June 15, 2004

The Cure For Poverty

I have believed, since I first entered the workforce and was living pretty nearly hand to mouth, that the only cure for poverty is wealth. Giving money to people like the middle aged man I had to supervise when I was 22, who proclaimed that his motto was "The least G-ddamn work for the most G-ddamn money" and was sweeping a warehouse for just above minimum wage would at best treat the symptoms of poverty. Only in an economy so booming that only people like him are left to hire could enable him not to be impoverished.

I recently became involved in a debate wherein it was pointed out that the United States has an annual "trade deficit" with China of $124 Billion. After thinking about this for a while, I realised that what this actually means is that the U.S. economy produces so much wealth, is such a great engine of wealth creation, that we can have that much money come back from China as merchandise rather than reciprocal trade, to the benefit (on average; the greater good for the greater number) of the American consumer. It is not that different from saying that I am not suffering from a trade deficit of $4000 a year at the grocery if I can afford to buy the food I prefer for my household.

Further evidence of the U.S. economy's ability to create wealth is the news that "The US had the largest gain in the number of millionaires of any country." I have no doubt that the money flow which results from this wealth creation means an upturn in day labor opportunity for the current crop of skid row stumblebums.

Note that I have nothing against day labor. I worked that way myself for a time in my younger days, when I got laid off just a few weeks before I was to begin the trade school program which was my first major step up in the world. It's just that the people I sat alongside of in the hiring hall tended to be more like the man I heard say "If they don't call me for something I feel like doing I can always roll a drunk in the alley" than like myself.

Posted by triticale at June 15, 2004 08:40 PM

Hey, what's wrong with rolling the drunk guy in the alley?

Posted by: Jimmy at June 15, 2004 10:56 PM

Good point on the trade deficit. Come to think of it, I have a trade deficit with my grocery store, too. Luckily the trade surplus with my employer is greater.

Posted by: Les Jones at June 16, 2004 09:29 AM

Rolling the drunk guy in the alley only generates a transfer payment, it does not create wealth. I added value to all those 50 lb. sacks of oil absorbant which were slip loaded into the semi trailer onto pallets. I added value to that rundown building by shoveling all the mildewed newspaper out of the basement, and I still get value from some of the glassware I found in there and was allowed to bring home.

I did not originate the notion that trade deficit is simply the equivalent of personal spending. All I added was the insight that we are able to spend that much money because of the wealth our economy creates.

Posted by: triticale at June 16, 2004 08:14 PM

Ooops. I added value to those sacks of absorbant by shifting them onto pallets. Believe me, it was hard work. We stacked them shoulder high, and it was 94 degrees F outside the trailer.

Posted by: triticale at June 16, 2004 08:21 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?