Comfortably Poor

IN THE wake of the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual report on America’s poverty levels released this year, some interesting topics for debate arose.

The Heritage Foundation – a conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C. – made some interesting observations about the report, which revealed that a record 46.2 million Americans lived in poverty last year.

There appears to be a widening gap in the public’s concept of poverty and “poverty” as it is defined by the U.S. Census Bureau.

In fact, 80 percent of “poor” households in the United States have air conditioning, Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation observed, noting that by contrast, in 1970 only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning. A full 92 percent of poor households have a microwave. Two-thirds of the poor have at least one DVD player. Nearly 75 percent have a car or truck, and 31 percent of the nation’s poor households have two or more cars or trucks.

Four out of five poor adults assert they never went hungry at any time in the prior year because of a lack of money for food.

Nearly two thirds of the nation’s poor have cable or satellite television. Half have a personal computer and just under half have Internet access of some kind. More than half of poor families with children have video game systems such as Xbox or PlayStation.

The recent recession greatly increased the number of poor people in America, but for two decades, the U.S. Census has continued to paint a picture that poverty in America is increasing.

There are people living in poverty in America and in our local communities. However, when the government sees that one out of every American citizen lives in poverty – according to this data – efforts to address this problem are obviously skewed off base. Rector argues that the government’s obscure view of people living in poverty creates a disservice to the people who are truly in need.

When the economy goes south, critics often put a partisan blame on the government and political leaders at the helm, accusing them of destroying America’s middle class. Yet in light of those citizens who appear to be living fairly comfortably in “poverty” – according to the data and demographics – the middle class must be doing very well nowadays.