I am consistently dismayed when I see celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie jet off to Africa to save poor children from deplorable situations. While right here, in the United States of America, a powerful country the world looks up to, 15.8% of our population are considered extremely poor.
And then some.
Poverty By Income
That number is undoubtedly underreported, as poverty is not something to be proud of and transparent about. And, making less than $11K per year does not sound that bad on a global poverty scale, were it not offset by an extremely high cost of living in the U.S.
Trust me, at those income levels; you cannot afford health insurance, eat healthy food, go to a dentist, pay rent, let alone buy a (wooden) house in this country. In California, you can easily triple that income level and still not make it.
Opportunity For All
I am a systems-thinker, as in the words of Albert Einstein, the theory (embedded in the system) determines what can be discovered. And when you have unfortunate outcomes of significant magnitudes, such as outright unacceptable American poverty, dysfunctional methods, and foolish theories, must be at their cause.
We cannot solve every instance of poverty, but we can build better systems to prevent poverty from eroding the freedom we hold in high regard. Indeed, freedom for all to pursue new opportunities is crucial in building the regenerative excellence of a vibrant society.
When you offset the number above of highly impoverished people with a dose of underexposed reality below, you can easily assert at least half of Americans are poor, enslaved, or walking-dead relative to the expenses they face to survive.
- Poverty puts 500,000 children in foster care.
- Poverty leads to bad eating habits. The United States is the second most obese country in the world, with 40,000 people dying from obesity every month(!). 40% of Americans are prediabetic. Only 50 million Americans of some 400 million living “health conscious” lives. 57% of kids will be obese by 35 years old. 75% of applicants to the army today are considered unfit.
- Poverty leads to depression. Seventy-percent of Americans are chronically dependent on prescription drugs, the vast majority on anti-depressants. 86% of healthcare cost is devoted to chronic diseases.
- Poverty leads to abjection, denial, and escapism. In 2020, nearly 70,000 people died from opioids, up 30%.
- Poverty leads to disease. 18% of GDP is spent on healthcare, with poor delivery. Bandaging instead of preventive care. American healthcare is twice as expensive as other western civilizations.
- Poverty produces the inability to pay. Americans have accumulated $140B in healthcare debt.
- Poverty limits the ability to partake in pay-to-play “excellence.” American students have accumulated $1.5T in student debt, producing 44% of underemployment in recent post college graduates.
- Poverty leads to enslavement. 41% of Americans spend more than half their income on rent. 60% are enslaved to a job that pays no more than $40K, insufficient to buy healthy food, take care of a family, or pay medical bills in America.
- Poverty leads to bad credit scores. About 33% of people in the United States have debt in collections.
- Povert leads to crime. America spends $80B per year on the cost of imprisonment. While we are 5% of world’s population, we harbor 25% of the world’s prisoners. California spends more on incarceration than on high school education.
- Poverty leads to hunger and stunted personal growth. 15.8% of Americans are considered extremely poor. 25% of children in the public school system are on food support. 48 Million people live on food stamps. Childhood poverty costs the United States $1.03 trillion per year.
- Poverty leads to a numbing of freedom. 57% Americans cannot afford $500. 55% of Americans have credit card debt.
- Poverty leads to apathy. We are 120th on the global participation rate of elections. Depending on election season, roughly 70% of the American public has disenfranchised itself from voting. Meaning, a President gets the buy-in from roughly only 16% of the population. Do not confound the opinion of any President with the opinion of the American people.
- Poverty from broken systems leads to a leaking balance sheet. US national debt at $28 Trillion exceeds our GDP. Our debt is $229K per taxpayer.
Grave and systemic injustice of any kind has always bothered me. The dislocation between money and merit bothers me. The obfuscation of truth bothers me. Setting ourselves up for failure bothers me. Missing the opportunity to do better bothers me. Deceiving our children bothers me.
Poverty Of Spirit
Attending a conference on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, where I now live, I learned an important lesson from a gal who ran the state’s education department. She explained in no uncertain terms how poverty affects people.
Poverty is not just a person without money. Poverty leads to the erosion of a person’s state of mind. That person then becomes incapable of pursuing valuable opportunities, soon producing offspring who also cannot adequately respond to new opportunities.
The educator explained how a child growing up in poverty has about a third less brain capacity at the age of five, as witnessed in brain scans. Stunted brain growth induced by a lack of inspiration, food, love, care, and empathy produces an aloof person, in turn, incapable of inducing inspiration, food, love, care, and empathy to their offspring.
According to the educational professional, this situation, thankfully, can be corrected only by a long-term immersive experience to the opposite, with the brain magically rebounding and growing again. Something she empirically proved by having adopted a boy out of poverty herself, who, under her guidance, now appears to be flourishing.
My Brush With Poverty
Before I learned this lesson from the South Carolina education expert above, my gradual experience with the recursive effects of poverty started by innocently dating and eventually falling in love with a girl originally from Allendale, South Carolina. A poor town I only visited recently, one-hour drive west of the ritzy enclave of Hilton Head Island.
In search of causation for this girl’s increasingly aloof, inconsiderate, apathetic, wondering, hiding-and-seeking, lying, and irreconcilable behavior resembling psychopathic traits, covering up a veil of intense yet temporal sweetness, I became curious about her upbringing.
Psychopaths - Pretend to care - Display cold-hearted behavior - Fail to recognize other people's distress - Have relationships that are shallow and fake - Maintain a normal life as a cover for dubious activity - Fail to form genuine emotional attachments - May love people in their own way
So, I spoke with people from Allendale living in the identical ramshackle tin-pan houses I had also witnessed on my forced drive through the town of Lumberton, North Carolina, when highway 95 flooded.
I was floored by the third-world living conditions rivaling the slums of Africa and by the resilience of Americans living in the searing southern heat alternated by monsoon rain without air conditioning and solid housing. Unintentionally, I caused quite a scene driving through the sand-filled streets of Allendale in my shiny new BMW.
In one conversation with the owner of a local food joint and a member of the Red Crows native Indian tribe, she described how a lot of her extra money went to help buy cribs for the many local girls who got pregnant and could not afford one. From there, the stories of poverty kept on flowing.
From the in-depth conversations with locals who invited me to visit again, I can now empathize with the overwhelming fear of poverty from people raised there.
Having been poor is no shame, but being ashamed of it, is.Benjamin Franklin, Polymath (1706-1790)
Before recognizing the cascading mental impact of real poverty, I resisted my former girlfriend’s sudden soft-lobbed ultimatums to marry and decided it was too early to put her up as a beneficiary on the life insurance she asked for. After all, we had previously agreed to share some life experiences first. A sound strategy, considering the ink on my three weeks old divorce papers had barely dried.
Knowing her history now, I am no longer surprised she, in cold irreverence while lying about the need for more money, followed (later) by courthouse mule reframing of confounding consequence and cause, walked out amid the recovery from my fractured spine injuries from my recent mountain bike accident.
It became clear she yearned for an easy way out of her own stalemate, by pretending to care for our team. I believe in and have always supported a team that makes the team work. Until the opposite became apparent during the one and only serious accident I have ever had in my life, compounded by loyalty to the team she had tinkered with on too many occasions.
In our case, my empathy for her to escape from poverty should have been met by her empathy for my plight of changing the world for the better, sprinkled with warm love and devotion as currency. The kind of love this impoverished child was never shown or learned to give.
The onramp to money and status was all she ever cared about, a motivation I increasingly saw unfold and eventually, for my sanity, had to stop. I am not looking for another poster child without a poster.
Poverty Wreaks Havoc
The effects of poverty are reverberating anguish and desperation of gigantic proportion. The lack of a developed brain and the frantic escapism of childhood poverty lead to much of the dysfunction and ambiguity of relationships we see all around us.
Poverty, and the fear thereof, destroy the foundation of a healthy society for generations to come. The state of America’s mental health is directly related to the dysfunctional constructs that hold our population hostage.
The opportunities for humanity and the skills needed to adapt to nature’s entropy are diverse and broad, quite the opposite of how our oligarchies define human merit today. We must unleash ourselves from defunct manmade constructs to eliminate poverty and many other undesirable outcomes.
The Monster Within
My above-described personal brush with poverty broke my heart, for I loved the girl I saw in her that never materialized. A love not supported by her actions, but by what I saw in her. A girl who turned out too heavily stained by the “jungle of Allendale” from which she haphazardly portrayed to emerge mentally and emotionally, and I know now, without a dose of corrective psychology, never will.
Through this experience, I have met and learned to recognize the mental and emotional poverty derived from childhood poverty and neglect. Poverty, I increasingly identified as her having lived under a rock, that I, in love and full of foolish hope, attempted to reverse by stimulating her proximal development.
Boosted by the son’s proud yet misplaced declaration that his mother was untamable, the monster of fear, lies, failure, voodoo, desperation, and insecurity living inside the pretense of independence covered by skin-deep beauty, unfortunately, won again.
No self-respecting powerful genius will fall into that trap. Fake tits and money, was the prescient article I wrote ten years ago, as the unfortunate destiny of people who aim to take others for a glorious ride. I almost fell for it.
Change We Must
Confronted with and shocked by this saddening third-world experience of systemic poverty, stemming from defunct societal constructs we allow to fester, as I describe here by my personal experience empirically, affecting the mental health in various degrees of no less than two hundred million people in America, makes me want to explain how to reinvent the operating systems of humanity with even more vigor than before.