How Republicans and the Non-Existent Poor Can Solve America’s Deficit with Used Appliances.

Posted in Uncategorized by 5thstate on July 30, 2011

How-Poor-are-America’s-Poor—Examining-the-Plague-of-Poverty-in-Americais the title of a “new reportfrom the Heritage Foundation in which “Senior Research Fellow” Robert Rector determines that the federal-government-defined “poor” aren’t actually “poor” at all due to their ownership of sundry appliances.

Of course the FOX Network simply had to help Rector deliver the good news that the poor aren’t actually poor, courtesy of Stuart Varney guest hosting on the July 19 edition of ‘Your’ World with Neil Cavuto. (transcript from Media Matters) 

STUART VARNEY: A new report showing poor families in the United States are not what they used to be. Now, many poor families have homes with cable TV, cell phones, computers, you name it — much, much, more. My next guest is digging up all of this stuff. Robert Rector is with the Heritage Foundation. Robert, I’m just going to give our viewers a quick run-through of what items poor families in America have.

Ninety-nine percent of them have a refrigerator. Eighty-one percent have a microwave. Seventy-eight percent have air conditioning. Sixty-three percent have cable TV. Fifty-four percent have cell phones. Forty-eight percent have a coffee maker — I’m not surprised, they’re only about 10 bucks. Thirty-eight percent have a computer. Thirty-two percent have more than two TVs. Twenty-five percent have a dishwasher.

This, Sir, Mr. Rector, is very different what it was just a few years ago, isn’t it?

ROBERT RECTOR: No, actually what you see is that the living standards of the poor have increased rather steadily for the last 30 years. And in fact, the poverty report has not accurately reflected their living conditions really for several decades.

Yeah…ummm… given that Varney introduced the piece by saying “… poor families in the United States are not what they used to be. Now, many poor families have homes with cable TV, cell phones, computers, you name it” I’m not sure why Rector then disagrees with Varney by saying “No” and then immediately re-iterates Vareny’s argument which happens to re-iterate the argument of Rector’s own report—-but, what-ever).

ROBERT RECTOR: “And in fact, the poverty report has not accurately reflected their living conditions really for several decades”.

So instead of poverty being defined in terms of income relative to the Cost Of Living Index, actual wages, savings, housing and health conditions and nutrition, the most meaningful measure of poverty should in fact be simply the possession of appliances—without, of course, providing any namby-pamby east-coast intellectual weighting of appliance ownership in terms of age, practicality and actual use.

VARNEY: “Now, I understand that today, the federal government says 14 percent of the population lives in poverty, and that’s roughly the same as it was back in 1966, before all the Great Society programs. But doesn’t that look [at] poverty as a financial, a monetary thing?”

RECTOR: “Yes, part of the reason that when you look at the actual living conditions of the 43 million people that the Census says are poor, you see that in fact, they have all these modern conveniences.”

Because modern-conveniences (whether new or old, affordable to operate and maintain or not) surely represent the totality of “actual living conditions”.

RECTOR: “If you ask them, did your family have enough food to eat at all times during the last year, the overwhelming majority will say yes.”

Yeah…ummm….the reason why the poor might have had enough to eat in 2010 would be because they qualified for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or “SNAP” (more commonly known as “Food Stamps), because they didn’t have the income to properly feed their families (i.e. they were poor) not because they had “modern conveniences”—appliances simply aren’t “good eating”.

RECTOR: “If you ask them were you able to meet any medical needs you may have had, they will say yes.”

Because the poor are all fit and healthy from not being forced to eat caviar and foie-gras, and because when they are asked by a Heritage Foundation Right-Wing Welfare-Queen if they’ve been able to get their scurvy and mange attended-to they aren’t about to burden the man in the suit from Washington with their tragic stories of restless leg syndrome because really it’s nothing that an appliance can’t fix and after all why upset the nice man pretend-inquiring in his imagination after their health? After all, what’s that old aphorism—“At least I’ve got my appliances”?

RECTOR: “The typical poor family in the United States lives in a house or an apartment and actually has more living space than the average European. Not a poor European, but the average Frenchman or the average German.”

And the average Manhattan apartment is about the size of a trailer home which is where the actually rich American poor keep their appliances so that they can be eaten by tornadoes. But if you call now and sponsor a poor Manhattanite with just one appliance a month, you’ll be giving them not just the gift of hope, but the gift of poverty-eliminating appliances and the chance to live a non-European-style life!

RECTOR: “So, in fact, there really isn’t any connection between the government’s identification of poor people and the actual living standards and the typical American — when an American hears the word “poverty,” he’s thinking about somebody that doesn’t have enough food to eat, someone that’s possibly homeless. It’s not true.”

Ummm… what’s not true? That an American thinks a starving homeless person isn’t poor? Oh—I see…Rector means that “the government’s identification of poor people” isn’t “true”. An actually poor person should be begging for food, homeless, and, let’s not forget, appliance-less.

Alright, enough with the sarcastic deconstructions; it’s time to seriously examine Rector’s (and Varney’s) plague of lies and sociopathic bullshit.

First of all this “new report” (as Varney describes it and to which he refers) has no academic authority beyond the Heritage Foundation. Secondly the “new report” in fact dates from 2007, relies on data from 2005 and furthermore merely reiterates the “poor aren’t poor because of appliances theme contained in yet another dishonest and intellectually retarded social agenda-driven piece of drivel that Rector published twenty-one years ago!.

Here’s an excerpt from that 1990 polemic titled, simply, How Poor are America’s Poor?

Today, officially “poor” households are more likely to own common consumer durables such as televisions and refrigerators than the average family in the 1950s. In 1930, nearly two-thirds of U.S. households did not own a radio; over half had no form of refrigeration. Among the poor today, less than one percent lack a refrigerator.

Seventeen percent of U.S. households in “poverty” have automatic dishwashers, well above the rate for the general West European population in 1980. Among America’s “poor” there are 344 cars per 1,000 persons. This is roughly the same ratio as exists for the total population of the United Kingdom. A poor American is 40 percent more likely to own a car than the average Japanese; 30 times more likely than the average Pole; and 50 times more likely than the average Mexican.”

Of course in 1990 Rector had to ignore pertinent facts in order to imply that the American poor were not actually poor by comparing them to nations where the smaller populations provide lower economics of scale that made cars and gasoline (all of it imported and highly taxed) more expensive than in the US, and where population densities and extensive public transportation made car ownership less of a necessity, to dishonestly and ignorantly support his fatuous argument—and in 2007 and now in 2011.

On the Cavuto show, Rector declares: “And in fact, the poverty report has not accurately reflected their living conditions really for several decades” to which Varney responds, “Robert, I’m just going to give our viewers a quick run-through of what items poor families in America have”, and then proceeds to rattle off statistics about appliance ownership by the government-defined “poor”.

The impression is easily gained from Rector and Varney that they are referencing the same “report”. In fact Varney actually read from an excerpt from a 2005 Department of Energy report on appliance ownership amongst the poor— as identified by means other than appliance ownership—that was tabulated to determine their likely energy consumption in order to determine what level of financial assistance they might need during periods of high energy prices.

(That discrepancy may appear minor, in the context of one short exchange and it might be construed as a ‘mistake’ but it is demonstrably a pathological characteristic of FOX ‘talent’, Heritage Foundation minions and the vast majority of conservatives that due diligence, facts and intellectual honesty have to ignored in order to make their specious arguments appear plausible and rational—every single page of the Media Matters and Think Progress web-sites to name but two sources provide hundreds of examples, of calculated misrepresentation and outright lying by FOX, practically every right-wing “think tank” that there is, and by Republicans).

The “poverty report” that Rector criticizes as ‘not accurately reflecting living conditions’, is produced every year by the US Census Bureau (here’s the 2010 Poverty Report). The term “poor” (and thus poverty) is basically determined according to income relative to the Consumer Price Index which is determined by the Bureau of Labor as “a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services.”

Obviously if the cost of basic/essential goods and services increases whilst income remains the same the citizen becomes relatively poorer and when the cost of fundamental goods and services in total exceeds the citizen’s ability to pay for them, then that citizen may be designated as being officially “poor”.

Here’s an example provided by the Census Bureau where the Poverty Threshold for a family of five (with two children) for 2009 was $26,245:

Family Member                                                    Income

Mother                                                                  $ 10,000

Father                                                                    $   7,000

Great-aunt                                                             $ 10,000

First Child                                                              $           0

Second Child                                                         $           0

Total Family Annual Income:                              $ $27,000

Clearly this sample family isn’t rich, but it isn’t officially “poor” as its income exceeds the Poverty Threshold by $755. (The 2009 Poverty Threshold level for two adults under the age of 65 with two children was $21,756; for a single adult under 65, $11,161).

Even if this sample family wholly-owned its home, that $27,000 a year divided amongst five people equals $5,400 each per annum, or $14.75 per person per day which as to be apportioned between house maintenance, property taxes, utilities, general cleaning and personal hygiene products, food, clothing, at least one phone (a necessity), school supplies for the children, and health care supplies and services. If the family owns a car—a necessity for most Americans—it must pay for gas, insurance and maintenance (and license and registration renewal).

Those ordinary and persistent expenses are irrelevant according to Robert Rector—he insists that the real measure of poverty is appliance ownership–not appliance function or actual use, not the age or efficiency of appliances, not the necessity of certain appliances or their cost of their maintenance or energy, but simply the mere existence of appliances in the household

Let me also point out that Varney is quoting statistics from 2005—back when Food Stamp enrollment (a common and rational measure of actual poverty) had hit 25.7 million. Now in 2011 that enrollment is at 40 million. I am one of those 40 million food stamp recipients because all my savings have gone and I don’t have a job.

Some Standard Economic Indicators of Real US Poverty

Last year I sold my microwave. I sold my air-conditioner (which I only ran when the temps got above 90F). I cancelled my basic cable TV+ Internet. No-one wanted to buy my 10-year old television but I was able to sell my 8-year old computer. I cancelled my land-line phone two years ago and THEN I had to cancel my basic cell-phone service last year. I’ve never owned a dishwasher.

BUT I CAN”T BE POOR, according to Rector and Varney because I still own a refrigerator (8 years old) a 6-year old computer, a 10-year old television, a 5 year old electric kettle, a 4 year old portable hard drive, a 4-year old portable DVD-Burner, a toaster and a digital watch. Only when I’ve eaten my appliances and I’m wandering the streets covered in filth and gesticulating to my distended belly will Varney and Rector be satisfied that I am actually poor due to my utter lack of appliance-ownership—whereupon no doubt they will then tell me to stop being so ungrateful because I’m still living on appliance-like concrete pavements and can dumpster dive at McDonalds, unlike the “real poor” who have live in dirt and eat grass in some country somewhere that the US isn’t interested in helping because the US itself is poor on account of the OMG DEBT-CEILING! (thanks to Jason Linkins for the phraseology).

And of course this little dog and pony rhetorical magic show of Rector isn’t just some arbitrary air-time-filling tat that Varney just stumbled upon whilst Neil Cavuto was away getting his hair re-calibrated (or whatever he does with it to make it look like that); it is just part of the old Reagan Cadillac–driving welfare-queen trope being presented a-new out of the urgent political necessity to pretend that Republican politics and ‘slash-and spend’ policies haven’t actually driven the government to the brink of bankruptcy and millions of its citizens (including Republican voters) into real and record poverty, as the Republican-controlled House attempts to complete the unfinished business of definitively sacrificing ‘socialist’ anti-poverty programs on the altar of right-wing libertarian dogma in Washington, just as newly elected Teabagger state governors are dismantling local social safety nets whilst they have the rapidly diminishing opportunity to do so as their constituents increasingly revolt against their policies.

Here’s Polkbody-award winning culture-warrior and ‘little-guy champion’ Bill O’Reilly discussing appliance ownership wealth and the so-called poor with fellow multiple-TV owning person Lou Dobbs:

O’REILLY: “The Census Bureau reports that 43 million Americans are currently living in poverty. The bureau defines poverty as a family of four earning less than $22,000 a year. But the conservative Heritage Foundation says that many poor American families have lots of stuff. Here now to analyze, Fox Business anchor Lou Dobbs”.


O’REILLY: Eight-two percent have a microwave. This is 82 percent of American poor families. Seventy-eight percent have air conditioning. More than one television, 65 percent. Cable or satellite TV, 64 percent —thank God.

DOBBS: Amen, brother.

O’REILLY: Cell phones, 55 percent. Personal computer, 39 percent. And as we said, that’s a 6-year-old consumption survey, so these numbers are way up. So how can you be so poor and have all this stuff?

(Yeah; the poor only get appliance- richer, just like house-prices always go up!)

And here’s Dubya’s cheer-liar Dana Perino on Fox’s Glenn Beck Show replacement, ‘The Five, a week later where the subject was ostensibly about health care but which quickly transmogrified into a snide critique of the definition of the poor and their imagined self-impoverishment through wasteful irresponsible spending habits:

“[What if] we should give free birth control to people. That women wouldn’t have to pay co-pays when they go to the doctors. I might be for that, if I didn’t see a lot of people out there able to buy a new pair of shoes. We have to be able to make some choices here“, setting up Greg Gutfield to bizarrely ’joke’ that “the left has figured out a way to eradicate the poor by eradicating the poor“, after which a little later Perino illogically and ignorantly opined “if you can afford a $5 Frappacino at Starbucks you can afford your $5 co-pay.” ( Note: Would it not then also follow that if you can afford to keep giving tax breaks to the already wealthy then you can also afford to maintain anti–poverty programs? )

Of course since Obama’s election Republicans have been constantly (and falsely, naturally) complaining that his economic policies have been bankrupting America and impoverishing its citizens, yet now they are claiming that there aren’t as many poor as the Obama-led government claims,-because appliance-ownership equals wealth! It then follows that that poverty programs can be eliminated because there are suddenly no more people.

I’m actually surprised this appliance-wealth trope hasn’t received more exposure than it’s been given so-far. Not only could the GOP score massive political points for 2012 by announcing they’ve actually reduced poverty in America enough to drown the remaining poor in a bathtub (to borrow from Grover Norquist), but they could also solve the teabagger-manufactured national deficit crisis by paying off the Chinese with the appliance-wealth that the so-called poor obviously don’t deserve!


26 Responses

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  1. Zooey said, on July 30, 2011 at 11:12 PM

    Another excellent and in-depth analysis of idiot America, with a heaping helping of British sarcasm, by 5thState.

    Well done!

    • cryptoclearance said, on July 31, 2011 at 1:41 AM

      I concur with Zooey. Great reading.

  2. 5thstate said, on July 30, 2011 at 11:19 PM

    It’s what I do; it’s who I am and I make no apologies for it —unless you give me a Chinese burn or an atomic wedgie, in which case I’ll fold like a liquorice deckchair and give you all my lunch money. .

    • Zooey said, on July 31, 2011 at 1:14 AM

      You don’t have to go through all that…I’ll just take the lunch money. 😉

  3. spencersmom said, on July 31, 2011 at 12:09 AM

    Great post, 5th! I truly believe that the far right extremists won’t be satisfied until America reopens Debtors’ Prisons and the Job Creators have a new pool of slave labor.

    I had an interesting thought the other day relating to America’s Welfare States vs. Donor States (receiving back more in Fed money than paid in Fed taxes) and how it relates to when the state abolished slavery. It’s interesting because, by and large, the Union states are Donor States, and many ended slavery decades before the Civil War while, in general, the states that fought hardest to maintain ownership of their free work force are largely Welfare States. In essence, the Red Welfare States have “enslaved” the Blue States to subsidize them.

    Just thought it might be an interesting topic for someone with your gifts of great writing and research!

  4. 5thstate said, on July 31, 2011 at 1:10 AM


    That is an interesting perspective.

    Of course the Union states were more enlightened about racial equality in principle rather than in contemporary practice—the black elements of the Union Army were still segregated and their acceptance and formation in the Union Army was a matter of ‘material’ and political expediency at the time—but the most significant aspect of the difference between the Union and Confederate sensibilities was not that the northern Union whites suddenly felt that blacks were their social equals, but that there was an acknowledgement that they weren’t in-human and alien motile property, that they actually had some basic undeniable humanity.

    In independently studying history and politics as I have been able, i have noticed that dramatic social change most frequently begins with a privileged intellectual class that develops a philosophical argument for change which takes many years to press upon the entrenched authority and also the general public until a general opinion in favor of change is developed whereby the former status-quo becomes politically and thus economically untenable–the issue of slavery regarding the US and UK provides.a classic example:

    It took Wilberforce 35 years of persistent moral campaigning to persuade the British Parliament to abolish slavery in the still expanding British Empire, but it took years more and a specific policy executed by the British Navy in particular under government instruction practically eliminate it in the British Empire which was only possible in part because America’s hard-fought independence from Britain wrested a great deal of control of the transatlantic slave trade from Westminster and thus made it less directly profitable.

    For the southern US, however, the geographically imprisoned slave population’s natural fecundity provided a renewable and highly economic self-sustaining resource that required little maintenance and bureaucracy and thus offered both significant short term and long term profits for as long as it could be sustained. Thus whilst Britain abolished slavery in 1830 ( if memory serves?) by peacefully passing a law, the US had to go through an extremely bloody civil war to accomplish ostensibly the same result 35 years later.

    Arguably one reason for the present preponderance of former US slave states as former Union state welfare recipients is because they failed to acknowledge the economic potential that the free, instead f enslaved, worker offers and thus the old slave states have remained less economically developed because of their entrenched bigotry.

  5. Ebb said, on July 31, 2011 at 2:11 AM


    We must remind the likes of Varney that the iceman no longer cometh to the door! Appliances have been around a long, long time – are an integral part of life and no longer considered ‘luxuries’.

    “With a General Electric Refrigerator, many of your family food problems and your perplexities about entertaining can easily be solved.

    To many people electric refrigeration is still such a novelty that they scarcely realize the range of its possibilities. It is almost like having an Aladdin’s lamp and not knowing the right way to rub it.

    The refrigerator itself requires no attention, not even oiling, and is surprisingly easy to keep clean.

    The owning of such a refrigerator is a form of health and happiness insurance which every homemaker in America should have the privilege of enjoying.”

    “According to the United States Department of Agriculture, nature can furnish you with adequate refrigeration only a few days during the year. To keep milk, butter and other foods palatable and in a safe condition refrigeration is necessary in both summer and winter.”

    [from “Electric Refrigerator Recipes and Menus Specially Prepared for the General Electric Refrigerator’
    Copyright 1927]

    • 5thstate said, on July 31, 2011 at 9:34 AM

      Very nice Ebb.

      “The owning of such a refrigerator is a form of health and happiness insurance which every homemaker in America should have the privilege of enjoying.”

      Although my parents house was so new that it was still being built when I was born at home in 1960, we didn’t have a refrigerator for many years. What we did have was a what we called “the Ferranti” which was a rather mysterious box that chilled the air in the kitchen pantry and could make ice cubes in mere hours,
      Of course being in England hot weather was very rare (not so now) and we really didn’t need a real refrigerator: Milk was delivered every day and the Ferranti was good enough to keep dairy and eggs cool eggs We shopped locally every other day for food and could get our fruit and veg and eggs direct from a farm—but in that we were most fortunate. Every week a fish truck would appear on our street, the fish being that early morning’s catch, driven down from London so the fish was only a few hours old and of course was on ice.

      When we finally did get a fridge it was a boon, not because we really needed it like I said, but because it meant mum didn’t have to spend so much time shopping, so she was able to get a full time job. The fridge was thus important not for our nutritional well being, but our family finances.

  6. […] How Republicans and the Non-Existent Poor Can Solve America’s Deficit with Used Appliances. « 5th…. Share this:EmailFacebookTwitterRedditDiggLinkedInMoreStumbleUponLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]

    • 5thstate said, on August 19, 2011 at 8:32 PM

      I’m flattered, TRUTH4USA.

      I just subscribed to your blog. Good wide, smart sources of info and opinion there.

  7. JR said, on September 3, 2011 at 1:40 PM

    The major decline and crushing deficit of the United States since the year 2000,began with the election of the Bush and Cheney regime. From the World Trade Center to neighborhood housing,our country was torpedoed in every place that could inflict the most possible damage. The oil companies and defense contractors directly connected to the Bushes and Dick Cheney made out like bandits. It is a bit curious how the Bush family helped finance the rise of Hitler’s regime,through the banking business. It is curious that they were directly connected and profited from the saving and loan collapse of the 1980s. It is curious that they were business partners with the Bin Ladens for decades. Under the Bush regime,our country gained about forty million,mostly from across it’s southern border-illegal immigrants. Was it because they were all about national security? The rise in abject poverty is astronomical. Millions of Americans who used to make forty thousand a year,cannot find any job and do not even have the funds to buy food.

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