I'm going to focus on poverty in the U.S., because, well, I can't begin to imagine what it looks like in other countries. Countries that might be considered "underdeveloped," "developing" or, God help them, "poor."
We don't eliminate poverty in the U.S. until these three things happen:
(1) People recognize the sources and cycles of poverty
(2) People who aren't suffering realize poverty is their problem, too
(3) The federal government grows a brain about realistic guidelines
Let's look at item #3 first.
Federal minimum wage
If you work 40 hours per week, 52.5 weeks per year, at minimum wage, right now you're pulling in $13,755 now, and you'll be pulling down $15,225 next year.
According to this year's
Let's assume that someone making minimum wage pays no taxes. None.
Let's take John McCain's word that $5,000 will cover your health insurance.
Let's say you pay $500 in rent.
Let's say you drive a used car that you're paying $150 a month for.
Let's say you fill your gas tank once a week for $25 per week, and you skimped on the auto insurance so you're paying $50 a month.
Let's figure your heat and stove are electric, so you're averaging about $50 in utility bills all year round.
Everybody get $15,300? Have you eaten yet? Put down a co-pay on a doctor's bill or a prescription? Bought any clothes?
OK, maybe the car is a luxury, so let's knock of the $3,000 in car-related expenses.
But let's add $40 a month in bus fare and $10 a week in cab fare, since you can't load all your groceries onto the bus.
OK, so now we're at $13,300 in expenses for one person – again, we haven't eaten yet, we haven't been to the doctor, and we're still naked (not to mention sleeping on the floor).
The federal government's poverty guidelines says one person needs to make $10,400 a year to live. We've just racked up nearly $3,000 more than that, and we haven't even done some basics.
And if you're a single parent raising a kid? Forget about it.
Yes, there are social programs available, but they're getting cut left and right, and things are going to continue that way.
Minimum wage jobs tend not to have paid sick days, personal days or vacation. So, people working them are putting excess stress on their immune systems and are encouraged not to have any sort of family life. And if you're not emotionally strong enough to handle that? Too bad.
So people working minimum wage jobs tend to have little job security, and they bounce from minimum wage job to minimum wage job.
They see others around them – friends, parents, neighbors – doing the same thing, and don't learn how to break out of that rhythm or cycle.
#2 is a big one, too. People who don't consider themselves victims of poverty, have to lose the "I'm doing OK, why can't they?" attitude.
Everything from accidents of birth to circumstance to bigotry helps to keep a cycle of poverty going, and if you can't see that, maybe you need to spend a week actually walking in someone else's shoes.
Walk 6 miles to work one day because you spent the $2 bus fair on a can of beans and a pound of rice so you could eat for three days. Heck, keep your other comforts and consume only a can of beans and a pound of rice for three days – drink only tap water, give up the morning coffee and forget happy hour.
Figure out how you'd live if had to choose between paying your electric bill and your doctor bill, and when you've made that choice understand that your resulting bad credit keeps you from getting a checking account, so you have to carry around whatever cash you earn. Do your best not to get robbed, when everyone else around you could really use a sandwich.
You might complain about your taxes taking away your ability to live comfortably, but without taxes, governments can't provide services. No services means more poverty, especially if we're not going to regulate the industries everyone needs – insurance, pharmaceutical, etc.
Poverty is everybody's problem – yours, mine, the CEO of your company's, and yes (as the general election approaches), government's as well.