Senator Bernie Sanders has been quite vocal about his views on poverty and the need to do more. However, his latest statements on the subject may be revealing of his fundamental lack of understanding of poverty, argue some.
The senator held a rally at Baltimore, his first visit in a few months, where he talked about the poverty in some parts of Baltimore and his plan to combat it.
Sanders says poverty is “death sentence”
Sanders in a passionate speech dubbed poverty a “death sentence”, while on the campaign trail in Baltimore. He said that the country needed to come together and invest in such communities, and help people find employment. He called what neighborhoods like Freddie Gray’s were going through, a “disaster”. Sanders had visited the poverty stricken neighborhood of Freddie Gray on his last visit. The African American man was killed in police custody and the city had witnesses rioting like never before in the aftermath.
He also highlighted the importance of, and his commitment to, curbing the very high crime rates in the city. He also said that he aimed at improving the state of education there. Until this point, there was nothing unusual about what he said. But then he went on to make comparisons between countries where people live below the poverty line in abject or absolute poverty. And that’s where the objections are coming from.
Relative poverty or absolute?
By comparing the poverty in some communities in Baltimore to the absolute poverty experienced by people living in Nigeria, The West Bank, India, China, South Africa, and North Korea, many believe Bernie has shown his limited understanding on the subject. Unlike absolute poverty which sees people unable to feed or clothe themselves, or afford a roof over their heads, relative poverty is more about inequality. These communities Sen. Sanders referenced are certainly no models of equality, and while its denizens may experience having less than society at large, they are not living in abject poverty.
While his remarks may have drawn widespread oppositioSanders in his speech tried to bring out the vast chasm divided the haves and have-nots in the country. The democrat socialist shared some shocking statistics that included a comparison of life expectancy in some neighborhoods of Baltimore with North Korea and the West Bank. North Korea had better numbers than 15 parts of Baltimore. He said that the city’s poorest neighborhood had a life expectancy that was a whole 20 years less than its wealthiest neighborhood. Infant mortality too was much higher in a couple of neighborhoods than even the ravaged West Bank of Palestine.