John Adams (among others) is often credited with observing that one must be a soldier so that his son may be a farmer so that his grandson may be a poet. Put another way: We must fight for our freedom that we may tend to our families and, one day, have the peace to study the more esoteric things in Life.
In a way, the Soldier/Farmer/Poet analogy hints at the story of America, and of virtually every nation-state that has ever existed or will ever exist. It also serves as a cautionary tale; a parable about the costs of comfort, and complacency, and the avoidance of the sometimes nasty and brutish things that are often required to maintain a free and prosperous state. But perhaps more importantly, it shines a light on the many advances we have made, the problems we have faced, and the issues we have overcome.
While some “Big Ticket” problems remain – here I speak primarily of War and other global resource-related matters for which there may not be any solutions – a great many of the so-called “hot-button” issues have not only been addressed, they have been all but obliterated. The problem is, the average social media peruser remains entirely ignorant of the progress that has been made and, as always, there are those who find it profitable to stir debate (and threaten friendships) over that which, frankly, is as stale as yesterday’s croissant.
Below are some examples of the various Media narratives about the “Big Problems” we face today and the facts surrounding them. Perhaps we can all step back from the precipice, take a deep breath, and appreciate for just one moment how good we really have it.
THE WAR ON POVERTY
The Media Narrative: There are specific persons or groups of people who are living in poverty, who will remain in poverty their entire lives, and who desperately need our help to escape a life of grinding poverty. This naturally requires countless welfare and other entitlement programs, bureaucracies to run them, and innumerable taxes to support the whole thing.
The Math: Yes, poverty exists, and there will always be a certain percentage of us who will live in poverty for at least some part of our lives, but for the vast majority of us poverty is neither a catastrophic nor a permanent condition. According to a U.S. Census Bureau report on poverty, 29% of the population lived in poverty between 2004 and 2006, but only 3% were poor during the entire two-year period. Writing in Spiked Review, Johan Norberg reports that almost 200 years ago, 94 percent of the global population (~1B people) faced the risk of living in poverty. Today, only about 10% of the population face the same risk (and we’ve added ~6B people).
The Real Question: If lowering the total number of people living in poverty, at any given time and for any amount of time, is best achieved through free-market Capitalism, what is the chief goal of politicians who push Socialist policies that keep as many as possible relying on government handouts?
The Media Narrative: Americans are starving! We’ve got to do something! The USDA defines food insecurity as a state in which “consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.” Good shorthand terms for food insecurity are “struggling to avoid hunger,” “hungry, or at risk of hunger,” and “hungry, or faced by the threat of hunger.” Feeding America says “1 in 7 Americans struggles to get enough to eat.”
The Math: The USDA survey does not support the idea that Americans are starving, or even that they do not get enough to eat. There does not appear to be any known cases of people starving to death in America, only struggles to avoid hunger and a risk of being hungry “at times.”
The Real Question: Where does the idea that people are starving come from, and why?
The Media Narrative: There are people living in the streets and we must do everything we possibly can to find every one of them a home.
The Math: In January 2015, 564,708 people were homeless on any given night in the United States. Almost 565,000 is a lot of people, until you consider that there are 323.1 million people in the United States, meaning that just .17% of all Americans are homeless.
The Real Question: At what point do we acknowledge that a problem has been solved? Apparently that point is somewhere above a 99.83% success rate.
GUNS SHOULD BE OUTLAWED
The Media Narrative: All guns should be outlawed. Guns kill people and therefore it should be illegal for anyone to own one.
According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, “In 2010, guns took the lives of 31,076 Americans in homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings. This is the equivalent of more than 85 deaths each day and more than three deaths each hour.” Such statistics paint a grim picture – until they are put in perspective, and in the proper context.
Since 606 of these deaths were unintentional fatalities (otherwise known as “accidents”), and there was no malicious intent to harm another person, let’s take them out of the equation. Suicides – the 10th leading cause of all deaths – should also be removed, as the only victims were those who inflicted harm upon themselves. In 2010, there were 19,392 suicides committed by firearm. (In contrast, that same year almost 19,000 people committed suicide by means other than a firearm.) That leaves 11,078 homicides committed using a firearm.
The Math: In 2010 the population was 309.3 million and there were 11,078 murders committed with a firearm, meaning that .0036% of the population died as a result of intentional and deliberate murder by firearm.
The Real Question: Do anti-gunners suffer from an irrational fear of guns, or is it that they understand that they can never fully attain absolute, unconditional control of the populace without first disarming them?
A LIVING WAGE
The Media Narrative: The place to start isn’t with higher education, apprenticeships, or trade or vocational schools; it’s with a higher minimum (or “living”) wage.
The Math: There is a persistent myth that a huge number of families are scraping by on minimum-wage jobs, but according to statistics from the Bureau of Labor this simply isn’t true: In 2013, less than 5% of workers paid by the hour were earning less than minimum wage.
The Real Question: Minimum Wage was never meant to be a “living wage.” Minimum wages are paid for minimal skills, and minimum wage jobs are generally the first step on the economic ladder. Basic economic theory holds that if a business is facing higher labor costs it must either eat those costs, pass them on by raising their prices, go out of business, or reduce the number of people in their employ. Which option do you suppose most business owners are going to choose, every single time?
THE POLICE ARE RACIST
The Media Narrative: All Police Officers are Racist. It doesn’t matter whether the victim was threatening the police officer or not, was a career criminal or not, or was guilty or not, if he or she is black and was shot by a white cop then it is labeled as a racist act and riots, looting, and violent, murderous attacks on police are rationalized and condoned.
The Math: 2009 statistics from the Bureau of Justice Statistics reveal that blacks were charged with 62 percent of robberies, 57 percent of murders and 45 percent of assaults in the 75 biggest counties in the country, despite only comprising roughly 15 percent of the population in those counties. “Such a concentration of criminal violence in minority communities means that officers will be disproportionately confronting armed and often resisting suspects in those communities, raising officers’ own risk of using lethal force,” wrote researcher Heather MacDonald in a Wall Street Journal column. Even so, a police officer (of any color) is 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black person than a cop killing an unarmed black person.
The Real Question: In light of the dangers involved in policing these communities, have police in fact reduced patrols in these areas? And if so, is this a legitimate response?
HEALTHCARE IS A FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHT
The Media Narrative: Too many Americans have no health insurance! This was the Talking Point as the Democrats tried to engineer a national healthcare emergency (and yet another vote-getting scheme cleverly disguised as an unfunded, unconstitutional entitlement).
30 million uninsured was the number often thrown around. OK: Of the 30 million uninsured, how many were young/healthy people making a conscious decision to not purchase healthcare insurance in order to afford a nicer car or a better apartment? How many were older or wealthier Americans who paid cash or had private insurance? How many were illegal immigrants (in 2012, it was estimated that there were 11.4 million illegals in the U.S.) who were not entitled to free healthcare in the first place, but were receiving it, anyway?
The Math: If 30 million were uninsured, then less than 10% of those living in America were not buying healthcare.
The Real Question: Among those who had no health insurance, how many were denied medical attention when they truly needed it? A better question: Why did the Media call it healthcare reform when it was, in reality, an unabashed (Socialist) wealth transfer?
Do we have problems? Absolutely. One of them is not putting our problems into proper perspective.