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Myths Of Rich And Poor: Why We're Better Off Than We Think Paperback – January 13, 2000
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Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Where the book is too breezy, in my opinion, is in its treatment of the policy implications of its statistics. Suppose we take it as proven, based on their data and analysis, that between 80 and 90 percent of the people below the poverty line are not truly poor, based on what they are able to consume. Two questions arise, which the book fails to answer.
1. To what extent have government programs, such as social security, food stamps, etc., enabled these people to escape true poverty? If government programs are what has alleviated poverty, then the official poverty line may still be a valid measure of the need for government assistance.
2. What sort of solution is there for hard-core poverty--the 2 to 4 percent of the population who are poor by any definition? How much of their poverty is amenable to economic solutions, and how much of it instead requires medical treatment--for mental illness, substance abuse, etc.?
While Cox and Alm help set the stage for more informed policy discussions, they do not really undertake those discussions.
The book compares material well-being and shows the profound improvement in American standards of living since 1970. It also tackles government reporting, showing how government staistics presents COSTS but fail to measure VALUE.
The book seeks to present data in new measurements, in terms of hours worked to purchase equivalents, etc.
It's very well done.
I would like to see an update to current times, taking into account the effects of massive government spending under Presidents Bush43 and Obama. When the government sucks so much money out of the economy and runs the printing press full tilt, it does have an impact on the economy. How much? When labor force participation rates drop and vast swaths of the citizenry become permanent wards of the state, it does have an impact on the economy. How much?
Those are the questions.