There are several ways to understand that poverty is expensive.
First poor people pay more for the things they buy or they find that cheap stuff is not good. The poor find it hard to pay for housing which leads to having a harder time saving money even by cooking. The poor have a hard time using a bank or even cashing a check without high fees.
Then there are the lower wage part-time jobs that some bosses make worse by urging people to work a few minutes or more or even over lunch for free.
A second way to look at the expense of poverty was highlighted by the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty. The amount spent on poverty reduction, $1t annually, is terrifically expensive. Most of that comes from 80 means-tested federal programs according to Heritage’s Steven Moore.
A trillion dollars is equal to each of 45m people having $22,222. Of course, money is not given to people, there is a vast government and private web of helpers who work hard to improve conditions for those in poverty. And they are paid well.
The third way, a way I think is better than the first two, is to count the cost of poverty in terms of wasted lives, wasted opportunity, and loss to our society.
If even 15m people went to work and earned $22,222 our GDP would thrive, tax revenues would rise and programs to help the poor would require dramatically less money.
There is dignity to work, satisfaction in working with others to meet a goal, and the pleasure of doing your job well and being paid for it. Millions are missing that opportunity and are living lives that tend toward mere passivity.
The high cost of poverty is essentially a human cost that is not limited to economic deprivation. The upside is that many who have little tend to be more spiritually rich than others though this idea is treated as a phony sop to keep people down.