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The Left Misses the Point on Poverty in America

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Old 07.26.11, 11:08 AM
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The Left Misses the Point on Poverty in America

On 07.26.11 06:50 AM posted by Mike Brownfield

It turns out that if you question how the U.S. government defines poverty in America, the left doesn’t like it.

Last week, Heritage’s*Robert Rector and*Rachel Sheffield released*a new report showing that according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, those defined as “poor” enjoy amenities you might not expect–air conditioning, cable TV, and Xbox*game systems, among them.

Though to most people, “poverty” implies material deprivation (meaning that people are homeless, hungry, or otherwise have a destitute standard of living), Rector says the reality is that the average poor American*has a home that’s in good repair, isn’t overcrowded, and is larger than the average European’s living space. The average poor family isn’t hungry, either, Rector writes:*”The average intake of protein, vitamins, and minerals by poor children is indistinguishable from children in the upper middle class, and, in most cases, is well above recommended norms.”

But that news hasn’t been received well among the left, who used the analysis to attack conservatives, falling back on their boilerplate argument that those on the right just don’t care about the have-nots. And they also ignore Rector and Sheffield’s main point: that the poor aren’t as poor as people think, and that exaggerating their living conditions doesn’t make for sound policy. In the above video, Fox News contributor Bob Beckel exclaims:
“What is this? Picking on poor people day? They’ve got TVs. What’s the big deal? What do you want them to do? Not have TVs? . . . What happened to humanity? Where is your decency?”

And at the The Daily Kos, one liberal blogger stripped Rector and Sheffield’s analysis of all its insight, portraying it as a clarion call against helping the poor. But taking an honest look at how the poor are portrayed and what the statistics say about the reality of their lifestyle*isn’t “picking on poor people.” It’s a matter of acknowledging the truth instead of distorting reality to achieve public policy goals.

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