• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Morning Bell: What Is Poverty in America?

    As Congress struggles to find a way to cut spending as part of raising the $14 trillion debt ceiling, they should take a close look at the more than $1 trillion spent every year on welfare. You’ll be surprised to learn that many of the 30 million Americans defined as “poor” and in need of government assistance aren’t quite what you’d expect—rather than homeless and on the streets, the average poor American household has luxuries like air conditioning, cable TV, and X-box video game consoles.

    In their new report, What Is Poverty?, The Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield analyze what it really means to be poor in America. The reality they found is much different than the picture painted in movies and on TV:

    According to the government’s own survey data, in 2005, the average household defined as poor by the government lived in a house or apartment equipped with air conditioning and cable TV. The family had a car (a third of the poor have two or more cars). For entertainment, the household had two color televisions, a DVD player, and a VCR.

    If there were children in the home (especially boys), the family had a game system, such as an Xbox or PlayStation. In the kitchen, the household had a microwave, refrigerator, and an oven and stove. Other household conveniences included a washer and dryer, ceiling fans, a cordless phone, and a coffee maker.

    The home of the average poor family was in good repair and not overcrowded. In fact, the typical poor American had more living space than the average European. (Note: That’s average European, not poor European.) The average poor family was able to obtain medical care when needed. When asked, most poor families stated they had had sufficient funds during the past year to meet all essential needs.

    By its own report, the family was not hungry. 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. Poor boys today at ages 18 and 19 are actually taller and heavier than middle-class boys of similar age in the late 1950s and are a full one inch taller and 10 pounds heavier than American soldiers who fought in World War II. The major dietary problem facing poor Americans is eating too much, not too little; the majority of poor adults, like most Americans, are overweight.

    That’s a far cry from the images the news media conjure up on TV. But it’s the reality of those who are defined as poor in America.

    To be sure, the average poor family does not represent every poor family, and there are some who are better off and some who are worse off. Though most of the poor are well-housed, at any given point during the recession in 2009, about one in 70 poor persons was homeless, and one in five experienced temporary food shortages. Those individuals have serious concerns. But the fact remains that U.S. government statistics on poverty misrepresent the reality.

    That misrepresentation has international implications. Rector and Sheffield explain that U.S. government poverty statistics portray a misleading negative image around the world. Al Jazeera, Iran’s Teheran Times, Chinese and Russian media have latched on to U.S. poverty statistics to depict the United States as a failed, nightmarish society. And nothing could be further from the truth.

    President Obama plans to make this situation worse by creating a new “poverty” measure that deliberately severs all connection between “poverty” and actual deprivation. Rector and Sheffield say that the goal is to measure income “inequality,” not poverty—giving the President public relations ammunition for his “spread-the-wealth” agenda.

    Rector and Sheffield write that when it comes to making policy, the broader reality of what poverty in America means should be taken into consideration: “Sound public policy cannot be based on faulty information or misunderstanding . . . In the long term, grossly exaggerating the extent and severity of material deprivation in the U.S. will benefit neither the poor, the economy, nor society as a whole.”

    Read the full paper What Is Poverty?

    Quick Hits:

    Posted in Culture [slideshow_deploy]

    150 Responses to Morning Bell: What Is Poverty in America?

    1. geozo says:

      Why is the left and the right now being spurned by the average american?Hey maybe because of the way they initiate these reports……. so is there no poverty in america? should we stop welfare? are there people with children that cannot work enough to get ahead or to raise families successfully? why don't you start out from the other direction and say…. we need to scrutinize welfare and give to those who really need it???? try starting with your 8th paragraph First…………..

      • Darrel Mulloy says:

        Until fairly recently in ur country, welfare was provided by family, community and church and had nothing to do with government. We had less poverty and stronger families. I think it's time to go back to what worked before government got involved.

        • Kerri says:

          Except that a new PND report on charities highlights how they are struggling with financial burdens. In Minnesota, they had to shut their doors when the gov't shut down- lack of funds. It really is very telling as a rebuttal to the argument- Let the charities handle it!. Um…we are the charities
          http://m.foundationcenter.org/?pnd/news/story.j

    2. Mary......WI says:

      WI is welcoming reports of fraudulent users of the state medicaid and Badgercare systems. It will save WI taxpayers millions of dollars by weeding out these "cheaters" and to make sure the entitlelment is truly given to those that need the assistance…….same goes for food stamps.

      • Robert says:

        That is a great idea, Mary. They should do the same for people who cheat on welfare, food stamps, section 8 and disability.

    3. Robert says:

      Bravo! Heritage. And there are over 100 million people dependent on these programs (and they are NOT all illegal aliens!). They are receiving more money than they need (for a safety net), and they have zero incentive (or desire) to work. In Texas (home of the "conservative" Rick Perry), we do not have any means testing. People receiving oil royalties of $ 1600 per month (or more) also receive food stamps, unemployment benefits, medicaid and section 8 housing). People who inherit real estate fortunes also receive welfare (as long as they do not work) and on and on. Of course, republicans have stood by while these programs ballooned, or exploded, to their current levels. Our county welfare hospital has a war chest of over $650 million dollars (excess taxes) in their "rainy day fund." Combined with social security, medicare and the associated interest (from the borrowed money) these programs now represent 67% of the federal budget. They can be cut 25% in the first year; 20% in subsequent years and then phased out and transferred to the states where they belong.

    4. Terry Stone says:

      According to the U. S. poverty standards, I'm poor and that's ridiculous since all of my needs and most of my wants are met with a surplus. I saw people while with Social Services who were truly poor among those in this country. Most of them didn't think of themselves as poor and even they wouldn't meet worldwide poverty standards. This country is blessed and we should know it.

    5. toledofan says:

      Boy we have really allowed ourselves to get out of whack; I mean, lets face it, the notion of the Great Society is a disaster; our schools are failing, we've given everything to people to survive but have made it lluxurious enough so people say why work and, in many cases, other than some confinement, a prisioner lives, in some cases, bettrer than an average middle class person. I think we have allowed our society to be remade at the expense of what out Constitution and Founding Fathers set up for America. Political correctness has expanded beyond belief and now we are seeing the consequences, again, unfold before us. This past 50 years should be a learning lesson for generations to come, once we allow the Constitution to be sold, we will be just like everybody else.

    6. @JibreelK says:

      I'm kind of disturbed by this report, I would expect better from Heritage

    7. Dr. H.D. Sinopoli says:

      Beginning with Franklin, then Lyndon, the politicians have attempted to solidify the black populations loyalty by attempting to keep then subservient. Jackson & Sharpton are two black, so called leaders, who attempt to enslave their people to handouts. Of course, the lifer-Republicans can't be let off so easy. They go along to get along, just to keep their political job.

      You can't just blame Obama. He, at least, is doing what he says he will do…trash the U.S.A. Get real Heritage…it's the system, lifer Republican & Democrats…don't keep trying to save your supporters in the Republican party.

      • Ryan says:

        You clearly know nothing about welfare based on this statement: around 64% of welfare recipients are white.

    8. Dr. H.D. Sinopoli says:

      Beginning with Franklin, then Lyndon, the politicians have attempted to solidify the black populations loyalty by attempting to keep then subservient. Jackson & Sharpton are two black, so called leaders, who attempt to enslave their people to handouts. Of course, the lifer-Republicans can't be let off so easy. They go along to get along, just to keep their political job.

      You can't just blame Obama. He, at least, is doing what he says he will do…trash the U.S.A. Get real Heritage…it's the system, Republican & Democrats…don't keep trying to save your supporters in the Republican party.

    9. jrt says:

      One of the reasons that those in poverty enjoy such a lifestyle is that our government provides subsidies for housing, and cell phones, and food stamps, thereby freeing up their income for these luxury items.
      Yes, there are those whose children ARE hungry, one family I can think of fits this scenario because mom is using recreational drugs and is doing who knows what with their food stamp benefits.

      The real problem here is poverty of the mind.
      There are free services in every community to teach families and individuals to stretch their resources, to eat better nutritionally, to shop smarter, to connect deeper with their children (family mealtimes) but the problem is that most don't want to change their lifestyle.

      • Angela C says:

        For the last 20 or years I have had to submit to a drug test in order to be gainfully employed. Not that I use drugs, but I do not think it is right that I have to submit to a drug test to be a productive tax payer, while until July of THIS year no welfare recipient anywhere had to submit to a drug test in order to receive a hand out of my tax dollars. I am also required to allow a backround check and a credit check, all to be a tax payer instead of a welfare case number. How is this a justified or correct in our democratic society?

    10. Aqualung says:

      I see you enumerate the many things the poor have..such as a refrigerator. You seem to count these things as luxuries when in fact they are the necessities of modern day life. An example would be that you mention their nutrition is no different than the average American. I would think that a refrigerator would be essential to this end, in order to keep many of the proper nutritional foods fresh and healthy such as vegetables and proper storage of meats and fish. Therefore the refrigeratir is not a luxury as you seem to paint but more a necessity and thank God that so many poor can afford a refrigerator. A modern device that we take for granted. Would you care to amke an issue of their acess to water for hygeine and nutrition……

      • PDM says:

        The refrigerator is in there because the depiction of the government of people sitting outside a box not even big enough for one.

      • damelisa says:

        Check out the rest of the world, a refrigerator is a luxury beyond imagining; often a stretch for "middle class", and often small compared with what we think of as "necessary". "necessities of modern day life" is what you need to look at harder – it IS essential to proper food storage, not having such a thing is part of what would make someone "poor" vs. someone who does. I think the point here is that in this country even our "poor" people have access to things that make life more nutritious, easier, etc than sometimes even lower middle class economic strata in other countries, therefore are they really "poor" or are they provided for out of public funds and/or charity, or are they part of the working poor who eschew government money and live by whatever limited means they can earn and have worked hard and saved for the refrigerator etc?

    11. Robert says:

      As an example, a neighbor moved in next door with seven children and a shack-up boyfriend.
      She gave birth to child #8 and #9 during the four years they lived there. She claimed to "homeschool" yet none of the children could read. She belonged to a "co-op" where people would exchange food, toilet paper and other consumables for cash. Her father gave her a brand new GMC custom van – that they trashed. She would not buy her kids shoes, yet she had a cellphone and a satelite dish. Eventually, her aunt threw her out of the house – which they had also trashed – it took a three-man crew six months to gut, clean, and refurbish. All told this woman received over $ 48,000 in welfare benefits; never did one hour of work; in fact, she would sit in her van for hours talking on the cellphone, while her 17-year daughter cleaned and cared for the other six children and two babies. The woman refused to accept any responsibility and how do you think the kids will turn out? We are borrowing trillions of dollars to pay for these ridiculous programs that destroy people and communities.

      • FedUp says:

        just imagine how many of these cases (and even worse!) are around the country.

      • Millie Hirsch says:

        That is one of the BIG problems! We HEAR about the person who is really abusing the system but not the MANY that are really struggling because they are silent about their situation. They feel like failures and don't want their plight known. They suffer in silence.

    12. Frank says:

      The Federal Government best "promotes the general welfare" by just lowering taxes, insuring a stable monetary system based on something of intrinsic value (not the artificial, debt based "fiat money" system we now have), stopping the forced income redistribution, getting rid of many government regulations, paying down the debt, shrinking the size of government & ensuring a "level playing field" among businesses ("fair" capitalism, not the "crony capitalism" we have today). About half of what the Federal Government now does today I consider Unconstitutional. The other half it does wastefully, including having bases & troops in over 100 countries around the world… our Founding Fathers would never have wanted that either!! For over 100 years, the Federal Government spend only about 3% of GDP, then it went to about 18% of GDP & now its about 25% of GDP. We need to return to the 3% of GDP days, mind our own business, stop all this misguided social/welfare spending, policeman of the world & return to a small, limited, Constitutional Federal Government… like our Founding Fathers wanted.

      • Robert says:

        Excellent point, Frank. I would only add that through federal mandates state and local governments are forced to spend trillions of dollars they don't have. The combined figure for government spending is 43% of GDP (includes federal, state, city and county spending). In 1950, the combined figure was 24% and in 1960 the combined figure was 29%. It had gotten down to 32% in 2000 and in nine years went to 43%!!!

      • Jana says:

        Amen!!!!!!

    13. amyjo57 says:

      Much of what you state in your article is accurate, but you are way off on some of them. A washer and Dryer, coffee maker, microwave, are not fluffy extras. Cordless phones cost less that $20 and is also not considered a luxury. It sounds like you are vilifying the poor that use their money wisely and save for things they want for their families. Government assistance can make the life of the disabled, unemployed and seniors living on SS better.

      No matter how you count it living on $700 a month with $200 food stamps is not life on easy street. That is my income. I save my money and buy second hand items so that I can have a comfortable life. I am disabled and was a stay at home mother so I didn't have much time in the work force before becoming disabled. I live in federally subsidized housing now. Prior to getting in this apartment complex my rent was $450 for a studio leaving me little extra.

      There is nothing that upsets me more than people beating the system. I hate that and those who do make all those who need help look bad. I shop at second hand stores for my clothing, make much of my own cleaning supplies, buy food on sale and use coupons, and am as frugal as possible. Oh, I do have an air conditioner…a used old one with no knobs and it cost me $20. I have asthma and only use it when the temperature goes over 85 degrees. Perhaps you should be applauding those that do it right instead of making all those in need of assistance look like they are on easy street.

      • damelisa says:

        Assistance for those who actually need it, as you describe here about yourself, is a very different story from what I believe most of these comments address. My sister is in a situation comparable to your own, very little left over at the end of the month, Section 8 housing, etc, and I am here to tell you that it is very very basic housing. We help her out as best we can, so she is more fortunate than many in her area. I have no problem with a society helping out those who actually need it whether temporary or permanent – it is those who don't even try or who expect just because they exist, that I want nothing to do with enabling.

      • tom says:

        Bless you my fellow American.It is the people like you that the system is intended to help and I am fine with that as you are doing all you can .It is the people who take advantage of the system who keep you from getting a little more .Hang in there my friend–you are the kind of people I like to help-wish I knew where you were

      • Millie Hirsch says:

        Thank you for speaking up!!! They continue to publicize those that abuse the system but no word of people like you who are barely existing. I'm surprised that they did not include running water, indoor toilet, electricity, etc as "amenities." In ANY article like this, one must always look for the author's agenda because there is always one. Also, do those who "know" someone that is abusing the system report them??? Probably not.

        • Dawn says:

          AGENDA? These are facts.the article is highlighting the fact that US residents live so much better than third world countries whose poor are truly poor and would never dream of having a refrigerator or cellphone!

      • Momma says:

        I guess my question is why you think it's the job of government to take money from taxpaying citizens to fund what is, at its core, charity. A government entitlement system will always have a harder time weeding out fraudulent and frivolous hardship claims. You're receiving $900 month total, meaning you get $10,800/year from others, not including the value of your subsidized housing, Medicaid, or other benefits you may be receiving. The fact is there are not enough taxpaying families to be able to fund the number of people seeking assistance, because so many are defrauding the system. And I know you want a pat on the back for being frugal, but guess what? Those of us who are paying federal income taxes and don't receive any entitlements are also clipping coupons, buying food on sale, and shopping second hand…there's not a lot left over in our budget after paying our taxes.

        Here's some hard facts: According to census data, there are 308,745,538 and a total of 112,611,029 households. With an estimated poverty rate of 14.3%, that means there's 44,150,612 people who meet government standards of impoverishment. With almost half of all households being exempt from paying income tax, that means there's only approximately 56 million households who have to pay for the benefits of the estimated 44 million people defined as poor. That means Medicaid, federally subsidized housing, earned income tax credit, food stamps, disability payments, cash welfare, and other government-funded welfare programs. There's just not enough taxpaying households to fund the demands of the "needy" in America, many of whom would not be so needy if their spiritual needs were being better met, something which government welfare agencies are forbidden to do.

        • billy_bob says:

          IF you have ever worked and received a paycheck, you will notice government, i.e. Federal Payroll taxes, e.g. FICA, Unemployment Insurance, Witholding for Federal Income tax, etc. amounts to minimum 30% of the gross pay. In some cases this figure is over 50% of the gross pay. This is why many, if not most, who are struggling to get by must rely on welfare as a supplement for mere subsistence, and why our economy is tanking. In most cases, it is NOT their fault or their choice. It is the decadence of politicians, special interests, union contracts and degradation of our working class incomes because of extortion and abuse from exorbitant, high tax rates. IF anyone is to blame, it is the Federal Government.

    14. Turner says:

      He's building a false "social justice" cause built on larger poor segment created by his policy making that funnels money to his cronies by who pay tribute back to him with campaign finance, but destroy job-making. In the end, he will have developed the situation people abhor, but too subtle for the masses to see. He will convince this group that will have become desperate tot he point of civil unrest that he has been on their side all along, and he will proceed on a crusade built on class warfare. This is what a guy that cannot perform does within his own failures.

    15. DEAN says:

      Why am I not surprised?? JUST KEEP ON SPREADING THE WEALTH, OBAMA!!!!!!!

    16. Lynn says:

      Wow – you missed this one. Poverty among single older women – with no earning capacity except low social security benefits does not fit this profile. They are having to make decisions between food and AC during the summer months and heat and food and medicines in the winter. A single profile for "poverty" is useless in its simplicty – no matter who is defining or compliling. Let's look at all segements of our population.

      • Bobbie says:

        The profile is the coercive will of government to feed those who can feed themselves. This isn't about legitimacy regarding poverty, it's about distortion and government's gain.

    17. Ronbo says:

      I served as a police officer for 36 years in one of the nation's largest cities. It was rare indeed to encounter a family that was starving or struggling to survive. When we did encounter a family that was needy, there was an outpouring of sympathy and assistance.

      There are, however, many families where the (I'm struggling to find the right term here — there are many situations in which the usual terms like parents, guardians, caretakers, really can't be applied ) heads of the family misspend what few resources the family has. We can't fix those problems by giving them more…

    18. Richard J. Grahn says:

      We would gladly trade places with any of your employees and/or governmental employees at any level. Y'all are misguided and dispensing misleading or imagined "facts" that fly in the face of OUR REALITY. Truth has fallen in the streets, offices, churches, schools, businesses and we are on the cusp of becoming a nation of liars and half-wits. Please spare us from correct thinking. We are followers of the One Who said several thousand years (before your publication), "I am the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE. No one comes to the FATHER except through me." John 14:6

    19. Dean Yancer says:

      I have been a long-term property investor (landlord) for over 20 years in a predominantly low income area in central Michigan. I see colossal waste everyday. I tell my wife all the time if the policy makers could ride with me for a day they would never vote for a welfare bill again. Stop wasting our money

    20. Paula says:

      As a teacher of "children from poverty" for 36 years I learned that they enjoyed many more amenities than I did as a teacher working full time and going to school, paying my expenses, putting away savings etc. Even teacher aides were walking around with designer purses and shoes( not knock-offs) that I could not afford. A sense of entitlement and resentment to wealth is fostered and created by the welfare system and creates dependent, angry and unskilled citizens!

    21. ThomNJ says:

      A great "old" book: "Myths Of Rich And Poor: Why We're Better Off Than We Think" by Michael W. Cox (Author), Richard Alm (Author)

      Heck, NJ gives rental assistance, car insurance assistance, mobile phones, TVs, computers and other freebies to the "poor". It is disgraceful when a supposedly poor person is making out better in a number of ways than the working citizen at the lower end of the economic ladder. Some folks clearly need the help, but a great deal of them recognize it is more attactive to be taken care of instead and eschew working.

      Also, I'd like to add that we ought to push for voting changes in this country. Those who pay income taxes get to vote. If you worked all your life and paid taxes, you also get to vote when you retire. You serve honorably in the US military, you get to vote. You get a welfare check from the government, you DON"T get to vote. If you don't contribute to the pie, you should have no say in how it is divided.

    22. Alex says:

      Interesting article. It definitely painted a clearer picture of what it means to be poor in the US. However, it still has a few problems:
      1. The effect of crime on the poor is completely ignored. This obviously affects quality of life.
      2. Social mobility is also ignored. Obviously these people are at a disadvantage in terms of access to good schools. Education is essential for people to get themselves out of poverty, especially early childhood education which has the greatest impact on a person's intelligence. The free-market ideal of the American Dream falls apart when people don't even have bootstraps to pull themselves up by. I think this is a big part of why Obama is focused on this issue; because not having even the possibility of equality of opportunity is unfair.
      3. The health issue could use more attention.
      4. 1 in 5 poor people that experience food shortages still equals 6 million people. Is this really acceptable in the world's richest country? Furthermore, malnutrition isn't always food deprivation. Some poor people who can afford food can't afford healthy food so they buy cheap junk instead. This has all sorts of negative health effects. I wouldn't be surprised to find a much higher incidence of diabetes in impoverished Americans versus any other demographic.

      Just a few points to consider.

      • Bobbie says:

        to reduce crime is to enforce the law to a level of deterrence from that crime. Proper accountability.
        Social mobility is not a function of government. People are at a disadvantage because they only look to government, waiting for government, depending on government who's more corrupt than any private sector industry.

        Proper education is essential for people NOT to fall into poverty. nd proper education keeps people from poverty. NOT TODAY OBVIOUSLY! Early childhood education is proven more harm than good compared to parental upbringing in a private day care. The free-market ideal of the American Dream falls apart when leadership is taking steps necessary to destroy TAKE IT FROM THOSE THAT WORKED TO EARN THAT DREAM and hand it to obama's inferior select. There's always been equal opportunity until Obama decided putting in a quota of skin color is more effective? Pretty insulting I can't be hired for my intellect, qualifications and work ethics which my skin color does not reveal.

        the government has absolutely no right to our personal health. The government was called upon to reduce the cost, not invade our privacy. If everyone was responsible to their own health expense, the cost would logically come down. We take short cuts to our health expenses because we can't afford them while paying taxes so other people selected by government benefit at no cost.

        Everyday is a food shortage in our house. Here we pay for those on government subsidies, debit cards, food shelves, school breakfast and lunch programs etc. and can't afford it for ourselves while costs go up for many reasons controlled by government. Who's really being counted? Poverty isn't what government wants to convince you of. It's the people rarely counted who are struggling to maintain their freedom and independence that the government has their select entitled living off the backs of. A proper government in America, would show a strong people. Not divide us by skin color and amenities and draw us into poverty! Government has subconsciously indoctrinated an unwillingness for people to do for themselves. STOLEN FREEDOM and PERSONAL DIGNITY!! A LOST AMERICA where self reliance was once what America stood for.

        just a few points to consider.

    23. Linda in FL says:

      Interesting…….. family member works for an eye doctor. A Medicaid patient didn't like the frames paid by Medicaid and whipped out a check for $296.00 for a designer pair. I can't even afford to do that. I buy cheapy reading glasses at the dollar store. Our church helps people with utility bills but only the last $75.00. They have to pay all but that and then bring in the receipt. Amazing they can find the money to pay. Or the person who we know who was continually asking for handouts and we were obliging plus getting her food stamps….until she was caught numerous times on the 1st of the month at the local convenience store buying hundreds of dollars of scratch off lottery tickets. Now, she's been seen at the next town buying them. The stories go on….all of welfare needs to be re-examined.

    24. R Allen says:

      i think the study is flawed. what kind of Xbox did they have? was it the first one? that goes for like 30 bucks now? or the new one? did they buy it used? or new? also…what level of c able did they have? was it basic just to get some channels because the new digital spectrum only works if you live in flat unobstructed views of the signal? so I am wondering …how about this for an idea. when a goddamn bank fails or a business…we don't bail them out to the tune of trillions…we give the money to the American people!! I am a Libertarian. I see though this bullshit right-wing extremism. Means and drug test for benefits? you betcha. Add the requirement to go to College/vocational school? you betcha! write a piece of shit story hyping the sensationalist side of welfare? No way.
      stop bailing out banks. Stay out of wars…that sets us back in the black..what a piece of shit article. and it does nothing but divide the classes even further…making you no better than the democrats.

    25. gringo says:

      These are actually upper middle-class Americans, until recently. The government can relax, soon they will have to sell all their belongings, and be "proper" poor people. The middle class has gone the way of integrity in government and the dodo.

    26. Dave says:

      While I agree that some of the "poor" do not always spend their money wisely, I do not find it a terrible thing that they might spend some money on simple entertainment like cable TV or a video game. Kids AND adults too deserve to have some kind of entertainment. It's not like they can afford a real vacation to some island or a cruise or week at the beach, they shouldn't have to feel guilty because they find some minor form of enjoyment. For all you know those luxuries you list like Xbox's or dvd players or color tv's could be things they purchased BEFORE they lost a job and wound up in a poverty situation. All that said, I do have a daughter that does do social work and she does see a lot of abuse of the system, but I have a hard time faulting people for trying to find some meager enjoyment through some simple things like cable tv.

    27. Rick says:

      This report like most only touches the surface. The families on welfare go generations passing on the fact they don’t have to work when they get more staying on welfare. They learn to beat the system have more than a middle class family. Now one idea is if there health permits put them to work doing what federal and state workers do. But wait the unions would complain and become unhappy and if they are there is the voting block for the corrupt politians so that can’t be. So they turn there heads and allow this to continue. It won’t be long and all middle class will be on welfare why work pay 50 percent in taxes when you can sit home have all the luxuries and not work lol. These ppl in washington don’t have a clue what goes on in the real world. Look at the worthless president more concerned about re election rthan doing what is right for generations to come

    28. DebS says:

      It is so true and it should also be mentioned that these so called POOR youngsters have no incentive to stop playing games and find at least a summer job. If you look at young native americans who are told that they deserve to be taken care of by the government, you will find a society in decay as there is no reason to better themselves with education or a job. They are in a worse situation than the Native people were a generation ago and I think it is due to all the HELP they get from the government. The teachers in their schools are afraid to disipline or expect any effort by the students or they may lose their job. If this is where America is heading we will be a third world country by the end of the century.

      • linda reis says:

        agreed. welfare is too easy to get and is not monitored. if the mother is on welfare, then the children are when they get older…
        I had a friend getting assistance, going to school part time and actually trying to get off it by WORKING part time at my office. She had to quit because her assistance was cut drastically as she recvd a paycheck. Its like the welfare system does not want her to better herself

      • Barbara says:

        Summer jobs? Where, I have been out of work for 3 dam years. 4 years college under my belt and still haven't found a dam job. Stop complaining and being so racist. How can anyone take something such as a race and distort it in such a way that its because of this , and their poor lack of education. Duh? Who are the morons who aren't hiring? BLACKS AND WHITES, SO DON'T even give me a iota of how just and fair this country is. It bullshit in my opinion when people like you, think that the Mexican and any other race should step back and get educated and thank god for the white man and his stepping grounds. What a crock, everyone is broke and its whether people chose to begin a career off the bat, and see where it goes . And lose that idealism of how "UNFAIR it all is." Its okay to take from other children, but when it comes to your owns future ; then you give a dam . Hypocrite.

    29. Michael Jacobs says:

      The article speaks about poor Americans while the graph represents all Americans. It would be interesting to see a graph of only those Americans who are considered poor by government standards.

      • Belinda says:

        Look again. The first is all Americans, the second is "poor" Americans. Virtually identical.

    30. Glynnda says:

      Excellent article!!! The first priority is establishing what actually is poverty in this nation, the second how we approach it. First we can't just take a family who is having a hard time and tell them, "okay when you reach a certain income level, you get cut off". The trick? Make the goal to eventually get the family stabilized and off services…..hopefully forever. There will always be some who are simply not able to take care of themselves, but the vast majority have more than enough capability to do so. It is time for us to make them responsible and hold them accountable for that ability…..also everyone needs to pay taxes at some level…… do this and watch our nation change…..

      Glynnda

    31. Bruce Blake says:

      I once had a discussion concerning capitalism with a priest from Nigeria (on a flight from Houston to Baltimore) and I ended the debate by asking, “How many poor people have you seen since you have been in America? We don’t have any!” This followed his last ditch effort to win the debate by saying that in a capitalist society nothing trickles down to the poor. He had to admit that compared to Nigeria, the USA has no poor people and in this country capitalism has lifted all boats. Finally, we agreed that Nigeria’s problem, is bad government.

    32. Ken Jarvis - Vegas says:

      HF – “What is Poverty in America?”

      What a question for the RICH to ASK.

      Poverty is NOT having any KEYS.
      If you don’t have a key,
      you don’t have anything that needs to be locked up.

      How will YOU be better off if ObamaCare is Repealed,
      and there is NO HCare for ALL?
      More Corporate Control of our lives.
      NOT GOOD. Thanks

      Have YOU ever read on HF that –
      Things Will get Better?

      ===

      7 – 18 – 11 FROM – Ken Jarvis – LVKen7@Gmail.com
      TRUTH = THINGS WILL GET BETTER.

      • Bobbie says:

        You know I love you Mr. Jarvis, but I haven't answered to any corporation in my life! So you want government control to replace your self control? Without government run health care makes it one less useless public entity at an outrageous expense, involved in the privacy of our personal health. Of course, behind our backs, who knows how private our information is since government interfered?

    33. Philip Doolittle says:

      2005 Data is not very reliable ore valid in Mid 2011. An entirely different economic and political situation exsisted then.

    34. Matt Matuszewski says:

      Couldn't agree with this article more; however, how many younger, adult Americans are there, who cannot even be counted as poor or otherwise because they have returned home to live with parents or other relatives?
      This is a growing issue in this country and will, no doubt, get worse as more and more people graduate from college with increased expectations facing fewer and fewer opportunities.

      The majority of Americans, i believe, want what Americans have always wanted, to have the opportunity to make their own way in life, free.of government interference, and the chance to pursue a decent livelihood for themselves and their families.

    35. jibreelriley says:

      I'm kind of disturbed by this report. People need factory jobs and people making things so they can buy modest Pink Houses and sent there kids to tee ball. That is whats being lost in America, that is what Heritage should be addressing. This is turning the plight of the poor into something trivial when we have cities that look 3rd World-esk and you can't just wright them off as "victims of policy." Heritage, you can do better.

    36. Gwynn Wilkinson says:

      That was 2005, how about 2011? We have 'tent city' that moves from one church host to another and the community helps supply it with necessities. The meal program at our community center has more people attending. Seniors trying to live on just Social Security having to make impossible choices. There is more demand for charitable works and less funds because of the economy. We have 9.2% unemployment and the housing market has plummeted leaving more families trying to find alternative places to live. When I look around me I don't see what you have written, I see more people in need of the bare essentials..

    37. Diane says:

      I am shocked that the heritage foundation feels that a poor person should not have a stove, oven, a/c and tv. When kids have a game machine, they are at least at home having entertainment then hanging out on the street corner or committing crimes. This is America. I feel that it is nice to know that even the poor have something nice. I would ashamed to find out any different. I am glad that they are fed, clothed and housed properly and that they have access to medical care. Shame on us if Americans lived the they you want them to inorder to be considered poor. I don't mind paying more taxes so that every American can enjoy alittle bit of the American dream.

    38. vony002 says:

      I think this may make more people resent all who are receiving benefits, especially those on a temporary basis . We have had a crisis in our nation concerning job losses, which have caused many families to apply for assistance that would otherwise would never consider such a thing. Sometimes, being poor is not a choice, but the result of circumstances beyond a person's control. We seem to see all those rreceiving assistance as "dead beats". And, where I live, air condioning is not a luxury, it is almost a necessity. Do you wish that families live without refrigerators, or stoves? If that were to happen, CPS would remove the children from the homes and have them in foster care. And, that would be an additional burden on the taxpayers. I am not totally disagreeing with the article, just giving another side of thought to the issue.

      • vony002 says:

        We, as conservatives, seem to be getting on a "band wagon" regarding this issue. We see everyone on assistance as "dead beats". How about cutting the fraud in all government assistance programs. That should save billions of dollars. How about enforcing laws regarding illegals in our nation. Why do they qualify for assistance when our own citizens cannot obtain them. And, now seniors are put on notice concerning Social Security payments and Medicare. When was Social Security part of the national debt issue? Yes, there are some receiving welfare benefits that shouold not be receiving them. But, you cannot judge the whole group by a few people. Let's re evaluate the whole situation before passing judgment.

    39. Charmayne says:

      Forgot to mention how many of the poor in America are on drugs and selling drugs.They enjoy their poor lazy lifestyle while the people willing to work support them. I personally know some of these people and know what their all about!

      • Millie Hirsch says:

        And you have reported these people you know personally?? If not, what positive steps have you taken to try to remedy the situation or have you just turned your head and said "I can't do anything" or "I don't want to get involved" or "let the authorities handle it?"

    40. mike says:

      better to be poor here…i wonder what day the left will own up to their crap…and the right will have guts enough to stand up….and the tea party will throw them both into the harbor

      • Robert says:

        Best one yet, Mike! I only wish the Tea Party would wake up and throw out the lying republicans!

    41. R. Carpenter says:

      The United States is the only country where "poor" people are some of the most obese. Many factors contribute to this. But one of the most significant factors is that government food subsidy programs contain huge quantities of sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Another factor is that there are few qualifiers on how food stamps must be used. Therefore, food stamps are used for soda, junk food, processed foods, and other unhealthy choices. All these indicate higher need for health care. The circle keeps going…..

    42. toledofan says:

      Dear Heritage, how come my comments aren't getting posted, I submitted one to this article about 1.5 hours ago?

    43. Disgusted says:

      This article made me queasy, to think so many are living large off of our resources and contributing to America's embarrassment… Being a family of 5, my husband and I struggle to meet our financial obligations by working honestly, we've taken whatever jobs we can get (despite both of us being well educated) and try to advance ourselves through hard work and determination. When will the government truly become aware of how SO many abuse our welfare system?! Do they even realize how much aide they give to non-needy people out there?! These dishonest individuals have beautiful cars, nice housing w/ all the amenities PAID for, storage units full of brand new (name brand) purchases and are able to go on vacation! Yes! Vacation!! I can't even take my family on vacation, but they can?! Just for clarifications sake, no, I'm not pulling this stuff out of my nether regions, unfortunately, I've seen these offenses repeatedly. Wake up America!!!

      • whyimconservative says:

        Good for you, working hard. I think the government doesn't care that people abuse the system. The liberals wouldn't win elections if they didn't have a dependent class, so it is in their best interest to keep them where they are. They do not care about people like you, because people who work hard and value ownership and personal freedom will never vote for them.

    44. Curt Krehbiel says:

      "Sound public policy cannot be based on faulty information or misunderstanding….In the long term, grossly exaggerating the extent and severity of material deprivation in the U.S. will benefit neither the poor, the economy, nor society as a whole."

      The "Great Society" created by President Johnson in the 1960s has a lot to do with letting those who choose not to work live well on the contributions of those who do. Welfare, food stamps, free medical care, public housing, aid to dependent childdren ($1,500 per child per month for unwed mothers) , no income tax on those who choose to work, etc. The cost to the taxpayer of these benefits is only part of the larger cost of the administration required to provide these "freebies". It would be interesting to know what the dollar cost per vote bought with these handouts is.

      Krehbiel

    45. Turner says:

      He's building a false "social justice" cause built on larger poor segment created by his policy making that funnels money to his cronies by who pay tribute back to him with campaign finance

    46. Patricia says:

      We need to throw this president out of office and clean house in congress. We cannot survive 4 more years of Obama.

      • Robert says:

        I agree to both. Our constitution cannot stand 4 more months of John Boehner and Mitch McConnell.

    47. J Paul says:

      The only thing Mr. Obama's effort will re-distribute is poverty to all.

    48. Guest says:

      Based on this data, perhaps it is time to review our tax policies-Our system of tax credits and refunds for those who do not pay taxes is a contributor to our current fiscal problems. Yet, we hear absolutely NO discussion of this issue. -A flat tax with lower rates would begin to address some of the inequities of the system-

    49. Brad - Detroit says:

      “I am for doing good to the poor, but…I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. I observed…that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.”
      —Benjamin Franklin

      "When you subsidize poverty and failure, you get more of both." – James Dale Davidson.

    50. James says:

      It is time the lies about supposed 12-35 million without healthcare, (no one knows #'s they are just bellicose talking points of the left) the truth about 40 million on food stamps, the entitlement of those not citizens to SSI, Section 8 housing, the lies of the left about homelessness, undernourished children, families going without food, etc… be effectively advertised, shared somehow on public airwaves, viewed in the context of poverty in America vs. elsewhere. I lived in a third world country for two years as a missionary, saw the struggle, helplessness, disease, death, despair of real poverty. I'd be beating down our American door too, if I knew of the high standards for "poverty" here vs there. Time to get "real" about this as we tackle the cause of losing our prosperity attitude as well.

    51. Diane says:

      In America everyone should be able to live with modest comfort. Kids who have video games are less likely to commit crimes or hang out on the street corner. It is better to pay a little more taxes so that every American can live in relative comfort than to have the super rich and the super poor. Why would you think it is wrong for a poor family to have a frig or a microwave, a tv or a washing machine? Many of the poor are handicapped in some way. Not all people can become owners of their own business or ceo's. Get off the high horse and help one another. Do you really think an America that is non giving is a better America? Do you remember what happened to Czar Nicholas and Czarina Alexandria, or why the French Revolution happened, or what would happen if this country became a dictatorship and we lose everything that we ever wanted. FREEDOM. Think about it. (I see that my original post was not allowed, so here is the gentler version.)

      • johnbwisr says:

        Good points, Diane. You may be interested in the blog post in honor of July 4th, "No Representation Without Taxation" at johnbilorusky.wisrville.org

    52. Pam says:

      You are so right on. I think back to years ago when a friend who moved out in the country told me about a neighbor who was basically braging about how they got around the government. They were on welfare BUT had jobs and the house they lived in was in their childrens names along with apartments etc. and they had an apartment that they would quickly go to when someone on the inside of the welfare department called them to let them know someone was on their way to check on them NICE??!!! NOT These are the scams that also need to be looked into. BUT Welfar needs to be GONE. It's like the dupping of medicare and medicaid–how many doctors are scamming that? If you are poor then you are poor and can't afford anything. NOTHING I grew up poor. Didn't think that I was poor just knew we didn't have what alot of my classmates had but eventually everything worked out for my parents as they worked very hard and my dad did great once he got a break. But what's going on in this country now—–AWFUL
      Another story. my hairdresser has 3 young women who are working the system on welfare and government money for children………..one even knows the system so well she ONLY HAS BLACK children because the government pays more for children from black men..SAD If everyone had to work, i would hope their attitude would be changed They wouldn't have the best of the best out there. And they are all stupid because all of these young women told the hairdress "why should you be upset" "you're not paying for it the govenments pays for it" and as she said to them "where do you think they get the money?'' From people like me that work for a living and pay for crap for you to have"!

    53. B. Brendlinger says:

      These facts should be in every newspaper and on TV. I considered myself up to date but these figures are mainly new to me. They deserve more coverage than they are getting. There are poor whom I am helping and they need it but the government needs to find a way to cut aid to there others, According to the article they are living better than I am.

    54. Jay Miller says:

      I was at the local supermarket this weekend and I noted that the young man in front of me was paying for his groceries with a LINK card (Illinois version of food stamps). He was well-dressed and appeared to fit in well in this upper-middle class neighborhood. Upon leaving the store I saw that he drove away in a late-model Chrysler Pacifica, and that started me thinking about what is poverty in America. As I live in an area with ample public transportation, is a car a necessity or a luxury that should be cashed in when times are tough?

      • Millie Hirsch says:

        And you know that the food stamps (LINK) were his and he was NOT shopping for a friend or a relative who could not for various reasons? (As i did many times for my mother!) And you know that if the LINK card was really for him, the car was actually his and not loaned to him by a family member or friend. Having been poor I am very aware of how much you try to hide your situation. Do you know anything more about his situation than what "appeared" to be???

        • Barbara says:

          Well Jay,
          Here in California a family of one child and a single parent is reaching at $500.00 a month. On a 24 month lease; That is it. No more after that, which is sad. So many are totally poverty living and yet people are so judgmental if they have a fridge , ac, or a tv. Like property is something only for the elite. Bullshit! So, after the rent is paid, the food is bought a person is lucky enough to have a part time job or even a full one at that. The cut off for gaining any cash aid would be something like over 1500.00 a month in which it has to be reported to the county.And as each "check or payment is paid" that is logged into a state and country computer to find the father and bill him. Which is another topic in itself.
          I think what would be best is if they feel taking a measly amount such as 500.00 to pay a family to survive on, then when not create jobs to find the fathers? What is it with men ,and running from their lies?
          Rent in California depends; $800.00 on up.
          If your on housing they average it out based on income.If you have a boyfriend, and husband or a living in companion; the rules state you have to submit all information on that spouse. Believe me, nothing is private . But, you still have to have something coming in. Whether that is welfare, or a job or both. It is considered income. I think what people are misunderstanding is that money will be collected by the deadbeat fathers eventually. And that "eventually" is what is keeping them from serving prison time by not helping. I could never understand why it always falls on the woman.
          The payment is what goes onto the case that is opened when aid is applied for ,Automatically a Paternity case is opened . That is the only way to collect aid from the county. They are more for helping and finding ways of the mother getting off the system and fully supporting her own. That is another reason for the low income breaks. zero dental after 20.only the kids get help and that won't even cover if they need braces, clothing, materials for school. everyday things ; entertainment etc.
          But, the difficult part is that when an employer finds out a lot of the time, they assume the mom is a drug addict or some psychological problems with them. Which isn't always the case, They are separated from society as if they wear a scarlet A for something that two people were part of. So, whether its the views of some to think the woman is nothing more than a whore, is such a wrong approach to take. Being , their is more single parents in the world than married, and that is part of the society that does pay taxes or has some input into that system that everyone feels that they should be shot and thrown in a ditch someone and forgotten is just judgmental and very opinionated. It is a problem that should be resolved.

    55. Irene Tello says:

      I do not know where you obtain your information…but it's evident that it is not correct..I work at a food pantry on Fridays and the people that come there are the poorest of the poor….these are the people that have lost jobs, have lost their homes due to lost of job…have small school age children in the household, the homeless, the Vet's that are alcoholics due to the suffering of war, the sick with no medical assistance, the elderly on limited incomes, maybe these people that have some of the modern convenience had them before they became poor and are down on their luck….so what is wrong with poor people having A/C and TV and so on…do you mean to say because one is poor we are not entitle to be cool in 100 degree weather…or to enjoy the pleasure of a T V……that is the problem with Conservatives they don't believe the poor are entitle to government help….although I believe people should work and earn a living…there are no jobs to be had….and there are people out there who need help …I believe we need to have a little bit more compassion for Americans that are not lucky enough to be wealthy.

      • Millie Hirsch says:

        Amen! With no refrigeration how would the poor preserve and make their food last until their next meager check or donation? It is obvious that the wealthy have NO idea what an "amenity" is. They never see the people that you do. They probably don't even know anyone that earns minimum or no wage.
        Keep up your good work and may God bless you.

      • whyimconservative says:

        Yes, conservatives don't believe the poor should have "government" help. Conservatives donate more to charity (read Who Really Cares by Arthur C. Brooks) because we believe in actually helping people. Government help is addictive and makes people dependent. Charities help people change their lifestyles, overcome addictions, obtain new job skills and become self sufficient.

        • Well if the poor shouldn't have government help, neither should Wall Street (i.e. Lehman Bros., AIG), the American Auto Makers (making an inferior product finally caught up with them), Big Oil, Agriculture, nor anyone who get subsidies or tax breaks, while outsourcing jobs to Asia or anywhere else.

    56. Leita says:

      There is a difference between "relative poverty" and "absolute poverty". Relative poverty would be say, only being able to afford beans,rice, and plain oatmeal to eat in America. Absolute poverty is unable to afford the basics of life – food, shelter, and basic clothing such as the people in 3rd world countries. Then there is a matter of choice in lifestyle, such as those who forego the basics of life for addictions or other reasons.

      I agree that Obama is trying to use income inequality for his agenda. Considering reports that the average income in America is $40,000 per year, how far down the income scale is "poverty"? What is rich?
      The average income in NY City would not be sufficient to survive comfortably, but the average income in NY would buy a mansion in the middle of the country. That is where "poverty" needs to be qualified.

    57. Curt Krehbiel says:

      "Sound public policy cannot be based on faulty information or misunderstanding….In the long term, grossly exaggerating the extent and severity of material deprivation in the U.S. will benefit neither the poor, the economy, nor society as a whole."

      The "Great Society" created by President Johnson in the 1960s has a lot to do with letting those who choose not to work live well on the contributions of those who do. Welfare, food stamps, free medical care, public housing, aid to dependent children ($1,500 per child per month for unwed mothers), no income tax on those who choose to work, etc. The cost to the taxpayer required to provide these benefits is only part of the larger cost of the administration required to provide these "freebies". It would be interesting to know what the dollar cost per vote bought with these handouts is.

      Krehbiel

    58. bjalex says:

      They have apartments that are equipped with ac, etc? i'm that due to the apartment owners not the people living there. Are you upset that they have food also. they are taller and heavier? I'm sorry but I have not heard of an article that is more ignorant that this very often. I do not begrudge these Americans their few pleasures in life. The fact that many of the poor are families of service people or themselves i am not about to start whining about a few dollars that may go to fellow Americans that are having a hard time. Having a play station does not a middle class American make. Right after America cuts back on the billions that we give to our *friends* who do nothing to make our country safer or better but stand in line with hat in hand demanding we do not cut their welfare then I will be willing to discuss our American citizens and a few bucks and the luxurious life that they are living on welfare.

    59. M&M says:

      If your stats are from 2005 – what does 2010 -2011 look like????

      • Robert says:

        Worse! The census.gov report shows 82,000,000 receiving welfare benefits of any type (TANF, food stamps, section 8, medicaid) as of 2008. The economy crashed in mid 2008 and by mid 2009, we had added 16,000,000 people to the food stamp rolls alone. Some of those people may have been receiving other forms of aid – but the vast majority were new to the system.

    60. CrainSon3 says:

      Here all this time I thought I was gettin' along just fine as the average middle class American citizen. I didn't realize I was poor! OH NO! This made me really stop and think…. how many of the Government's "defined" poor pay taxes? Or, on the flip side, how many of the Government's "defined" poor receive handouts? I have seen "poor" and the Government's interpretation of poor misses the mark significantly (so what else is new!). Great article Heritage!

      • FedUp says:

        I don't even have some of the things on that list, and Obama & his ilk call people like our family "the rich".

    61. Opinari says:

      Typical of this administration….change the rules to get the desired result. Untruthfulness and following their agenda to portray the US to other countrues in a bad light as well as bringing US to its knees and turn into a socialist society or worse.

    62. evan hurrle says:

      Keep putting out your falsifications, blind faith only goes so far and you guys manage to alienate more republicans every day. How you guys think that doing nothing will get you in the white house is interesting, your foundation ought to know that Americans respect action. Your party has done absolutely nothing since gaining the house, perhaps you should heed the words of Teddy Roosevelt and do something to restore some respect and integrity into your party. Repeating rhetoric while sitting on your hands will get you nowhere, your tactics are expediting your loss of any power you currently possess in Washington.

    63. Steve Cafaro says:

      Indeed — something is very wrong in America. The supposed poor get trillions of dollars in assistance while the rich pay little, if any, taxes on their trillions of income. Few of us are paying our way, and if not for the magic of the FED money machine, America would be an economic wasteland. Fortunately, the world continues to finance our misguided system which speaks poorly for our future. Soon, America wil have to pay for her abuse of economic priveledge, and the result may well be disasterous.Blame Obama and his socialistic agenda or blame Bush for his embrace of the upper classes. In the final analysis, we are all to blame for tolerating our inept business and government leaders for their total lack of political, economic and social morality and principles.

    64. evan hurrle says:

      I suppose lemmings could believe that our problems would be solved if only we could get rid of social services for the needy. A reasonable person might assume that this is the usual propaganda. How easy for millionaires and billionaires to attack the needy, perhaps you should set your sights a little higher.

    65. just call me arkie says:

      Poor old people who have children should live with one of their children. This was how people used to get by, when they really were poor. How do I know? I grew up picking cotton as soon as I was old enough. We lived on potatoes, beans, and cornbread with meat occasionally. No electricity (hence, no AC), no refrigerator (we had an icebox that we were able to put an ice block in most of the time), no microwave, no TV or games. We played outside and used our imagination to create our fun. I always wanted a bicycle but never had one. The money I earned picking cotton, chopping cotton, was used to order my school shoes, 2 pair of jeans, and material to make me a couple of shirts, from the catalog……….which was later used in the outside toilet.

    66. P Fogarty says:

      People think that Amercia has all this poverty like we did back in the 1930's and 1940's. That is so far from the truth. I agree with this article. I have been in so called " poverty homes" and have seen high end items such as (big screen tv's, all the latest hi tech gaming systems, iphones, ipads, i anything). Don't get me started on all the high end sports clothing and shoes. The middle class doesn't have many of these items. First thing they should do is get rid of all the FRAUD and WASTE in these welfare programs and you will start to see big changes right away. Then really go after the people that don't deserve it and there are plenty of them. You want to really see poverty go to some of the towns in Mexico where the cruise ships take you. Horrible liiving conditions. Americans don't know what real poverty is until they see how other countries live (or treat their citizens). Time for a change.

    67. Blair Franconia, NH says:

      Ironically, it's because of LBJ's "War on Poverty."

    68. just call me arkie says:

      Children living with their parents or grandparents, grandchildren living off of grandma and her social security, children stealing from their parents, grandparents to buy drugs. This goes on all of the time. A useless, good for nothing, drug addict in my family recently suckered an older person in the family out of $60,000. There does not seem be be any moral character. If you mention work ethic to them, they smirk and walk off. The parents want to give their children what they didn't have as children. How many times have you heard that? p.s. Don't whine about drug addiction being so terrible. Our taxes pay for drug rehab for them over and over………what a waste.

    69. Bea Hall says:

      This report is using data that is 6 years old, not quite current don't you think? Also, what is the definition of poor? I saw no annual income figure noted. People (like my family and I) were quite comfortable back in 2005, our annual income that year was a hair under $95K. This year, our income will be not quite $28K. It takes all we have to keep the house payment, electric and groceries paid. Rewrite this with current data please.

    70. RennyG says:

      Why can't this type of information be publicized in the local newspapers and local TV media? Is it because they won't allow it or would it be too costly. In either case don't these organizations have stock holders? Or is it that the big "o" has ownership?

    71. D. White says:

      Taught for 18 years in a High School where 75% of students qualified for free lunch and free breakfast and paid no student, lab or shop fees. But they wore $250 designer shoes and jackets had all the latest personal electronic and communication devices and the student parking lot was filled with newer cars and trucks than the faculty-staff lot. Had a 50% absentee rate in most classes (this was reduced sharply when we got a guard to check permission to leave campus passes.) Few of my students were motivated to study. I quit going to graduation because I couldn't stand seeing students get a diploma based on very easy make-up packets after they failed my classes. We have created the entitlement generations by our lack of requiring youth and their parents to work for the government help received and no incentive to get off the dole.

    72. Cara says:

      It is interesting, but I would like to see "average family size" and "homes with one stay at home parent" also in the mix. 50 years ago, most poor homes had one parent staying home or at the most a part-time for one of them. Now it seems many people have to have two parents working. Better? Not when you consider that they have to now get daycare and the kids suffer the effects of less time with one of the parents.

      Also on the note of average family size, if 50 years ago the average poor family had 5 kids, and now the average poor family has 1 or 2, then quite frankly they may be poorer than that family 50 years ago in what they could afford if they had a full compliment of kids. And the decreasing number of kids in families mean that there's fewer workers to help with the taxes in the next generation, meaning everything is going to get HARDER as there's fewer and fewer. I would like to see more help for families willing to have more than 3 kids than for the families having 1 or none.

    73. FedUp says:

      They need to stop paying them more $ for producing! If you are on welfare you should not be getting paid more money for the more government dependents they produce. None of the rest of us get a raise based on how many kids we crank out. Also, they should be required to pass a random drug test AND an annual physical fitness test, (if they're going to be getting paid health care) just like the military does.

      • Barbara says:

        Women get paid $$ to have kids? From who? I know for a fact, welfare does not pay for extra kids. You might want to check you sources.

    74. Welfare Worker says:

      I work for the "welfare" office in the county I live in. I have often said that every taxpayer should spend a year or two doing this job to fully understand what is going on. The entire system should be revamped because the truly poor people who truly cannot work are few and far between. The majority of people we serve receive more than just our means tested benefits and therefore – without being required to lift a finger for what they receive – live in homes for little to no rent, receive assistance with their utilities and often have utility bills less than $10 per month, receive food, cash and medical. Why work? This is a full-time job – and every time they have another child – they get a "raise" – more benefits – bigger apartments/houses etc. Last time I checked I had to learn to live within my means and if I had another child – I had to fit that into my existing budget . . . I'm not against helping those who need it – but that's certainly not what's going on . . .

    75. GIMELLIN says:

      What I'm about to write will not be believed by some of you BUT IT IS VERY TRUE! I have a close "relative" who will be nameless, she has had a baby by a man who is in his middle 40's [she is 22] This man is a afro-american who is on Social Security supposedly because he is retarded. Well this relative has had his 16th [That is sixteenth] child he has conceived from several different women of course without paying any child support to any of them. I live in Minnesota the greatest welfare state in America. Get ready all of you it's coming your way soon.

    76. whyimconservative says:

      My husband and I have been 'living in poverty,' or below the 'low income' line since we've been married. We have always had everything we have ever needed. We don't buy more than we can afford. We qualify for medicaid and food stamps, but choose not to use them.

      On the other hand, I've seen what people on food stamps spend their money on (Here's a picture of two shopping carts literally overflowing with soda, courtesy of you: http://whyimconservative.wordpress.com/2011/06/06…. A woman I interact with uses every program and handout available, and when suggest getting a job she says, "I can't, I would lose my benefits."

      I do NOT want the government using my and their incomes as an excuse to confiscate more money.

    77. leanne says:

      Where do I start. The people that seem to be trully doing without, were just recently middle class. Due to job losses, they are selling assets, if they can, for food and shelter. I am one of them. No healthcare, food is scarce, housing is about to be lost, and so on. In my state if you are no qualified to be disabled, have no dependants, and are not 65, you can just die w/o food and medicine. Don't get me wrong, I am not socialist, but can't there be an emergency fund for the recently unemployed, or underemployed? I see the so called poor (Welfare) with free housing, free healthcare, free utilities, and guaranteed income. I have paid taxes all my life, never accepting any welfare, now I find myself w/o food, no necessary meds, and failing health, forwhich I can see no Doctors. In rural areas, There are no sliding scale or free clinics. Food pantries are it, and you can only go there 1 every 3 months. As I found myself going to the very food pantry, I donated to fro years. I don't want welfare, just a job to support myself-not available. Just a JOB please!

    78. Jeanne Stotler says:

      "Lo, the poor will always be amoung us" I do not begrudge a poor person from getting some help, I do however begrudge the person who decides it's better to sit home and collect welfare, free medical care, low cost housing,etc. than to work. After my husband died we could have been what was known as poor, since his company cheated me out of the money he had put aside for us. I was working and then lost my job, I got another, went back to school got my nursing license and worked 60 hours in most weeks. Along with this I had a house to keep, groceries to buy and cook as well as PTA, teacher meetings etc. I had 4 children in school from Kindergarten thru freshman in HS. I was sleep deprived most of the time but we made it through and today I am proud of my kids and they know I did it for them. Oh yes I am poor in money as SS keeps you in the poverty range but I am rich in so many other ways and I DID IT ALONE.

    79. Old Nick says:

      And imagine how a lawyer defending the "poor" feels when he goes to the courthouse, struggles to park,
      while across the street, in the parking lot attached to "low income housing," there is an abundance of free
      parking for cars owned by the poor.

      Need I explain my services are "free," as it is easier to get a free lawyer than a free television. The piece
      failed to mention this big item for the taxpayer.

    80. whyimconservative says:

      My husband and I have been 'living in poverty,' or below the 'low income' line since we've been married. We have always had everything we have ever needed. We don't buy more than we can afford. We qualify for medicaid and food stamps, but choose not to use them.

      On the other hand, I have a picture on my blog of a man who used his food stamps to buy two overflowing carts full of soda. Nothing but soda. (It's not the only time I've seen it happen, but it's the only time I took a picture.) I also interact with a woman who collects every handout imaginable and can barely keep her apartment. When I recommend looking for a job, she said, "I can't get a job; I would lose my benefits."

      I do NOT want the government using my and their incomes as an excuse to confiscate and redistribute more and more of our money.

    81. Poor single mom says:

      Where are the jobs that the president promised to create while he was running for office? You cannot "create" something out of nothing.

    82. duelles says:

      HA HA ! I have a 7 figure portfolio, a 1999 subaru – bought very used, No TV, no Cable, no satelite. Retired at 58, own my home outright. I am not why there is a class warfare. I am well off because I spent my life working to be well off. Not bad for a carpenter.

    83. johnbwisr says:

      Well, at least these poor Americans very often pay more taxes than GE and Exxon, and other profitable corporations, who paid 0 (zero!) in taxes last year. Even though these poor Americans can't lobby for tax loopholes like the corporate elite can.There is a growing economic disparity between the very, very wealthy and the rest of us. Yes, even middle class, working professionals like my wife and I, with our three kids, do buy some consumer products so corporations can make money and then go overseas to exploit new, more affluent markets, while American citizens suffer under the weight of declining wages. And yes, most American citizens work for a living rather than sitting back living off their investments while they pay lobbyists and elected officials to make sure they get lots of tax breaks.

    84. johnbwisr says:

      Comment part 2: Stop blaming victims, look in the mirror, and ask yourself why you don't believe in the Golden Rule of "do unto others as you would have others do unto you." So, Mike, if you were poor–regardless of the "reasons" for it, how would you feel about someone writing what you wrote and selectively citing research that justifies your ideas so you can be so unempathetic to the plight of those less fortunate than you. If after thinking about this, you don't have second thoughts, then I feel more sorry for you than I do a homeless person who still has his or her humanity and feelings of empathy for others.

    85. Mike, Wichita Falls says:

      Now I can tell my kids why we don't have XBox or Playstation…we already paid for a poor family to have it. Now I can sleep well at night.

    86. carol says:

      thought the tea party was cool, forget it. no votes from me after reading this garbage. you people are not livining the the real world.

    87. Millie Hirsch says:

      Trash the poor because of the "amenities" they enjoy!! What about your elected government officials who work (and I use the term lightly) part time, enjoy a government cars (not an economy model), government paid cell phones, postage free mail, fantastic retirement benefits with the ability to make hundreds of thousands in "consulting" and/or speaker fees, living expenses, etc, etc. And, among those elected government officials there are none that are abusing the system??? There are none that are supporting their mistresses on government funds, or taking vacations or government funds?? The poor are trashed because they have NO voice – money talks! We live in United States of America – the greatest country – and we want to sweep our poor and sick "under the rug" – out of sight – just "go away"
      Sports players get millions of dollars for "parttime" work which enables them to buy drugs, sex, alcohol, commit crimes which end up in court and we, the struggling American public, pay for that court time those attending games continue to support them with your attendance and support.
      We need a reality check.

    88. Daystar says:

      They should try going to see an Indian reservation…THERE they would see the poverty that has always been there since the birth of Indian reservations. We have always lived in the 3rd world amidst plenty.

    89. Pamela says:

      Reading and skimming through all this no where did I see the income definition of "poor" in America. What's the income level that defines this group?

    90. SJG says:

      Poor and POOR are two different things.

      I look for work every day. I am on the good graces of a friend that would rather see me and my teen girls share a room together than be on the streets. I have a car to look for work. It is 2003 Focus. I have an old laptop. Those two tools are used for looking and applying for work. I can't afford gas to put around and have fun. It is essential traveling only.

      I will take whatever I can find for work. There are so many scams out there now it is unbelievable. More often than not interviews become schemes asking me to pay to get a job. Wasting my time and gas money.

      I was not always poor. I worked in a field that was the first to be hit with budget cuts. What little I have still is essential to survive and get back on my feet. I was on welfare many years ago and worked my way off (as intended). The last few months I had to get help again. I am ashamed of it.. I shop at late at night to hide using that damn card. Now the state cut the lifetime limit to two years.. since I had it ten years ago, I don't qualify anymore for it. I'm not sure what I am going to do. I don't have big screen TVs or xbox or anything of value. I AM searching for work.. I have two older kids I busted my butt to make into productive members of society. My daughter works full time and my son is a Marine.

      Now to find a way to make sure child 3 finishes her senior year and enlists in the USAF …and the last child to finish her remaining 2 years and enlists in the USN. Then hell.. I can be homeless and on the street for all that matters to me (not really but you know what I mean). I just got to make sure my kids have better than I did. The military is their way up and out of this madness.

      Not all of the "poor" are working the system. Put me in a "poor" person's house who gets welfare. I can tell you in five seconds who is surviving and who is scamming. People like me can save this country BILLIONS.. put us to work ending fraud! Hell.. I am so confident I would work on commission based on how much I saved!

    91. margaret orton says:

      Well by some standards I guess we were poor, but we never looked at it that way,still don't. Low income,yes but more than some. Rented always, was a single parent , raised 4 children and received welfare assistance , worked even when I knew the welfare only would allow me to make so much a month , and if I went over they would send me a smaller check the next month. To make a long story short,yes welfare as I call it needs to be reworked to assist the familys to be able to save ,be educated,taught about budgetting, banking, buying a house, as I said EDUCATION, not comparing us with everyone else. GOD BLESS MARGARET

    92. Allen Wilson says:

      Can Capitalism survive without boom and bust that throws workers on the street? It is off track to debate the relative poverty of the working class in the USA. We should consider the quality of life and the value of work. Without work a person has no quality of life. On his lunch break, yesterday, a kook threatened our painter for money. I was born in 1933 and do not want to see a return of nary do wells on the street begging or threatening citizens.
      "What are we to do for workers with redundant skills? The wealthy must help find solutions, because they have benefited over the working class by the use of labor saving devices.

    93. Karsten says:

      They so concerned about the percentage of poor families with *gasp* cellphones and the number of VCRs (who still uses VCRs?); What are the lives of people receiving federal oil subsidies? Ethanol subsidies? Wall Street elites receiving massive tax cuts on their "capital gains"? How many cars do they have? House many HOUSES do they have? Yet they, as "job creators," can't afford a few percentage points higher in the tax code to support their country in this fiscal crisis. Where's the patriotism?

      So poor families can afford modern amenities like TVs, DVDs, cellphones, and, good lord, refrigerators? It is well known that poor families spend outside of their means to try and put a good face on their struggles. If you can't actually be rich in America, the next best thing is to look rich.

      This study does nothing to address the amount of debt these families are in, or the amount of money they are actually spending on these items, nor does it have any sort of acknowledgement that the standard of living and the affordability of technology has drastically changed in the last 50 years. 30 years ago you were rich if you had a cell phone; now you can buy one at a gas station. Where are the stats on how much poor families spend on things that really matter, like paying a child's college tuition?

      So Heritage Foundation, I'm sorry that people in our country are not poor enough for your standards. Maybe we should adjust our poverty line rate to something that would make you a little happier. Does Kenya work? less than 5 dollars a day? Or, would you like flies around the mouth, swollen belly poor? How about the Democratic Republic of the Congo at less than $1 a day? America's poverty line IS higher compared to many countries in the world, yes, but that is because America is simply incomparable to much of the world, and that is something neither you nor I would disagree with. How about instead of attacking the legitimacy of the poorest people in the richest country in the world, you go after the Wall Street and Corporate interests who, by nothing other than greed, self interest, and incompetence, led us into a recession, and are successfully using said recession to further bolster their wealth and income in volumes unknown to modern times. Oh wait, you are them, you speak for them, and you annually dupe 50%+ of Americans to vote for them!

      Now, I realize one of you are likely going to read this and not allow it to post on your message board, because God forbid we allow a free and open exchange of ideas on a web site that represents "individual freedom" and "traditional American values," but let it be known, you can only push so far before people start to push back. YOU may want to take progress of American rights and liberties down the toilet, but people will not stand for it. History is an inevitable march toward progress and all the lies, distortion, and slander in the world will do nothing to stop it.

    94. Chris Popomandou says:

      Great work guys! These people are draining the American economy so they can live with flat screen TVs and blackberry's. I can't even afford a flat screen OR a blackberry and I'm middle class! The US government is in debt and Obama wants to spend MY tax dollars on "poor" people's multiple cars and satellite TVs. I make $10/h. I can't afford that!

    95. Pingback: The Terrible Painful Horrible Life of the Downtrodden In America | Brian Brown's Official Website

    96. roller says:

      all the things you folks are saying are not luxuries damn sure are if im paying for them to have it!

    97. dexter60 says:

      Our beknighted govt. has become a bigger drag than a spendthrift brother-in-law who can't keep his hands off anything within his reach — now demanding is our death, to get it all.
      Time to post that sign: we shoot looters.

    98. Barbara says:

      Sounds like someone is riding on jealousy issues. Instead of going after the dead beat fathers, the illegitimate children of teens and irresponsible people, the fact of NO JOBS!!! and your not going to shove the aspect that with the president that things are well. Possibly for you they may be happening, since you do have a sweet little column of your opinion and obvious lack of real information. As for whether people are TAKING from WELFARE, believe me. It doesn't pay. Rent in California alone is half the amount your are given, the rest has to be distributed throughout the month. And Considering, the majority of people who are working are pots head who just won't allow outsiders in that circle to work, isn't going to tell me,That discrimination doesn't exist. Its a Crock! I have applied to dozens job, have more than enough experience and I still don't' get the work I am qualified to do. But, I still find it humorous to see how very biased and zealous others are when It comes to what some have and what some don't. If you chose to live in a apartment without ac, that is your choice, how does that even matter to whether you are on welfare or not? That is a judgmental opinion of obviously someone who thinks people who are poor should be wearing rags, begging for food and are notorious for having unprotected sex. What an idiot, go back to school.

    99. Ryan says:

      I think you misunderstand the causal chain here. The government has had to step in precisely because family, community, and church are not serving the functions they once did. It is great to recognize that in the past they provided a strong community network of support, but nowadays you are not seeing it. To suggest that we "go back" is to suggest that we made some choice to go in this direction in the first place. In my case, my mother's church was becoming increasingly poor, my grandmother had cancer and great grandmother was dying at the same time and she had health issues she could not ignore that resulted in her losing her job and that drove us onto welfare. We moved in with my aunt and on occasion got grocieries from friends or clothing from school drives, but we still had to forgo utilities and meals, had to move from place to place on an annual basis, and had clothes that were far beyond fitting.

    100. Ryan says:

      This also does not consider how the poor got some of the ammenities listed. We got a TV from my grandma that was 20 years old, my aunt bought me a game boy, and I did a commercial when I was in the 7th grade that allowed me to buy my mom an a/c because she couldn't sleep and was working 14-6 hour days without weekends. Once you have something like this, it is not like you can resell for any great sum of money. Selling an x-box will not get you much money or raise you out of poverty. I think you really need to consider that welfare is not desirable as a long-term state but that it is critical for when bad things happen to good people at a time when relying on family and church, as desirable as that may seem, is simply insufficient to survive. I would also like to note that these programs are so humiliating in design that many hardworking people are trying desperately to get off them. My mom worked her behind off to get a job, but that required getting a GED (which takes time and money and thus requires some safety net).

    101. Ryan says:

      I would also ask: how is it fundamentally different for someone to rely on a church than to rely on government? If you know you can fall back on your church, doesn't that also create the same disincentives for work? I think the logic of this article and many of the commentaries here is deeply flawed and would be greatly enhanced by some actual experience on welfare or trying to live on American subsistence levels. I'd also like you to reconsider the value of some of these programs: thanks to welfare, not only did I not starve, but my mom was able to transition from being a waitress to an accountant. I was able to go to (public) school and still graduate with honors from Stanford even though I was born out of wedlock in a single parent home below the poverty line. I know there are people who cheat and who are lazy, but there are some amazing successes as well, and this article does a disservice by considering the pros and cons and providing a nuanced argument.

    102. Jim says:

      "For ye have the poor always with you; but Me ye have not always"
      – Lord Jesus Christ

      (Mat 26:11 KJV)

    103. BillMI says:

      I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I travelled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer. – Ben Franklin

    104. pete says:

      Put me on those poverty rolls. I'm the only person in my 'hood with no tats or piercings because I take care of my family first, and never have enough left to be cool.

    105. Pingback: Slipping below the water-line | Adam Shoop

    106. DLF says:

      If you believe it's so great to be poor, then will you change places with them?

    107. Morgan says:

      I grew up in poverty. My mom was and is a single mother of 3, and her average income is way less than 20,000. WITHOUT welfare I don't know where any of us would be. But I got out of the situation as soon as I could and lived with my grandparents. I'm now in college to be a social worker with the help of financial aid and my grandparents and loans. Everyone acts like they know about people in poverty, but they don't, unless they were there themselves. I remember being hungry and thirsty a lot and of being afraid because my mom's car broke down and worrying if my clothes were going to be clean for school or not. We couldn't be involved in any after school program or anything most kids get to do. I remember being cold without heat and without water and electricity. There's a lot more to it, than having a fridge and a TV. Live in Detroit…pretty much makes you stay in poverty forever, or you die. You can't judge anyone accurately anyway. Especially if in poverty, it's hard. Hard to get out of, which is the main problem. And trust me, you can't live off of welfare and not still be poor…I don't know why anyone thinks that, it just shows the ignorance of what they're talking about.

    108. Jose Cunha says:

      … as with every good thing, the lazy and feckless ruin everything for those really in need. Do I begrudge a hard working single parent, handicapped person, veteran, or family down on their luck a penny of the benefits our government provides for them? NO. But do I detest the generations of people who are too lazy and complacent to avail themselves of an education and better themselves, who live on our handouts while doing nothing or worse commiting crime and justifiy those acts because they are "poor"? Absolutely. These are the bastards that make hard working people down on thier luck ashamed to take the benefits THAT ARE INTENDED FOR THEM. We need to stop trying to rationalize laziness and complacency and clamp down on those who abuse the God will of the American taxpayer.

    109. Mom of Five says:

      As a former welfare recipient, I oppose the system because of how it hurts the poor. It offers relief from the struggle in exchange for our dignity and initiative. You don't realize what a bum you have become until you get that longed for job and first paycheck – and feel insulted that you have to pay for your own groceries. Then you think,"What have I become?"

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×