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04 November 2011

Setting and Resetting Boundaries

The New York Times tried to summarize the changes to the way that the federal government is counting the poor. These changes, however, are still based--as far as I can tell--on an anachronistic threshold that does not accurately reflect how people spend their income. (For a good explanation, see this post over at Sociological Images.) Yes, controlling for things like cost of living and government benefits is a good thing, and we should absolutely continue to include these things in the measure, but the poverty line itself should be set much higher to reflect the lived reality of people today. Since most of the people whom these improved measures move out of poverty are moved not into affluence or even comfort but only into "near poverty," we can assume that a revised poverty threshold would return these people correctly back into the ranks of the impoverished.

I really can't let this go either:
According to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, poverty should evidently be defined by whether one owns an Xbox. This is absurd. People have made the same argument about cell phone ownership, forgetting that cell phones and their calling plans today can often be less expensive than landline service. Moreover, it's pretty extreme to argue that the poor are less deserving of recreation than those who are better off. Think tanks like the Heritage Foundation should not be trusted--and the New York Times should know better than to quote them uncritically. They freely admit to exist not to pursue truth per se but to pursue the truths that fit with their conservative, free market views.

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