The Heritage Foundation: Poor people today aren’t really poor enough

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Homeless man in Alaska

The U.S. Census reports that over thirty-million Americans live in poverty. Which sounds terrible, until you realize that poor people really aren't that poor — at least not according to Conservative think-tank The Heritage Foundation. A recently released study points out that poor people are really kind of rich — they even have fancy appliances like refrigerators and coffee-makers.

According to data presented, over 99% of poor families have refrigerators, a whopping 87% have microwaves, and nearly 70% have ceiling fans. The poor today "live a better life than all but the richest persons a hundred years ago." A stupid, but true fact, since zero percent of persons had microwaves in 1911.

The data are being used to claim that we should spend less money on things like food stamps and healthcare for low-income families — because they all have DVD players. There are a number of big problems with this argument: firstly, poverty in America is obviously still a huge deal. Nearly fifteen percent  of Americans still suffer food insecurity, and I don't need to quote a study to say that millions more are poorly nourished, and dying from the preventable diseases because of it.  

Moreover, it sounds like some Ayn Rand-style argument about how the poor should suffer for not making more money. Looked at from another perspective, shouldn't we be happy that being poor in this country doesn't mean dying of a preventable disease? I'd call that progress. The poor aren't starving to death, in large part, because of social services that we put in place a generation ago to help them. That's not a good reason to get rid of those social services — it's a good reason to increase them. 

Perhaps even sadder still, the wisest commentary on the subject comes from Stephen Colbert: