An announcement from the Obama administration this week heralds a brand new way to measure poverty. American families will be considered poor if their income falls below a certain specified income level. This is nothing new; in fact that is how we measure poverty presently in this country. But let’s get a little perspective on the poverty measurement system, shall we?
Originally, poverty measurements were developed in 1963-1964 by Mollie Orshansky of the Social Security Administration. This, from the HHS.gov website explains how we first officially defined poverty in the United States:
“The poverty thresholds were originally developed in 1963-1964 by Mollie Orshansky of the Social Security Administration. Orshansky took the dollar costs of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s economy food plan for families of three or more persons and multiplied the costs by a factor of three. She followed somewhat different procedures to calculate thresholds for one- and two-person units in order to allow for the relatively larger fixed costs that small family units face. (The economy food plan used by Orshansky is included in a 1962 Agriculture Department report.)
Orshansky used a factor of three because the Agriculture Department’s 1955 Household Food Consumption Survey found that for families of three or more persons, the average dollar value of all food used during a week (both at home and away from home) accounted for about one third of their total money income after taxes.
In May 1965, the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity adopted Orshansky’s poverty thresholds as a working or quasi-official definition of poverty. In August 1969, the U.S. Bureau of the Budget (predecessor of the Office of Management and Budget) designated the poverty thresholds with certain revisions as the federal government’s official statistical definition of poverty.”
Okay, that makes sense. I mean using an average food budget for a family of four and going from there does seem reasonable. But as with most things that seem reasonable, our government used a different method. After that first year, the Consumer Price Index was used to aid in the poverty threshold valuation.
All of this is well and good, and some would say even needed. For how can our Government redistribute the wealth without deciding who is living at or below the poverty level? In fact, here are the governmental agencies that use the poverty guidelines:
- Department of Health and Human Services:
- Community Services Block Grant
- Head Start
- Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Community Food and Nutrition Program
- PARTS of Medicaid (31 percent of eligibles in Fiscal Year 2004)
- Hill-Burton Uncompensated Services Program
- AIDS Drug Assistance Program
- Children’s Health Insurance Program
- Medicare – Prescription Drug Coverage (subsidized portion only)
- Community Health Centers
- Migrant Health Centers
- Family Planning Services
- Health Professions Student Loans — Loans for Disadvantaged Students
- Health Careers Opportunity Program
- Scholarships for Health Professions Students from Disadvantaged Backgrounds
- Job Opportunities for Low-Income Individuals
- Assets for Independence Demonstration Program
- Department of Agriculture:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly Food Stamp Program)
- Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- National School Lunch Program (for free and reduced-price meals only)
- School Breakfast Program (for free and reduced-price meals only)
- Child and Adult Care Food Program (for free and reduced-price meals only)
- Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program
- Department of Energy:
- Weatherization Assistance for Low-Income Persons
- Department of Labor:
- Job Corps
- National Farmworker Jobs Program
- Senior Community Service Employment Program
- Workforce Investment Act Youth Activities
- Department of the Treasury:
- Low-Income Taxpayer Clinics
- Corporation for National and Community Service:
- Foster Grandparent Program
- Senior Companion Program
- Legal Services Corporation:
- Legal Services for the Poor
But fast forward to today and the new definition of poverty takes on an entirely different meaning. No, this latest affront from our Pretender-In-Chief is yet another tool in his arsenal to, yep you guessed it, “spread the wealth.” As I said above, American families will be considered poor if their income falls below a certain specified income level. But under the new Obama guidelines, there will be an “escalator clause” built into the equation. Really and honestly, I am not making this up. The “escalator clause” will rise directly in proportion to rises in the living standards of average Americans.
What exactly does this mean? Well, presently poverty is measured in how much purchasing power you have. In other words, how many groceries you can buy. Obama’s new system measures comparative purchasing power; or how many groceries you can buy relative to other citizens. As the nation gets wealthier, (when it finally does start to get wealthier, it won’t be under this President) the poverty standards increase. So that means that we will always have poverty in America! This should come in handy to help perpetuate the “War on Poverty.” Remind me, how long have we been fighting that one? Let’s see, wasn’t it since the early ‘60s under LBJ? Good news, the war can continue indefinitely! Poverty will always be with us, even if the poor become much better off in actuality.
What does this mean? It means that if Obama waved his magic wand and immediately doubled the incomes of all Americans (yes, I know how patently absurd this idea is on SO many levels, but go with me on this) then the poverty rate would have stayed the same. Huh? Everyone in America has twice as much money and there are still poor among us? The only way for the poverty rate to decrease under Obama’s new system is if the incomes of the poorest Americans rise faster than everyone else’s.
It gets better. Think about our poverty rate under Obama’s new system compared with other countries that use conventional measurement systems. Third world countries. Poor countries. Yes, America would have HIGHER poverty rates than many third world, destitute countries because Barack Hussein Obama (mmm, mmm, mmm) wants to spread the wealth here in America.
Just since 1967 the median household income in the US has gone up 31%. Yet under Obama’s system, the poverty level would remain no matter how much better off people are. To further elaborate on this Robert Rector of The National Review Online said:
“The government’s own data show that the typical American defined as poor (according to the traditional, pre-Obama poverty measure) has two color televisions, cable or satellite service, a VCR or DVD player, and a stereo. He also has a car, air conditioning, a refrigerator, a stove, a clothes washer and dryer, and a microwave. He is able to obtain medical care. His home is in good repair and is not overcrowded. By his own report, his family is not hungry, and he had sufficient funds in the past year to meet his family’s essential needs. While this individual’s life is not opulent, it is far from the stark images conveyed by the mainstream media and liberal politicians.”
But under Obama’s new system, the poverty level would remain constant. Talk about your class warfare. Why is it the liberal always wants to pit class against class? And this only exacerbates the situation by maintaining a poverty level instead of providing an index so that when people climb the ladder of success, they have a benchmark to measure their progress. But then again, a permanent poverty class ensures that entitlements and the entitlement mentality will be alive and well in this country.
I just thought you should know.