#176 The Definition of Poverty

#173 The Definition of Poverty | The Christian Economist

 The Biden administration is considering changing the definition of poverty to be a relative term related to the lower end of the income spectrum.  That would guarantee that “The poor will always be with you.” 

This is perhaps the most important statistic in Christian economics: In my lifetime, the share of the world’s poor has dropped from 44% to about 8%.  That’s just astounding.  In the book titled Progress by Johan Norberg, he writes it this way, “The great story of our era is that we are witnessing the greatest improvement in global living standards ever to take place.   Poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy, child labor, and infant mortality are falling faster than at any other time in human history.”


Things are TOO Good

As a matter of fact, things are SO good, the Biden administration is considering redefining poverty.  A recent article in the WSJ is titled Will Biden Cross a Line on Poverty?  The subtitle is “The Administration may attempt to expand the welfare state via a definitional trick.”  You see, to keep people dependent on the government, they have to continue to pay them.  As the poor get richer, they are less dependent on the government.  A Christian economist thinks that’s good.  The statists who now run the executive branch of the government see it as a threat. 

Quoting from the article, “The new poverty line would be significantly higher. It would also break with more than 50 years of precedent by establishing a relative standard. People could become better off and still be classified as “poor”; poverty would decline only if income at the bottom of the distribution increases more quickly than in the middle class.”  Well, the only time that has happened in recent history was during the Trump administration, when the economy was SO good, that the income of the poor increased faster than for the rich.  That’s really quite a trick, by the way, and that’s why the Black unemployment rate hit a record low during the Trump administration.  But the totalitarians can’t have that, because they lose power over the poor. 


The poor will always be with you.

My podcast #9 was titled The Poor Will NOT Always Be with You, and was chock full of data points, showing how the poor are getting richer.  There is a very good book by Jerry Bowyer titled The Maker Versus the Takers.  He explains that Jesus spoke those words, “The poor will always be with you,” because He knew that we lived in a fallen world, where we couldn’t adapt to God’s economic plan perfectly and that’s why we would always have the poor with us.  Here’s how he writes it, “IF Israel obeys, there will be no poor.  But because God knows they will not obey, He Predicts the poor will always be with them.” 

We care about the poor, not the DISTANCE between the rich and the poor.  That’s why almost all complaints about income inequality are violations of the tenth commandment against covetousness, as I pointed out in my podcast #17 titled Don’t Covet.  And, that’s why this relative measure of poverty the Biden administration is suggesting is so un-Biblical.  They’re actually proposing that the poor will ALWAYS be with us, because of the way they’re defining poverty!  You can watch these power-hungry bureaucrats for a long time and not find a more perfect example of non-Biblical economics.

If you look up the GDP per capita that is adjusted for Purchase Power Parity, you find that the Global average income is: $18,000.  So, if the Democrats are global socialists, they will actively redistribute every dollar above $18,000 from Americans to the poor around the world making less than $18,000.  The average in the US is just under $70,000.  That’s a lot of redistributing!  Let me repeat for clarity: That’s what a GLOBAL socialist would do.  But they’re not global socialists, they are national socialists, because they want to redistribute wealth only within the border of the United States.  There was a national socialist’s movement in Europe ninety years ago.  They went by the abbreviation Nazi.  Ok, this is one of the cases in which the Christian economist is simply the boy at the edge of the crowd shouting, “The emperor has no clothes.”  I’m not responsible for who feels naked as a result.


Karl Marx and the Devil

That’s the title of my podcast #106 where I use extensive quotes by David Jeremiah.  But there’s a book that puts the words in the opposite order, titled The Devil and Karl Marx, by Paul Kengor.  Here’s why the attempt to redefine poverty has its roots in Marxism.  Karl Marx saw the history of the world as class struggle.  He called for the proletariat to rise up and overthrow the bourgeois.  When they didn’t, his ideology needed some help, so Vladimir Lenin and the Marxist Bolsheviks had to take power by force.

It’s still true today.  In podcast #35 titled Black Lives Matter, I point out how that movement is rooted in Marxism, because it points out class division and calls for an overthrow.  Interesting that there was a headline just this week, explaining how the Black Lives Matter organization was bankrupt, after the founders bought expensive real estate in California. 

“What Kind of Poverty?” Might be a good question.  In the video documentary The Pursuit by Arthur Brooks, a coal miner in the hills of West Virginia stares into a camera and says, “No hope.  That’s real poverty.”  The coal miner is correct.  Christians have hope.  We believe in a God whose holy spirit guards and guides.  But if the term poverty is redefined as relative, there is no hope.  By definition, some percentage of the population will always be in poverty.  In my classroom at Dallas Baptist University, many times I have folded by arms and stated, “The intersection of Christianity and Economics is freedom.”  But, the proposed redefinition of poverty removes that freedom.  A stated percentage of the population will not have the freedom to escape poverty.


Redefining Everything

One of the Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky, is “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”  That is, while the radicals re-write their own rules, by changing the definitions of the terms of engagement.  

So, they’re considering redefining the word “poverty.”  I could provide many examples, but I’ll try to stay in the economic realm for today’s podcast.  How about the word “recession.”  In my classes at Dallas Baptist University, I use a textbook titled Macroeconomics by Gregory Mankiw.  He defines recession as two quarters of shrinking GDP.  President Biden has said many times in public speeches that the US was in a recession when he took office.  It was not.  He’s said since that we were not in a recession, when we had two consecutive quarters of shrinking GDP.  President Biden used these four exact words in a public address from the G7 meeting in Japan in late May, “I balanced the budget.”  The US Debt clock shows the Federal Government will have revenue of just over $4.7 trillion this year, and expenditures of just over $6.1 trillion.  The annual deficit, in the year President Biden claimed to balance the budget, will be $1.4 trillion.  Might as well throw out my dictionary – along with my paper copy of the Constitution, which is now ‘living.’ Everything means what they want it to mean.  It’s relativism on steroids.

The way out of poverty has not changed over time.  It’s basically a quality education and job opportunities. Add in work ethic. You live the way you work. If your work is poor or you don’t work, you will live poorly. If you work hard and your work product is good, you will live well.


Whose Job is it?

If you’ve followed my podcasts, this quote from my fellow Christian economist Art Lindsley should sound familiar.  He said, “The government should punish evil but not do good.  The church should do good but not punish evil.”  It’s quite clear that the Bible assigns the role of poverty alleviation to the church, not the state.  Abraham Kuyper called this Sphere Sovereignty, that I unpack in more detail in podcast #111 by the name President Biden’s Sphere Sovereignty.  Poverty alleviation was Biblically assigned to the church, not the state.  That’s because the Government has no money!  It must take before it can give, and there is no Biblical command to take.  The church however, can give without taking. 

Wouldn’t you prefer to live in a society with less taking?  The proposal to redefine poverty will mean MORE taking. 





Read Along with The #ChristianEconomist 


Follow The Christian Economist online: