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you better not be going home to an air conditioned squatters' camp, man.Over 40 million Americans live below the federal poverty line, defined in 2011 as $22,058 a year for a family of four, which is sort of an embarrassingly large percentage of dirty hobo children to have running around in God’s favorite country. How do we fix that, besides editing the numbers on the Wikipedia page? Right-wing think tank the Heritage Foundation has this idea, because they have been noticing lately that lots of “supposedly poor people” out there also still have cheap television sets and refrigerators full of frozen chicken nuggets, which means they are not starving to death. Hey, that doesn’t actually sound so poor?

Poor people occasionally still have a few things left to them as a result of the last six decades of relentless corporate marketing designed to push cheap consumer appliances and electronics into every corner of American life, things which many people purchased with credit, i.e. fake money that ironically also helped make them poor. But strangely, those non-biodegradable objects are still hanging around even since the jobs, income, savings, food security and education have all disappeared. So what if we just started counting everyone who has any of these leftover plastic waste products as “not poor?” POLICY GENIUS.

From the Heritage Foundation paper “Conclusion”:

In 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau declared that one in seven Americans lived “in poverty.” Catholic Charities has declared, “The existence of such widespread poverty amidst such enormous wealth is a moral and social wound in the soul of the country.”

To the average American, the word “poverty” implies significant material deprivation, an inability to provide a family with adequate nutritious food, reasonable shelter, and clothing. Activists reinforce this view, declaring that being poor in the U.S. means being “unable to obtain the basic material necessities of life.” The news media amplify this idea: Most news stories on poverty feature homeless families, people living in crumbling shacks, or lines of the downtrodden eating in soup kitchens.

The actual living conditions of America’s poor are far different from these images. In 2005, the typical household defined as poor by the government had a car and air conditioning. For entertainment, the household had two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR. If there were children, especially boys, in the home, the family had a game system, such as an Xbox or PlayStation. In the kitchen, the household had a refrigerator, an oven and stove, and a microwave. Other household conveniences included a clothes washer, a clothes dryer, ceiling fans, a cordless phone, and a coffee maker.

The main complaint of this paper seems to be that “government assistance is allowing most poor people to eat food enough times a day that they can avoid selling their $15 Wal-Mart DVD players.” Which, like that will ever happen.  [Heritage Foundation]

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