Rising Poverty, relative to what?

weneedfoodNew reports from the NAS poverty measure show that 1 in 6 Americans are living in poverty.  The news here is that the NAS figure increases the number of impoverished Americans by nearly 8 million over estimates that are based on the census bureaus index.  The NAS measure accounts for increased health, transportation, childcare, and regional costs of living that are not equally reflected in the census bureau index.

Odb_welfare The discrepancy  should raise the question of what qualifies as poor.  These unfortunate Americans have a great deal more access to standard human welfare than the 1 in 6 globally who are suffering in extreme poverty and benefit from important domestic safety net programs.  I do not wish to disrespect the difficulties faced by those suffering in relative poverty in the US, nor to suggest that our measures of poverty are inflated.  However if we are concerned to the point of action by their plight, should we not also take steps to address the crushing needs of the 1 billion living on less than 1.25$ a day.

NAS report on “Hidden Costs”

Coal smoke

The National Academy of Sciences released an extensive report today that estimates some of the externalities of energy production and consumption.  The report is limited to public health expenses incurred, leaving out costs related to ecosystem damages or climate change.  The unpaid costs for health related to energy were $120 billion.   The breakdown of sources is enlightening.  Coal powered electricity accounted for the biggest share followed by vehicles at $62 billion and $56 billion respectively.  The report also assigns 43% of coals $62 billion to about 40 of the dirtiest emitters.  The health costsfor coal equate to an unpaid cost of 3.2 cents/kwh.