parents are stuck because the parent(s) is unable to help in any significant way as the parent had no success when they were being schooled.

You may think this absurd, but consider the fact that the #1 solution for education sucess given by the education profession is 'Parental Involvement'. Which, for those who understand how education really works, means that parents need to help educate their children. (That alone screams system incompetence.)

Have you never wondered why the education system itself is not even in the top 10 list of factors of student success? (Actually no aspect of the education system, part or as a whole, including teachers, is a significant factor in student success.)

Poverty has negative effects, but the 'Great Society' now turning 50yrs old this year, which has been the liberal answer to solving poverty, has been a total failure. There are no success stories from these programs, whereas successes from 'Reaganomics' and capitalism are legion. I'm talking the 'rags to riches' not the 'rich to super-rich' stories (the latter being the hallmark of leftist policies). The Great Society initiative is arguably the dominant reason why many have remained in poverty, as that segment of society has been trained, by the design and operation of those programs, to stay poor and unsuccessful so as to get the government goodies in return for no effort. (Before you object, ask yourself why the left champions 2 years of unemployment benefits and do not object to the President unilaterally waiving the law requiring those on the program to work or try to get gainful employment?)

The liberal/progressive brand of primitive thinking looks only at one factor in any equation and cannot seem to grasp the fact that most decisions and certainly the multi faceted problem of poverty is calculus-style in complexity, not A=A.

If you cannot look at these factors without the Progressive blinders on, then you are not as intelligent as I believe you to be. And I honestly believe you are very intelligent, so I hope you will take the time to re-evaluate your position or at least the data.

ML, Dave

Kend's picture
Kend 10 years 8 weeks ago

Willie you nailed it. I am here in Scottsdale AZ and these seniors love there life. They come down here to get out of the cold and they eat well they get lots of exercise and all they talk about is there health. When I see seniors at home they are bitter and mad at there life because they are stuck in this horrible winter they don't eat as well and it's too cold to go out side.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 10 years 8 weeks ago

Michael, every time I see that avatar of yours with Clinton & Bush laughing together, I want to throw up. But I suppose that was the intended effect when you selected it... Am I wrong?

"Leighmf", your noxious-weed analogy really resondates with me.

Marc, I participated in Bernie's poll and the results blow my mind. They even exceeded my expectations... WOW.

Willie W, I agree with your comments about the indirectly negative impact poverty has on health. But there are many other factors to this issue that can be described as directly lethal, like poor diet and stress for example. Despite the Affordable Care Act, healthcare denial remains a killer for those unlucky enough to inhabit the so-called "red states", thanks to those Republican governors' passive-aggressive style of genocide. All these factors have a directly negative impact on longevity. If I gave it more thought, I could probably lengthen that list, but I think I've made my point... - AIW

David in Vegas's picture
David in Vegas 10 years 8 weeks ago

Why is it that some of you, who have no understanding of Republican ideals, think you know how anyone thinks other than yourself?

Truly, if you were to boil it down to one single belief, it would be that we believe you are more powerful and more capable that anyone ever allowed you to believe. You degrade yourself and all others when you feign such incompetence and weakness that you must be cared for like a child.

We know that people experience times and circumstance of trouble and we are ready to help any and all, friend or foe in times of emergency - our history is proof of this. We believe that such help is beneficial both to the giver of aid and the reciever only if/when the aid is given freely in a self-determined manner. We believe that such help given at the point of a gun, through the use of governmental force, is an abberant and makes a man incrementally a slave.

We belive that a rational and competent man should and will care for himself, his family, his neighborhood, town, State and Nation because it is the right thing to do. The incompetent cannot see beyond their own problems.

We believe the government should work for the benefit of the people not the reverse.

We believe you can be happy, and government cannot make it so.

michaelmoore052's picture
michaelmoore052 10 years 8 weeks ago

The dipshit thinks slavery was a good way to keep black families together. What an eneducated fool and a goddam ass.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 10 years 8 weeks ago

Dave, I just finished reading your comments. What Thom has advocated is a guaranteed income for all of us whether we work or not. That proposal is light years beyond Lyndon Johnson's so-called "Great Society". And frankly, I question whether the "GS" can be characterized as a "liberal" solution. Thom describes it as "piecemeal", which I believe is much more accurate.

In case you haven't noticed, there aren't enough jobs out there for those seeking "gainful employment". And many of those jobs (what few there are) can hardly be described as "gainful". Thanks to these toxic so-called "trade agreements" and outsourcing, employment here in America is becoming obsolete as a viable means of sustenance. Despite that grim reality, you ask why the left "champions" two years of unemployment benefits without forcing those on the program to seek "gainful" employment. (HELLO…) Are you suggesting that unemployment benefits encourage laziness? Gimmie a break.

You seem to think liberals & progressives are somehow missing out on the "complexity" of this issue of poverty and our American version of "untouchables". This system happens to be rigged against 99% of us. Nothing "complicated" about that! Unless of course, you're one of those people trying to confound us with bullshit. Sorry if we're not "intelligent" enough to grasp your version of reality. - Aliceinwonderland

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 10 years 8 weeks ago

I agree with both Thom and Thomas......tax the rich and share the wealth with a guaranteed minimum income. The tax rates on the wealthy should revert back to pre-Reagan rates without any further argument. The biggest lie ever told has been fully exposed the last three decades. The trickle down fairy tale and the resulting extreme wealth for the few hasn't only destroyed the American Dream......it has destroyed America.

michaelmoore052's picture
michaelmoore052 10 years 8 weeks ago

Most of the year it's too damned hot outside here to go for a damn walk. Who are you trying to kid. And learn English.

Kend's picture
Kend 10 years 8 weeks ago

Michael I guess you missed the part where I said they come here for the winter.

michaelmoore052's picture
michaelmoore052 10 years 8 weeks ago

AIW~ While I certainly don't want you to vomit, it's really just a clue as to how I feel that the voting public has been brainwashed into thinking that the Executive Branch is governed by the People, but the 2-party system simply laughs at our gullibility as they know the truth in the matter. Money doesn't talk, it swears (Bob Dylan). Or in the case of our Commanders-in-Chief, they know what foolish wimps we are to not go beyond the 2-party system and bring in some brave person that can affect real change. They made an example out of JFK and they killed John-John (W. was missing for 3 days from his campaign trail on July 16th, 1999, and his first appearance in public was to give his condolences to the Kennedy family, making him a "made man" and consequently trusted to carry out the oiligarchs' agenda).

If you're going to get sick, don't let me be the cause.

michaelmoore052's picture
michaelmoore052 10 years 8 weeks ago

You didn't say a goddam thing about their being here only for the winter. The implication was that the old people (like me) come here to retire becauae of our delightful winters. People here are as fat and out of shape as anywhere. Without air conditioning, only Mexican (Americans) would be here because, to them, this is Home.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 10 years 8 weeks ago

Michael dear comrade, you are not the cause of my nausea; it's what you've just described that sickens me to the core. Those two fascist clowns depicted in your avatar look like they're gloating over what they've just pulled over on us.

Yesterday I heard Thom predict that in 2016, we'll be choosing between Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton. And that freaks me out. I wanted to ask Thom, what about Bernie Sanders?! I swear, I'll write in Bernie's name if I have to. There's simply no way I will ever vote for Hillary.

Enough of the Clintons already!!! They promised us healthcare and gave us NAFTA. And media consolidation and "don't-ask-don't-tell", ad nauseam… Just fascists in sheeps' clothing! - AIW

Kend's picture
Kend 10 years 8 weeks ago

Michael when I said "they come down here to get out of the cold" did you think I meant they where coming from Hawaii

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 10 years 8 weeks ago

Dave- Why is it that you conservative assholes assume the rest of us should give a flippin' damn about your "Republican ideals" anyway? What's in it for us?!! Without such basics as education, a livable wage, universal healthcare or affordable housing- all of which your "Republican ideals" have systematically denied us- you've got one helluva nerve preaching about "incompetence" and "weakness" and what government supposedly "cannot do". How does anyone become "powerful" or "capable" - or "happy" - without any tangible means of upward mobility? Isn't a prosperous, healthy, educated citizenry the hallmark of any civilized society, let alone a democracy? Self-empowerment doesn't just materialize out of thin air! So please, spare us the condescending lectures and the platitudes about "personal responsibility"; about "rational and competent men" who don't need anything from society, who are above being "cared for" like "children". Try caring for yourself and your family on seven bucks an hour, with no benefits and no safety net!

"Republican ideals" have ruined this country. We are living under fascism now. Americans are divided into two classes: rich and poor. It's all about "winners" and "losers", with 99% of us the losers. In this rigged fucking shit hole you ideologues have created, "freedom" is nothing more than an abstraction for the vast majority of us. Corporations are "people" now, with more rights and privileges than real human beings can dream of… except of course, those billionaire welfare queens whose interests you serve. Y'all can just kiss my socialist ass. - Aliceinplunderland

ckrob's picture
ckrob 10 years 8 weeks ago

10K, surely if we believe hard enough, clap our hands three times, the trickle-down fairy will save us! Thanks for a great mental image. AIW - thanks for the compliment. I remember pictures of desperately poor, hungry white families sitting on their porches during the depression. When you're hungry you just don't have the energy to go out for a round of tennis very often.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 10 years 8 weeks ago

Aw c'mon CK, get with the program! They're only hungry 'cause they're too lazy to get a job. Just ask Dave the conservative! If everyone was as "rational" and "competent" as Dave, we wouldn't be having this conversation. (Right, Dave?) - AIW

SteveS's picture
SteveS 10 years 8 weeks ago

Poverty is killing us, and the TPP and other free trade agreements will exacerbate poverty and be the end of our civilization.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 10 years 8 weeks ago

Kend -- Thanks for the input. I wish govts would take into consideration that jolting step getting a job while on welfare. Suddenly you are working and receiving less income. I guess that is one of the differences between welfare and a guaranteed minimum income.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 10 years 8 weeks ago

Y'all need to look at poverty rate charts. If dems are in office the poverty rate goes down; if repugs it goes up. The Great Society cut the poverty rate in half. How can anyone say the GS was a failure when its knees were cutoff by reaganomics.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 10 years 8 weeks ago

dave -- Are you trying to show the success of a program by counting anecdotes? I think you need to revisit your geometry courses. I think a much better way to determine the success of a policy is to use a combination of economic metrics. My favorites would be to insure that each of the following metrics is positive: Dow, GDP, number of jobs and the median wage of those jobs adjusted for inflation. Economists would go nuts over such measures because it is so intractable. Larry Beinhart has used these metrics and shown the most effective policy is a maximum tax rate over 50%.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 10 years 8 weeks ago

Like the Affordable Care Act, Dave, the "Great Society" wasn't the be-all-end-all; just a step in the right direction. Unless Republicans can come up with better alternatives, they can keep knocking it "'til the cows come home" but it won't fool anyone who's been paying attention. Because they're all about pampering the rich and they've got nothing to offer us, and we know it. That's why Republicans keep playing their voter-suppressing little games, because they know that we know we've been had; that the more of us they can purge from those lists or discourage from voting, the better they'll fare in any election. It's what fascists do when the game's over and they're done trying to win over hearts & minds; when they're ready to pounce on their prey and rip us off with impunity. And if we don't watch out, things could get a lot nastier before the end of the movie. It's all about the latest episode of this recurring old drama, one as old as the hills. We Baby Boomers probably won't live to see the day when it all, predictably, blows up like one giant fart-in-a-windstorm. As this empire joins its predecessors in the dustbin of history, things'll get better for awhile until another generation falls asleep at the wheel, and the cycle repeats itself and then there's another crisis... Unless capitalism goes bye-bye, unless we break its stranglehold on us, it'll never end; the strife, the carnage; these dangerous, stupid power struggles... round'n round, loop-di-loop!

Here we go again, déjà vu time folks! Need more proof of reincarnation, PD, look no further! Capitalism out of control yet again, at that malignant stage where the shit hits the fan. Yep- same old shit, same results. Duh, whuddia know. Like all self-glorifying empires preceding it, the United Mistake of America- aka Fourth Reich- is destined to go the way of the Third Reich and the Romans. - Aliceinwonderland

P.S.- Oh one more thing, Mister Businessman. Since you're so concerned about keeping your products "affordable", your business (along with all businesses) might try paying your workers decent wages. It really is the most effective means to that end, because then they can afford the products you're selling, which is a win-win for everyone... Right? Just pay 'em more $$$ so they can buy your stuff, and... Bingo! We'll all be dancing in the streets and bells will be ringing, and God Bless America!

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