A Losing Battle

On the same day that Paul Krugman wrote a forceful column defending census data and attacking the liars and hacks who pump disinformation into our public discourse on the subject of income inequality, the very same New York Times publishes this bilge:

While most scholars have called the fuller measure a step forward, Robert Rector, an analyst at the Heritage Foundation, argues that both census counts — old and new — sharply overstate the amount of deprivation in the United States. In a recent study, he cited government data showing many poor families had game systems like Xbox.

“When the American public hears the word poverty, they are thinking about material hardship — bad housing, homelessness and hunger,” he said. “Most of the people that are defined as poor by the government are not poor in that sense.”

No reference to welfare queens and big screen tv’s, though. Your liberal media.

130 replies
  1. 1
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    He’s from the Heritage Foundation.

    Co-hack central, along with AEI.

    Burn both to the ground, after making sure that no one can escape the buildings.

  2. 2
    fasteddie9318 says:

    Yeah, fuck those Xbox-playing bucks. You can buy a whole month’s worth of Spam for the price of an Xbox, or pay a buddy to help you burgle the house of some rich asshole like, say, Robert Rector at the Heritage Foundation, who probably has at least one Xbox (or PS3, I mean, beggars can’t be choosers) in his house. It’s sheer laziness that keeps them from more efficiently using their resources. I blame the drugs, and also the gays and abortion.

  3. 3
    Walker says:

    I have seen studies that for urban African Americans, the X Box is often their only connection to the Internet.

  4. 4
    El Cid says:

    And how many people here worry about their cassava crop failing due to drought and/or being displaced from their land?

    Pretty much none of them! What kind of ‘poor’ people have food to eat? Or even fancy high technologies like refrigerators, or astounding achievements like an Xbox, old ones which can be had for $20?

    Someone might point out to him that it’s partly the Heritage Foundation’s fault that so many poor people pay no federal income taxes, because it was they who assisted Reagan in his 1986 expansion of EITC.

    Way back when they thought it was a good idea for poorer people not to pay onerous fedrul taksis to the fedrul gubmit!

  5. 5
    fasteddie9318 says:

    @Walker: Ooooo, the Internet, well la-di-da, Your Majesty! Why don’t these Negroes Coloreds young bucks stop fiddling around with modern society and go shine Robert Rector’s shoes like they’re supposed to? Hmmmm?

  6. 6
    eemom says:

    Jesus Christ. Why is this dreck even worth a post?

    Are we afraid people are going to read this shit and believe it? Srsly?

  7. 7
    albaz says:

    Pity the poor guy…can you imagine what it must have been like to have gone through the grades being called Robert Rectum? Though it would explain what dribbles out from his “analyses.”

    I don’t know what causes sociopathology but I suspect the constant bullying this sad loser (the operant descriptor of the rightwing welfare recipients, er, “employees” of the AEI/Heritage Foundation) received may be a factor.

  8. 8
    fasteddie9318 says:

    @eemom: At least 27% of the public does believe it, and most of them are the kind of people Robert Rector is talking about. But mostly I’m just cranky and this is as good a reason to bitch as any.

  9. 9
    Mike in NC says:

    It would read better as “Robert Rectum, an asshole at the Heritage Foundation…”

  10. 10
    RSA says:

    While most scholars have called the fuller measure a step forward, [we have tracked down a non-scholar,] Robert Rector, an analyst at the Heritage Foundation, [who] argues…

    Fixed. “While most scholars say that the Earth is round, some random guy at the Flat Earth Society argues…”

  11. 11
    BGinCHI says:

    “Some say…”

    Fuck you, NYT. Congrats on fucking up the discourse even worse than it was the day before.

    Do these asshats think this will lead to a world where people read? Much less read the NYT?

  12. 12
    Calouste says:

    La-di-f’ing-da. Saving $50 on a refurbished XBOX, or even $300 on a brand new one, is not going to get you from a crappy flat to a McMansion in suburbia. But hey, someone might be having fun, so they must be punished.

    And FYWP needs an upgrade. It doesn’t catch syntax errors like putting “scholar” and “analyst” in the same sentence as “Heritage Foundation”.

  13. 13
  14. 14
    JGabriel says:

    El Cid:

    What kind of ‘poor’ people have food to eat? Or even fancy high technologies like refrigerators …

    Exactly. People who are really poor use an icebox, with cheap ice bought from the ice delivery man every day.

    And the deserving poor sing gospels songs as they labor in the hot sun everyday.

    .

  15. 15
    fasteddie9318 says:

    Hell, with the money you spend on a new Xbox 360 and some effort, a few young bucks could set up a fairly profitable business grinding Heritage Foundation analysts up into sausages for dogs or the like. What is wrong with today’s poor that they can’t seize opportunities like this?

  16. 16
    ABL says:

    so now The Poors™ can’t have x-boxes OR refrigerators?

    cold-blooded.

  17. 17
    Hawes says:

    I have no X-Box, it’s true, but I have a flat screen and internet and…

    Oh, wait I have none of those things. I live in Connecticut.

    http://zombieland-nowbrainfree.....meone.html

  18. 18
    Redshift says:

    I’ll consider accepting that people who aren’t starving on the street shouldn’t be considered poor after these asshats start admitting that people who are paying 15% taxes on most of their millions aren’t “taxed enough already.”

    I guess as long as their tired schtick is working, there’s no point in making the effort to come up with anything new. Just plug the latest consumer goods into the Mad Libs template, and tell the NYT that they’re biased if they don’t publish it.

  19. 19
    MonkeyBoy says:

    Isn’t all of this a rehash of the old trope

    Poor people are not really poor if they have enough money to spend on alcohol.

    and the counter trope

    The reason poor people are poor is that they spend all their money on alcohol.

  20. 20
    Walker says:

    In an earlier post we were remarking on how the modern GOP is so penny wise and pound foolish. Heritage is the truest embodiment of this.

  21. 21

    King Louis XIV never had no XBox.

  22. 22
    joeyess says:

    In regards to X-Box’s and such related nonsense, I’ll just include this link.

  23. 23
    fasteddie9318 says:

    @Redshift:

    I’ll consider accepting that people who aren’t starving on the street shouldn’t be considered poor after these asshats start admitting that people who are paying 15% taxes on most of their millions aren’t “taxed enough already.”

    No way, dude. “All taxes are theft” is a First Principle. You don’t buck those. 15% taxation for the Makers is 15% too much.

  24. 24
    The Dangerman says:

    I don’t believe in a Hell, which is too bad, as this fucker deserves to burn for a while.

    What do the words “in order to form a more perfect Union” mean to these assholes? To able to say “Fuck you, I’ve got mine” probably wasn’t what the writers had in mind.

  25. 25
    Gex says:

    And their key demographic will still blame everything on brown and women folk as they Stockholm Syndrome their way into serfdom.

  26. 26
    Joe Lisboa says:

    Are we afraid people are going to read this shit and believe it? Srsly?

    They will and they do. SRSLY.

  27. 27
    fasteddie9318 says:

    @The Dangerman: Yeah, but, to be fair, most of those writers weren’t thinking about making a “more perfect Union” for the slaves, or the womenfolk, or the Indians, or the riff-raff whites.

  28. 28
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    At the Heritage Foundation they whine and they bitch:

    Our rich are too poor, and our poor are too rich.

  29. 29

    Deprivations are like any other human condition. Full of degrees, thresholds and ensuing hypotheticals of cause and effect.

    “When the American public hears the word poverty, they are thinking about material hardship — bad housing, homelessness and hunger,” he said. “Most of the people that are defined as poor by the government are not poor in that sense.”

    This dude needs to get his ass down to the local homeless shelter, or the ones that deal with families with children. There are more of those than there should be, and the trend is for still more to reach that point.

    It is not so much that these are bad, or hard economic times. We have been through those before. It is the prevailing state of political affairs in this country, that offers little hope of relief anytime soon. The string has run out, and the greed is now a force unto itself, gobbling up more and more for the few with little resistance, and consuming the possible good intentions of politicians in it’s wake.

    It’s a class war, and this time it’s for real. Like Lincoln said about slavery, it is for us to be all of one thing, or all of the other, regarding our now headlong rush to oligarchy. Divided house of paupers and princes, or sharing the American pie. It’s really not about what is fair. It is about necessity for survival of the union.

  30. 30
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @The Dangerman:

    The very idea of a “commonwealth” causes them to break out into hives.

    They really all need to move to Somalia, NOW, and live in the paradise they crave.

  31. 31
    Keith G says:

    It seems that folk like Robert Rector envision what I call “the perfect poor” – strong willed protestants who never smoked nor drank and only had sex approved for procreation (before some outside force nudged them into poverty).

    For Rector, these strong, yet subservient people know their place and will gladly suffer in silence as they sell what’s left of their material possessions in order to maintain a 1200 calorie a day diet. Unlike Oliver, Rector never wants them to ask for more.

    I work with a community agency that serves the poor during their darkest and scariest time and very few are perfect, but they are my neighbors and they are in need.

  32. 32
    Baron Jrod of Keeblershire says:

    You can buy a used Xbox 360 for less than $100. I paid $50 for mine.

    That’s a week, maybe two, worth of food. It’s less than a week of rent; much less if a person is stuck somewhere paying day by day or week by week.

    The very idea that an Xbox is some kind of indicator of wealth is utterly ridiculous. Of course, these are the people who think our homeless have it too good because they might have a $20 prepay phone.

    But of course the true victim of this economy is the rich man who faces the prospect of taking home a mere $4.5 million, as opposed to the $4.7 million he deserves, once Obama’s sockalizm gets into full swing.

  33. 33
    The Moar You Know says:

    I see that young bucks eating t-bones and welfare queens driving Cadillacs are back in style.

    1980, here we come.

  34. 34
    jl says:

    Not my area of expertise, but the article is kind of misleading. First off, it focuses exclusively on what is called ‘income poverty’, which is only a partial measure of economic welfare (how about assets?)

    The article says that alternative measures of poverty (different than the crude US definition of the poverty line) produce lower estimates. I think that is true for narrowly defined money equivalent income poverty, but it is not true for a lot of other alternative, and I think reasonable, measures.

    The following paper is a good review, and don’t think it is behind a pay fire wall but from Haverman’s homepage

    What does it mean to be poor in a rich society?
    Robert Haveman
    Focus Vol. 26, No. 2, Fall 2009
    http://www.irp.wisc.edu/public.....oc262n.pdf

  35. 35

    Having an “XBox” doesn’t mean much. Even having an X Box 360 doesn’t mean much. It means, at one point in time, you had, or could save up, a couple hundred dollars.

    I really want a lot of these people to live and be “poor” for a while, and have an asshole landlord who threatens eviction over piddling stuff, and a beloved pet who gets sick, and a thousand dollars might help, or might just put off the inevitable, and having whatever little treat or luxury you were yearning for be wiped out due to an unexpected expense.

  36. 36
    David in NY says:

    To defend the Times, the quote selected out comes well toward the end of the article and is obviously presented as a dissenting view. I think that the article as a whole is interesting and reasonable. There is a question, however, about whether they should consider anybody from Heritage as worth quoting. But as much as I wish it, I doubt Heritage will be banned. Maybe they should just have to counter that with EPI or somebody (who else is there?).

    @jl: This is a reasonable criticism (with a link!) however. Interesting they consider wealth (savings) relevant to old people but don’t consider wealth (lack of savings) relevant to the young. And stuff.

  37. 37
    Martin says:

    According to the GOP, the only truly poor people are quadriplegics that have already sold one kidney. Everyone else is lazy.

  38. 38
    khead says:

    But, but…. people in southern West Virginia have a TV, Xbox and even an ATV!!

    Meanwhile, check out the median income data for the county where I grew up.

  39. 39
    Martin says:

    @LongHairedWeirdo:

    It means, at one point in time, you had, or could save up, a couple hundred dollars.

    Or it was a gift. Or your kid won it in a contest. Or you had $25 and could look something up on Craigslist at the library, or $50 and could get 31 games with it.

  40. 40
    Calouste says:

    @Baron Jrod of Keeblershire:

    It’s also a less than the cost of a doctor’s visit. But I guess the Heritage “analyst” also considers that a luxury for the poor.

  41. 41
    jl says:

    @LongHairedWeirdo: I see Xbox’s starting for between 100 and 200 bucks on ebay.

    Also too, another dimension ignored by the article is the changing composition of fixed and variable living costs. Some obscure pointy headed liberal do gooder, Elizabeth Warren by name though doubt anyone has heard of her, showed that fixed living costs have increased dramatically for middle class, and reduced truly discretionary income and ability to save (and build up disposable assets, which is an important dimension of independence and flexibility, and ability to acquire all sorts of human capital).

    If the fixed living costs have made a dent in middle class welfare, must have been worse for poor, though I could not find a article that addressed that specific issue in a quick intertube search.

    So, yeah, a lazy and misleading article, whose point seemed to be to spare the comfortable from accurate information about the state of knowledge or problems of the lesser people. Funny how that happens so often in the NYT and WaPo and other distinguished rags in this US.

  42. 42
    Nylund says:

    Heritage, Cato, etc. are the economic equivalent of when the Koch brothers and oil companies pay “researchers” to prove that, lo and behold, oil companies don’t do any harm to the environment. Why the New York Times continues to present their findings as anything less than pure malarkey is beyond me. Walk into any econ department at any halfway decent school and you’ll get laughed out of the room if you ever mutter the words, “based on the work of the Heritage Foundation.”

  43. 43
    Martin says:

    @khead: Wow. The city I live in has 10x as many people and 6x the median household income. There are more people covered by my homeowners association than live in that county.

  44. 44
    b-psycho says:

    @Baron Jrod of Keeblershire: exactly. The reason poverty sucks isn’t the things you can buy once and keep, it’s the things you have to pay for over and over and over.

    Sure, you can’t eat a video game system and no one would seriously endorse buying one in lieu of necessities if it came to that. But if you do buy one, you only pay for it once, meanwhile after you pay the rent it’s just going to be due again in 30 days. When your money doesn’t last that long…well, there’s your problem.

  45. 45
    Mike G says:

    Shorter Robert Rectum:
    “Are there no workhouses?”

  46. 46
    jl says:

    @David in NY:

    Who do you mean by ‘they’? Not Havemen. From the link:

    ” In 2001, one-fourth of American families were asset poor; among blacks and Hispanics, the asset poverty rate was 62 percent, among those with less than a high school degree it was 60 percent, and among non-aged female heads with children the asset poverty rate stood at 71 percent. From 1983 to 2001, the rate of asset poverty grew by over 9 percent, much faster than the growth of income poverty.”

    He gives levels of asset poverty by race ethnicity education, and the overall high growth rate. Only reference to age is non elderly women.

  47. 47
    JPL says:

    The Heritage Foundation is probably doing a study on how many poor folks have granite counter tops.
    In fact they should send some of their crew tonight to Highland Park, Michigan. Without street lights they won’t be recognized and Breitbart can follow them with James O’Keefe.

  48. 48
    RSA says:

    @Nylund:

    Heritage, Cato, etc. are the economic equivalent of when the Koch brothers and oil companies pay “researchers” to prove that, lo and behold, oil companies don’t do any harm to the environment. Why the New York Times continues to present their findings as anything less than pure malarkey is beyond me.

    A Google Scholar search suggests that Rector has published just one peer-reviewed article, in 1999, during his 27 years working for the Heritage Foundation. How much weight should his views be given against those of “most scholars”? Apparently, according to the NY Times, it’s an even balance.

  49. 49
    khead says:

    @Martin:

    I really don’t have the words to describe it anymore. I love my home, but it’s pretty pitiful. 100 years of digging coal out of the place and it still might as well be a 3rd world country.

    I tell my friends here in MD that if they want to see what real rural poverty looks like in the US, they should go to Bluefield and drive US 52 to Huntington.

  50. 50
    cathyx says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: That’s very good.

  51. 51
    jl says:

    @Mike G: Good point. If there are workhouses, the poor have a roof over their heads 12 hours a day. So not really poor.

    I do not know why they bother printing such sloppy incomplete and misleading stuff. What do they think they are accomplishing?

    You know, 6000 years ago, rich people in England ate roots and bark, and the odd shellfish, and lived on average to 30. Ha! Nobody is that poor now!

    Try that with anything else:
    Ha! 200 years ago, if you got sick the doctors would bleed you to death if you got a throat infection, even if you were an ex president. Seems pretty uppity of you to complain about lack of health insurance. You have it good and are just a spoiled soft complainer.

  52. 52
    The Dangerman says:

    @fasteddie9318:

    …most of those writers weren’t thinking about making a “more perfect Union” for the slaves, or the womenfolk, or the Indians, or the riff-raff whites.

    Good point, but I do think the writers built a document that would evolve over time (which, indeed, it has) to create an incrementally and continually more perfect union. I don’t think it was an accident…

    …which is why I find the people that support “original intent” so full of shit as well.

  53. 53
    jl says:

    @cathyx: Thanks, I missed Est’s poem.

    Est should consider running for GOP nomination. That last line is one catchy slogan.

    “Our rich are too poor, and our poor are too rich!”

  54. 54
    Rafer Janders says:

    Man, I can buy a used Xbox for something like $50. How on earth would the fact that I can pick up a $50 toy mean I’m not otherwise poor?

  55. 55
    Mike G says:

    OT, but another sickening story of police brutality from Oakland — another war veteran almost killed, denied medical treatment for 18 hours:

    http://www.boomantribune.com/s.....173625/903

    Fuck these people.

  56. 56
    Calouste says:

    @The Dangerman:

    “Original intent” is IMO a dogwhistle that tries to confer onto the Constitution the immutability of the 10 Commandments. In most countries the constitution is a working document, in the USA it is considered a sacred text.

  57. 57
    harlana says:

    Herman Cain sexually harasses the Koch Brothers on national teevee.

  58. 58
    cathyx says:

    @jl: No, the right has no wit and never will have it. It takes a certain humility to have a sense of humor and they lack that trait. Case in point: Dennis Miller.

  59. 59
    David in NY says:

    No, sorry, jl. Wasn’t referring to Havemen but to the census “experts” as quoted by the Times who seemed to consider wealth selectively (if you can believe the reporting and if I read it correctly). I was elaborating on your point, not disagreeing with it.

  60. 60
    JPL says:

    @harlana: It was consensual.

  61. 61
    Uriel says:

    Actually, if the table NRO ran with their write up of this is right, this is a completely meaningless statistic, because it counts all video game systems, not a specific gen or brand. So in any given household, we could be talking about a Xbox 360. Or we could be talking about a original Xbox or a ps 2, which is going to cost you a fraction of a current system. Or we could be talking about a second hand PS1 or Nintendo 64- which is going to cost you pocket change at a garage sale.

    It’s like saying “most poor households have 18th century antique dining room sets, or some other furniture.” and then pretending you’ve said anything, of any substance, at all.

  62. 62
    Violet says:

    @Uriel:
    Yeah, if they did a study on the percentage of poverty-level households that own a brand new videogaming system (any type) within a month of its release, and it turned out that the percentages were the same, that might be news. But the way they’ve structured it it’s the equivalent of saying, “they own a chair” and then claiming that means they’re not actually poor.

    Asshats.

  63. 63
    jl says:

    @David in NY: I don’t remember the NYT article mentioning wealth or assets at all, but on a second look, they do talk about ‘resources’ that could be either.

    And on second look, the article seems worse than my first bad impression. It dithers over what, in the big scheme of things, is tinkering about the edges on an income based definition of poverty, but ignore a lot of recent research on other dimensions of poverty. So, minor misleading, and exquisitely mediocre in a pseudo nuanced sort of way, another hallmark of NYT general info articles.

    I find it difficult to believe that the census people would not know about recent research on other dimensions of poverty, and never mentioned them. They love TMI, as do some pedantic blog comm… guess I better go, getting too close to home.

  64. 64
    harlana says:

    I’m glad Krugman dismissed the whole education argument. What about all those former factory and mill workers with no college degrees who once made a decent living and lived in relative comfort and security with benefits? Those people have never recovered what they once had, including a sense of dignity and independence. And, after looking for work for 2 or more years, and not knowing what else to do, they take out loans to go back to school in order to retrain for jobs that pay half as much and may or may not provide benefits. And in the end, the jobs aren’t there anyway.

  65. 65
    harlana says:

    @JPL:

    It was consensual.

    =)

    brother of another mother!

  66. 66
    AA+ Bonds says:

    I bet that “tell people they ain’t poor” strategy is just working great for them right now in the current economy

  67. 67
    AA+ Bonds says:

    You have an Xbox. Clearly you have no problems paying thousands of dollars in medical bills. I mean, why’d you buy that Xbox back in 2007 during boom times knowing that you were going to break your leg in 2011, what the fuck is wrong with you

  68. 68
    AA+ Bonds says:

    You bought a used Xbox? See, you need to leverage that asset and pay down your mortgage and live like a Trappist monk for my ease of mind, that’s the MARKET at work

  69. 69
    AA+ Bonds says:

    The argument: “American poor can subsist and purchase common entertainment, thus America has no poor” is actually a version of “If you don’t like it folks, we can always make it worse”, i.e., an open threat from the H Foundation’s backers, toward you

    Just as it was in 1994 and before

  70. 70
    Jenny says:

    See, even the liburl New York Times says there’s no poverty.

  71. 71
    AA+ Bonds says:

    The New York Times is so fucking terrible and the news business is set up so terribly in this country that smarter people have to go to work for it to correct its mistakes, but they’ll never be allowed to run the show, it’s like the Politburo of rich shitheads.

  72. 72
    Litlebritdifrnt2 says:

    I suppose I was no longer poor when I was a kid and the UK equivalent of the Rotary Club arrived on our doorstep on Christmas Eve with a Hot Wheels set for me (which my mother could never have afforded). Have these dickheads ever thought how many of these x-boxes were donated by Christmas Cheer or any other charitable organization? Or how many parents put the damn thing on layaway in June and then paid a couple of bucks a week out of their paycheck every week so it was paid off by Christmas? Or how many picked them up a Pawn Shops, E-bay or yard sales? Am I an elitest snob because I have a $300.00 Euro-Pro Steam Cleaner cause I bought it for $25.00 at a thrift store? Fuck these people who have no idea what it is like living in the real world.

  73. 73
    AA+ Bonds says:

    @Uriel:

    @ _ @ you’re right. They’re asking family households if they own a piece of electronics that may be ten or twenty years old (or more) and worth next to nothing, not if they own an Xbox.

    The Heritage Foundation: we don’t actually know shit about markets or anything

  74. 74
    shano says:

    Fuck that fucking liburl NYT.

    Now they bring the false equivalency of ‘both sides do it’ to cover the rich and the poor? W.T.F.

    disgusting.

  75. 75
    AA+ Bonds says:

    “Q14: Do you own . . . a cordless telephone? Pick yes or no.”
    “Results: 60.4% yes”

    —-Holy shit my fellow ham-like liberal arts B.A., according to these results 60% of the poor own iPhones. we must publish the Fuck out of thisssss

  76. 76
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @cathyx:

    Alas, it’s not original with me, I picked it up from somewhere else on the ‘net, and I also can’t attribute it properly as a result.

    Still, appropriate for this thread.

    I can lay claim, though, to the use of “The Duck Pit” as a place to toss “THE MAN” into once The Revolution arises. I was once Apprentice to Darth Holden over at Eschaton, and came up with that particular meme. It’s had a smattering of success, but nothing approaching the magnificence of “The Clenis” as a leftblogistan catch term.

  77. 77
    Jay in Oregon says:

    @Uriel:

    So in any given household, we could be talking about a Xbox 360. Or we could be talking about a original Xbox or a ps 2, which is going to cost you a fraction of a current system. Or we could be talking about a second hand PS1 or Nintendo 64- which is going to cost you pocket change at a garage sale.

    Or maybe, possibly, that you’ve actually had for years and years and haven’t had to put money into for almost as long. The XBox 360 debuted in 2005. Playstation 3 will be celebrating its 5th birthday next week, and the Wii will be doing so the week after that.

    And that’s the “current generation” of consoles. If you’re talking about a Playstation 2, you could have bought that unit while Clinton was president; for a lot of people, the PS2 was their first DVD player. Nintendo Gamecube hit the shelves in November while we were still reeling from 9/11, as did the original XBox.

  78. 78
    AA+ Bonds says:

    I wonder if any of those big thinkers at the Heritage Foundation would be able to explain the differences between an Xbox 360 and the machines on which they single-finger-banged this out

  79. 79

    Two things.

    First you know that if not a single poor person in the country had an X-box, his column would simply switch from one about how well the poor are doing because they’re not lying in a ditch suffering from malaria and starvation to one about how lucky all these poor kids hanging out on his city’s nice clean streets loitering must be to have so much free time and they’re also lazy bastards.

    Second, there’s a thing called layaway. My parents used it to buy my brother and I a couple of nice toys at Xmas that we otherwise couldn’t afford.

    I suppose in true Randian fashion, they should have just sold us out as factory laborers and made us earn the money to buy our own Xmas presents, which would have mostly been shiny new prosthetics to replace the limbs lost to the factory jobs, but they actually loved us.

    I know, I know, Love is not a part of Heritagebot 2000’s programming.

  80. 80
    AA+ Bonds says:

    In 1994 people surveyed already owned some of the video game systems the Heritage Foundation is counting now but back then they were incensed that the poor had TELEVISIONS, I shit you not

  81. 81
    Heritage-Bot says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt2: Heritage-Bot does not compute “Thrift Store”, “charitable”, or “Layaway”. My programming states that all good humans pay full price in approved currency at a retailer or are parasitic organisms beneath my notice.

  82. 82

    Well, and some idiot WaPo columnist (forgot who?? Michael Gerson??) argued today that the reason it just appears that there is income inequality is because there are fewer married couples now, so “household income” only reflects one income, not two.

    Which is just, so SO retarded.

  83. 83
    The Other Chuck says:

    Some poor people got their XBox as a Christmas gift from relatives who are doing better. But since they didn’t pawn it right away, we should keep subsidizing Wal-Mart and let people go broke from medical expenses and by the way Michael Moore is fat.

    Squirrel!

  84. 84
    Jenny says:

    Check out how they placed the story — two columns above the fold on the front page. That’s something they rarely do.

    http://www.nytimes.com/images/.....e/scan.jpg

    Of course, I’m sure I know how this went down. The Times advertisers vented anger with the editors at dinner over OWS and demanded the Times push back. The editors, part of the 1%, equally offended over OWS indictment of the 1%, had no problem in dialing up this crap.

  85. 85
    AA+ Bonds says:

    hey did you know you can hook up an everyday USB keyboard to an Xbox 360 or PS3 or Wii, turn on the system and then, presto, the Heritage Foundation becomes a bunch of dumbfucks

  86. 86
    slag says:

    I picked up an Xbox at the Goodwill for like $12. And there were several from which to choose at that price point. Just sayin.

  87. 87
    Chris says:

    @Calouste:

    “Original intent” is IMO a dogwhistle that tries to confer onto the Constitution the immutability of the 10 Commandments. In most countries the constitution is a working document, in the USA it is considered a sacred text.

    Yeah, that and the Founding Father deification over here have always driven me a little nuts. The British don’t sit around asking themselves “what did King John want for us when he signed the Magna Carta.” The French don’t sit around asking themselves “what did Danton, Mireabeau and all the others want for us when they created the first republic.” But over here, every politician’s expected to waste hours genuflecting on their altar and justifying everything they do by appealing to their ghosts.

    The European half of me thinks it’s America’s attempt to make up for its lack of millennium-old history, with all the assorted mythical and legendary figures. Whatever the reason, it’s practically paralyzed the national discourse. Politicians spend all their time posturing to prove their ideological purity instead of suggesting how to fix the problems we have now.

  88. 88
    bemused says:

    @khead:

    We took 52 from Ohio to Huntington on one cross country trip thinking it might be a scenic drive along the river…..not so much.

  89. 89
    sven says:

    The most striking feature of this list is its reliance on consumer electronics. The clear frame is that these electronics represent luxury but that is totally misleading. Consumer electronics are the portion of our economy which has seen the largest productivity growth over the preceding 25 years. A quick skim of Amazon.com will reveal the simple truth of this fact. A Sony DVD player is available for $34 (Curtis for $22). Window air conditioners are $100. Brand new televisions can be expensive but older models are dirt cheap. Most of the folks reading this post will have had the experience of giving away an old t.v. at some point; they are quite literally disposable.

    The reality which these pieces fail to reveal is that while electronics are now cheap and common, more people are struggling to afford the necessities. Health care and education, not DVD players, are the modern luxury. Yes, they can scrape together $30 for a DVD player or $100 for an XBOX but can they afford regular dental check-ups? Will their children be able to go to college? Yet, Heritage and most of the MSM begrudge them a little inexpensive escapism. Give me single payer, cheap public universities, and full funding for early childhood programs and then I might care about the damn Xboxes. What the hell is wrong with these people?

  90. 90
    AA+ Bonds says:

    @slag:

    Yes. The important part of this is that the Heritage Foundation doesn’t understand consumer markets at all, not even enough to fool people who know nothing about key industries.

    Let’s grant the mind-boggling proposition that no one who touched the H Foundation piece from start to finish knows the difference between an Xbox and a “video game system”.

    Given that, the big pulsing throbbing man brains at H should still understand that

    1) lots of people had video game systems in the 1980s, and 1990s, and 2000s, and it’s now 2011, and
    2) the poor hold on to old things rather than buy new ones, and
    3) shit depreciates.

    It’s that third one that makes me wonder if any of the economists who claim to work there have real degrees.

  91. 91
    Rafer Janders says:

    @Jay in Oregon:

    I’m currently still rocking a DVD player I bought in 2003. It ain’t broke, so I’m not fixin’ it. But I suppose the mere presence of a DVD player in my household is proof, by itself, of incalculable riches….

  92. 92
    Rafer Janders says:

    @Southern Beale:

    Correlation, meet Causation. Causation, Correlation.

  93. 93
    Mnemosyne says:

    I’m really fucking sick of the 1% telling us that we shouldn’t complain because we’re better off than people in fucking Somalia.

    I mean, Jesus fuck, now they’re claiming that we shouldn’t even try to compete with other first world countries and we should be happy that we’re at the top of the heap for the third world? What the fuck is wrong with these people?

  94. 94
    sven says:

    @AA+ Bonds: Exactly, the key question is not “What do people own?” it is “Are people better off?”.

  95. 95
    Rafer Janders says:

    @sven:

    Agatha Christie wrote that when she was young, she never imagined that she’d be so poor that she wouldn’t have live-in household servants, nor so rich that she’d be able to afford a car.

    The things we hold as luxuries change over time. Fifty years ago, consumer electronics were expensive and healthcare and college were cheap. Now, the reverse is true, but propagandists still use the possession of consumer electronics as a sign of wealth.

  96. 96
    AA+ Bonds says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    It’s a thinly veiled threat against the middle class. That’s always what it is when rich people talk about how Americans could never understand true exploitation, suffering, etc. in shitty newspapers.

    They are threatening to turn this place into Somalia if we don’t leave them alone.

  97. 97
    Rome Again says:

    How dare those people from the Great Depression walk around with a single thread of clothing on!

    Republicans aren’t human, they’re something else entirely.

  98. 98
    Rome Again says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    What the fuck is wrong with these people?

    You mean besides the fact that they’re arrogant pricks?

  99. 99
    AA+ Bonds says:

    This is the sort of shit that makes me almost, ALMOST, believe in class struggle, an orchestrated paid-for vigorous semen-flinging jackoff by the rich (lunatic billionaires) of the rich (the NYT readership) with the Heritage Foundation and the nation’s top newspaper getting their cut, all to tell the middle class that everything is great in America because the poor own personal possessions

  100. 100
    Calouste says:

    @Chris:

    You know where politicians also spend a lot of time posturing to prove their ideological purity instead of fixing the problems? The Soviet Union, specifically the Brezhnev era. And we know where they ended up.

  101. 101
    AA+ Bonds says:

    “Markets surge on report that 80% of beggars own tin can, at least one shoe”

  102. 102
    Linda says:

    Obviously, the wingnut welfare allows you to buy all your stuff new. I have a friend on a fixed income who has a good computer with a nice, new 17″ screen–because I gave her mine, after I bought a new one. Also have a friend w/out much money who has A MICROWAVE–because I got her one for $3 at a garage sale. Those things haven’t been “expensive luxuries” since they came in harvest gold and avocado green.

  103. 103
    AA+ Bonds says:

    “Are savvy hobos America’s secret Warren Buffets? New data suggest that the homeless investor is underrepresented in a number of risky markets that went bust, including Japanese finance and mortgage derivatives.”

  104. 104
    Rome Again says:

    @AA+ Bonds:

    You’re good at this. ;)

  105. 105
    PurpleGirl says:

    When I became unemployed one of my older neighbors asked if I was giving up cable service. I told her that “I needed it for job hunting… that almost everything is done over the internet now… if I gave up cable service I’d pay more for just the internet service.” She basically didn’t believe me. Didn’t believe that things had changed so much. (She used a computer at her last job before she retired and has been mad that DOS isn’t used anymore. Ahem! She as a computer but hasn’t really gotten into using the internet (Thank to the FSM!) She still thinks I’m wrong about needing the internet.) On the other hand I have two other neighbors in their late 70’s and early 80’s who may not spend a lot time on the internet but who do use it and their computers for lots of stuff. Part of the problem may be people ability or inability to accept and use technological advances.

  106. 106
    Linnaeus says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    I mean, Jesus fuck, now they’re claiming that we shouldn’t even try to compete with other first world countries and we should be happy that we’re at the top of the heap for the third world? What the fuck is wrong with these people?

    It’s lowering the bar, which is a necessary condition for proposing that you don’t need to do anything about the poor, because they’re not really poor. Then you can happily distribute wealth upward to the rarified heights where they never have to see poor people anyway.

  107. 107
    Linnaeus says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    What’s wrong with these people is that the power elite is loyal to, well, the rest of the power elite.

  108. 108
    PurpleGirl says:

    ACK! I tried editing my comment at 105 too late… I meant and had inadvertently deleted it at one point “job” hunting.

  109. 109
    Maude says:

    I bet Robert also thinks that poverty can never happen to him because he is so special.
    This is the same as the Rush whine about poor people have air conditioners.
    The poor should have nothing at all. Not even dirt to eat. After all, the poor are those awful, not quite human things that should be grateful they are allowed to breath the rarefied air of the 1%.
    There’s a lot of this attitude going around. Mayor Bloomberg doesn’t thing people on food stamps should buy soda.

  110. 110
    AA+ Bonds says:

    It’s a good thing we’re not a fascist country because otherwise Bloomberg would already be President. THATS RIGHT

  111. 111
    Chris says:

    @Calouste:

    Oh, I’m aware. The parallels between them and us have been there for some time now.

  112. 112
    Rome Again says:

    @The Dangerman:

    I don’t believe in a Hell, which is too bad…

    Funny, I started to write the same post and deleted it. LMAO

  113. 113
    greennotGreen says:

    Many years ago I went through a period of real poverty. I used to buy generic beer instead of food because I couldn’t afford both. If I’d bought food, my belly would have been full, but my head would have been full, too – of worry. If I drank the beer, I didn’t care that my belly was growling, and I didn’t worry. Luckily, I had a big advantage over a lot of people at my income level; I had an education and a middle class background, so I eventually found my way out.

    So maybe a poor parent can’t afford to buy her kids new clothes or name-brand shoes, but she can afford a second-hand gaming system, and she can watch her kids be happy for awhile. If employees of the Heritage Foundation want to criticize that, it’s not up to me to damn them to hell – they’re already most of the way there.

  114. 114
    PurpleGirl says:

    @greennotGreen: It occurs to me that a poor kid with a gaming system could turn into a future IT professional if he gets interested in how the gaming system works, how the game is written to play in the machine, etc. The kid could begin to show interest in school because now he’s thinking about what game he’d like to write and develop… Anything to keep people down and exclude them from the economy.

  115. 115
    greennotGreen says:

    @PurpleGirl: Good point. That’s how my nephew got interested in programming.

  116. 116
    jafd says:

    Ain’t no one ever read Orwell’s _The Road to Wigan Pier_, A. J. Leibling’s _The Press_ or Caroline Bird’s _The Invisible Scar_?

    This sort of right-wing $%^@#* was just as common back in the ’30’s.

    For anyone familiar with the history of the Great Depression, the most depressing part of the Lesser Depression is how familiar the memes are and how little of what was so painfully learned has been remembered.

  117. 117
    Cacti says:

    So if they didn’t own an Xbox, they’d all have a 3 bedroom house with a white picket fence in the ‘burbs?

    If not, what’s the point of the observation that some poor people have video games?

  118. 118
    Rome Again says:

    @Cacti:

    That they aren’t the real poor, they’re the wannabe-poor? As such the wannabe-poor don’t deserve to be treated like the poor.

    (This is not my stance, just my best guess of how they are looking at this).

  119. 119
    Cacti says:

    @Rome Again:

    That they aren’t the real poor, they’re the wannabe-poor? As such the wannabe-poor don’t deserve to be treated like the poor.

    Or is it that if you’re poor, you shouldn’t have any creature comforts at all, because poverty should be total misery every waking minute of the day.

  120. 120
    Rome Again says:

    @Cacti: That too. Both memes are being tested. Either one will work so long as it gains traction. They don’t want to have to care about the poor and they’ll find whatever way they can to get out of it.

  121. 121
    jefft452 says:

    @greennotGreen:
    “So maybe a poor parent can’t afford to buy her kids new clothes or name-brand shoes, but she can afford a second-hand gaming system, and she can watch her kids be happy for awhile”

    “We want Bread
    and Roses too”
    – Sign carried at Cunard Mill strike, Lawrence, Mass, 1912

  122. 122
    dead existentialist says:

    What will the poor want next? 40 acres and a mule?

  123. 123
  124. 124
    ericblair says:

    @jafd:

    Ain’t no one ever read Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier, A. J. Leibling’s The Press or Caroline Bird’s The Invisible Scar?

    Well, I guess that’s my cue. There were a couple of interesting takeaways from Wigan Pier, which was Orwell’s look at the working industrial poor. First, the poor tended to waste money on food and cheap sweets and tea, because that was pretty much the only luxury they could afford to keep themselves sane. It’s easy to have yogurt and that dry Swedish flatbread for breakfast when you’ve got a $2 million mansion to eat it in.

    Second, it’s a good thing that the poor wasted money on food and kept their food spending up, otherwise the government would have just reduced unemployment allowances to match so that it would be the minimum amount that would keep people from starving. You didn’t think the government would let you keep an extra few shillings, would you, you no good layabout?

    Our moral (and, more importantly, financial) betters are quite certain that poor people are on this Earth to lead as bleak and cheerless existence as possible doing the scut work of life before dying cheaply, unobtrusively, and early. They seem to be bewildered that this makes some people very angry at them.

  125. 125
    Samara Morgan says:

    Most of the people that are defined as poor by the government are not poor in that sense.

    because American poor are still part of the global overclass.
    do you think Krugman is ever going to get it?
    The “freed” market is a lie.
    The market will never “eat the rich”, no matter how free it is.

  126. 126
    keestadoll says:

    While I agree that it’s important to call out those who seek to dismiss income inequality by redefining the parameters of “poverty,” I don’t know how much can be realistically gained by doing so. It’s not enough to tax the 1% (or .1? .01? what was it again?) if that is the mission of Krugman and other like-minded bloggers’/columnists’ research. Even if you raised taxes to 99%, does that mean that factory jobs return to flourish in this country or that we stop outsourcing fucking EVERYTHING to other countries? Where do the jobs come from so that this entrenched immobility ends? OK, magical universe time: The uber-top-tier gets taxed at 99%, crowds cheer, then…what?

  127. 127
    Marc says:

    @keestadoll:

    We start having an economy that’s not designed around pushing all of the money to a few people. There is less money to gamble with in the markets and more available to people who buy things. And our society is more just and rewards actual work instead of cheating and looting by CEOs and bankers.

  128. 128
    keestadoll says:

    @Marc: Not really the specifics I was craving, but nice try.

  129. 129
    Jebediah says:

    @keestadoll:
    More money in the hands of the non-rich is an immediate stimulus to demand. The velocity of money given to the poor/middle class is much higher than the velocity of money given to the rich. This includes money given as welfare/unemployment benefits, etc. Tax the uber-rich to fund extended unemployment benefits and increased aid to poor families, demand increases, unemployment goes down. Or you could tax the uber-rich to fund infrastructure repair (or new infrastructure, like high speed rail, etc.) Instant jobs.

  130. 130
    keestadoll says:

    @Jebediah: All of this is good stuff, but I’m talking the LONG haul here: policy stuff–trade, domestic manufacturing, industry, etc. I guess what I’m wanting here is the roadmap that shows how taxing the top-most tier gets the tide changing in those areas. Sure, let’s say demand goes up, and the supply for that demand comes from where? Do we continue to supply the demand for widgets with widgets made outside the US or do we spur domestic-widget making? How? LOL, I guess I’m making this discussion about trade policy now.

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