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  • Morning Bell: Surprising Facts about America's Poor

    In his address to the joint session of Congress last week, President Barack Obama called for $477 billion in new federal spending, which he said would give hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged young people hope and dignity while giving their low-income parents “ladders out of poverty.” And today, the U.S. Census released its annual poverty report, which declared that 46.2 million persons, or roughly one in seven Americans, were poor in 2010. What President Obama didn’t tell America as he was pleading for more spending–and what the Census Bureau didn’t report–is what it really means to be poor in America.

    In a new report, Heritage’s Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield lay out what the U.S. government’s own facts and figures really say about poverty in the United States. The results might surprise you, especially if your view of poverty is the conventional one, perpetuated by the media–namely, destitute conditions of homelessness and hunger. In reality, though, the living conditions of those defined as poor by the government are much different than that popular image. The following are facts about persons defined as “poor” by the Census Bureau:

    • 80 percent of poor households have air conditioning
    • Nearly three-fourths have a car or truck, and 31 percent have two or more cars or trucks
    • Nearly two-thirds have cable or satellite television
    • Two-thirds have at least one DVD player and 70 percent have a VCR
    • Half have a personal computer, and one in seven have two or more computers
    • More than half of poor families with children have a video game system, such as an Xbox or PlayStation
    • 43 percent have Internet access
    • One-third have a wide-screen plasma or LCD television
    • One-fourth have a digital video recorder system, such as a TiVo

    As for hunger and homelessness, Rector and Sheffield point to 2009 statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture showing that 96 percent of poor parents stated that their children were never hungry at any time during the year because they could not afford food, 83 percent of poor families reported having enough food to eat, and over the course of a year, only 4 percent of poor persons become temporarily homeless, with 42 percent of poor households actually owning their own homes. Want an international comparison? The average poor American has more living space than the average Swede or German. You can read even more of those facts in their report, “Understanding Poverty in the United States.”

    None of this is to say that the poor have it easy. Sadly, one in 25 will become temporarily homeless during the year, and one in five poor adults will experience temporary food shortages and hunger at some point in a year. But exaggerating the conditions of poverty does not do America any good, as Rector and Sheffield explain:

    The poor man who has lost his home or suffers intermittent hunger will find no consolation in the fact that his condition occurs infrequently in American society. His hardships are real and should be an important concern to policymakers. Nonetheless, anti-poverty policy needs to be based on accurate information. Gross exaggeration of the extent and severity of hardships in America will not benefit society, the taxpayers, or the poor.

    Those exaggerations about the symptoms of poverty don’t solve the root causes of the problem, either. As Rector and Sheffield write, “Among families with children, the collapse of marriage and the erosion of work ethic are the principal long-term causes of poverty.” In order to truly benefit the poor, they say, welfare policy must require able-bodied recipients to work or prepare for work as a condition of receiving aid. And it should strengthen marriage in low-income communities, rather than ignore and penalize it.

    Poverty is a serious problem that requires serious solutions. But policymakers and the public need accurate information about what poverty in the United States really means. Only then can they implement the right policies to help those Americans who are truly in need.

    Quick Hits:

    Posted in Culture [slideshow_deploy]

    117 Responses to Morning Bell: Surprising Facts about America's Poor

    1. Glynnda says:

      In agreement with the ideology of Rector and Sheffield on this. Able bodied people should be required to work, no exceptions. Even single moms can work in the daycare where their children are and earn some sort of living. I would take it a step further and say that those who are not working should be receiving minimal benefits and those who are working should be encourage in their work by receiving benefits until they are to the point where they can afford a decent place to live and have some money in their checking accounts and emergency money in their savings.

      • Jeff Dover says:

        I trust that in stating that "able bodied people should be required to work", you mean "in order to receive government benefits", right?

      • Jane says:

        Your statement is logical. I would have wholeheartedly agreed with you, but recently I've met a woman who's husband had walked out on her and her 4 young children. She is capable of working in a daycare, but she would barely make ends meet and probably still be in need of a little assistance. Instead, she has chosen to go back to college to finish her degree; she wants to support herself and her children with out any assistance. She struggles to balance her time to study and to care for her children, who obviously suffer with feelings of abandonment because of their father. From what I understand, she receives a few hundred dollars in food stamps now, but when she is done with her degree, she will be able to provide without assistance for the next 20+ years. Seeing her desire to become independent, and the way her children need her in the home, has altered my views a bit.

        • Donna says:

          Does this woman have parents, family members or friends that could take her in while she is finishing college? That's what used to happen when a family was in a tight spot. If she owns the home she's living in, then perhaps she could sell it and live temporarily with friends or family. Then she would have some money to contribute to the family whose taken her in, and not have to go on welfare.

          • Vince says:

            Donna, don't forget the church. OR, like my mom, you FRAKKING WAIT. She WAITED until she had the time to go back to school. She spent years figuring out what she wanted to do and started practicing learning new things… AT WORK. And LO AND BEHOLD not only did this improve her position AT WORK it also helped prepare her for school.

        • Vince says:

          What's your point? My Deadbeat Dad walked out on us when I was 7 and my mom REFUSED welfare BECAUSE the option was either a) be a slave to the state or b) possibly starve. She worked 3-5 jobs while raising 2 little kids. It wasn't until we were in jr. high that she had the time to go back to school. She cleaned houses, waited tables, did whatever it took.

          I love how someone ALWAYS says,"Yeah… but…" Well, thanks "Jane" for your big but. It sounds like your "friend" is the reason that we have these programs in place but, that still doesn't make that the Government's job.

      • Mr. H. says:

        Welfare should be left to the community. We all have an obligation to care for those who honestly need help. The best way is through the church. Those in need would receive a minimum sustenance and have motivation to provide for themselves. Government is the biggest part of the problem as government stifles motivation and traps the poor in poverty.

      • Have a heart says:

        Millions of able bodied people would love to work if they could find a job. Many are working at part time positions (sometimes multiple part time positions) just to keep a roof over their head and food on the table. America has become a very mean place.

    2. elsie says:

      I would like to see the same comprehensive study done on the recipients of the bailouts.

    3. DN2 says:

      How do we share this information with the general public as well as our representatives? I am constantly hearing the poverty figures cited. But those citing the figures seem to have an entirely different picture than the facts present.

    4. Bill Mathews says:

      The main cause of poverty in this country is households without FATHERS. No amount of government programs, or educational programs, or hunger this or poverty that, will replace the POSITIVE effects of a mother and father living under the same roof, raising their children togather. Single family homes are increasing at an alarming rate. Poverty, hunger, crime, and other problems are direct results of the lack of personal responsibility. A culture of acceptance that not only accepts but encourages out of wedlock children is the culture responsible for POVERTY, HUNGER, CRIME, AND UNEMPLOYMENT. It dosent take a village to raise a child, it takes a Mom and Dad, working hard TOGATHER.

      • Joe Evans says:

        You nailed it Bill. When will this be called out by the so-called leaders in the African American communities?

      • One2Stupid says:

        Why do we pay healthy women to stay home and have babies that the fathers don’t support? In 1960 about 6% of all children were born to unwed mothers. We invented welfare in 1965 and have spent 15 TRILLION dollars on welfare programs. In 2008 over 42% of children were born to single mothers, a 700% increase. Personal accountability is badly needed.

        • justathought says:

          According to google search Welfare started in the US in 1935/Great Depression by FDR.
          Welfare reform took place in 1996 under Clinton, haven't fact checked other statistics, thought they seem probable. Totally agree on personal accountability, too bad it's not part of DOE standards, though they do a
          crappy job on almost everything.
          Interesting article on Welfare Reform. http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-07-17-we

      • I'm Just saying!! says:

        I do not agree with that. My parents divorced when I was small.. My mom raised us WITHOUT child support and WITHOUT goverment handouts. Yes there were things we did without, but we never went hungry. We always had a roof over our heads and we always had clothes on our backs. Things were rough, and may not have been as nice as other kids, had but we were NOT dependant on others to get us through. We grew up to stand on our own and able to care for ourselves to give our own kids what they needed.
        So you see it CAN be done and if more would take that stand things would be a lot better in this country. You can do it on your own and you can make a good life.

    5. Fred DeSena says:

      Even if these statistics are exaggerated,… imagine pulling them all up the rungs of the ladder and truly becoming the land oof "streets paved with gold"! Imagine narrowing the gap between poor and wealthy…Imagine an economy that is robust because of widespread employment, the taxes it will generate, and the available disposable income to support our small businesses especially retail. Yes truly imagine two cars in every garage, a chicken in every pot, and a flat screen on every living room wall!. Is there something wrong with that picture?

      • scott says:

        Do you work for for all of that, or would you rather the government give it to you? The idea that the streets be paved with gold, refers to the fact that anybody with drive and hard work can achieve great success in America. I'm in the so called poverty, and myself would rather earn my life even if its a struggle, its my life not the governments.

        • Robert says:

          However without regulation it is possible to exploit the drive and hard work of others to enrich yourself. It doesn't always need to be YOUR hard work…

      • ChuckL says:

        Fred, What's wrong with this picture is that it makes the assumption that everyone on welfare wants to get off, and that there is no one who really just wants to live off of the work of others.

        When those who refuse to work and prefer to just blame those with more for the situation, they are half correct. They are correct in that there is a difference.

        When they blame the problem on those who work rather than live off of the public teat. they are wrong.

        Of course, our false president is telling them that they are correct, and that is a major part of the problem, if not the whole problem.

        • Robert says:

          Right – but don't think it is just the poor exploiting the taxpayers to get by, part of the reason we are in this mess because corporate executives exploit the taxpayer and working class to enrich themselves. Both sides have an unhealthy entitlement mentality and feel they are due compensation they didn't earn. It's just the case with some of they very wealthy that they shoot a little higher in their dreams of exploitation.

      • The Skip says:

        You're right Fred, there is nothing wrong with narrowing the gap between wealthy and poor. But the way this president is going about it is by pulling down the wealthy to be even with the poor instead of getting the poor to strive to become wealthy. There is no denying the fact that if you give someone NO incentive to work, they will remain poor. On top of that, where is the incentive for people to become wealthy? They get taxed up the a$$, are treated as if they are criminals, and when the money runs out the liberal love going back to the wealthy to "pay their fair share" as if 70% of the total country's federal income taxes isn't enough.

      • Mike in Afghanistan says:

        Ah, Fred but that means everybody will have to have a job and work for a living. W.O.R.K. the filthiest word in the english language. The message from obama is simple. Divide and use all components that will enhance the socialistic structure. jamie foxx calls him lord and savior, a god, a supreme being. I call him a islamic muslim terrorist. Winston Churchill said "Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is equal sharing of misery." Why have tax payers when you can have control and slavery.
        Mike in Afghanistan

    6. elsie says:

      I would like to see the same comprehensive report done on the recipients of the bailouts.

    7. ray johnson says:

      you failed to include how many cell phones they have.

      • MaggieMc says:

        The 'poor' have I-Phones and I-Pads……. I don't, I cannot justify the expense…………. Hey, maybe that is why I am not 'poor'.

    8. Jan Bartlett says:

      Jesus said that the poor will always be among us. This is especially true when the government definition of poverty is the bottom quintile of earners. No matter what your income or your life situation, if you are in the bottom quintile then you are poor.

      • Jeff Dover says:

        Jesus was right in that regard, but in his time, "poor" meant something. Today, it's merely a discomfort and a worry relative to the rest. It's not life or death as it was then.

        • Weldon says:

          …if you are in the bottom quintile then you are poor…???????????
          Then you are saying if the person in the bottom quintile has only one car we shoould give them another…………….

      • Weldon says:


    9. Bruce says:

      I made 90,000.00 last year and I still feel like I'm poor with Obama as president.

    10. The Farmer says:

      The best way to help the poor is still to make a job AVAILABLE for him/her.
      The best way to damage the poor is to subsidize their poverty.
      Should we let them starve? No neighbor of mine will starve as long as I have bread, if your neighbor would starve, you must be a leftist that can't steal from someone who works for a living so you can brag about how you give to the starving poor.

    11. @NA2BR says:

      My guess is, going out on a limb here, that there are hundreds of millions of human beings in the world that would consider anyone with running water and a refrigerator wealthy. When you add:

      air conditioning, a car or truck, cable or satellite television, at least one DVD player, a VCR, a personal computer, and a computer, a video game system, Internet access, a wide-screen plasma or LCD television and/or a digital video recorder system, such as a TiVo…..

      then well, you can see my point. Perhaps this is why the PTB have chosen to do anything and everything in their power (and it is substantial) to lower the standard of living in the United States. Learn to live with less is the subtle message being taught in the conveyor belt of Marxism and social justice in our public (State sponsored) schools these days. While promising to lift everyone out of poverty (an impossible scheme) the PTB are doing everything to keep us all on the "plantation."

    12. Poverty is a relative matter. It needs to be properly and more accurately defined so that needs can be made in a productive, not an entitling manner.

    13. Roger Midtown says:

      Ifknowingly we keep flooding this country with illegals and more go on welfare we have lost our nation, Americans first and deport illegals and Jail employers that knowlingly hire illegals. It would be a great start but then again obama would lose the illegal vote

    14. Mike M says:

      It takes me back to my days in the Air Force (around 1980), riding my bicycle hme from the air base, approximately six miles) and stopping at the grocery store with just enough money to buy bread and a gallon of milk until payday. Ithink about $600.00 per month. From that, I paid my rent, my utilities, my groceries, my portion of my school expenses (which I had to come up with about $400.00 every three or four months).

      While at the grocery store, I stood behind a woman with a young child who was buying the makings for a birthday cake (I guessed for the same child). She paid with food stamps….which I had NO PROBLEM WITH. As I left the store behind her and was climbing on my bicycle, she drove off in a late model Cadillac. I did have a car – a 1974 Chevy Vega, with about 120,000 miles on it.

      There have always been, and there will always be people that play the system. The government facilitates this by overstating the problem and creating more "victims".

      I'm sick of it!

      • Tina Quinnelly says:

        I agree Mike. When I was a young pregnant mother to be (almost 30 years ago) I had lost my job and my husband was working PT at McDonald's. We applied for food stamps and received $75/month. After a few months, my husband was offered better employment so we decided not to get the food stamps anymore. When we told the lady we didn't need them anymore, her response was, "We have never had anyone do this before". People get so use to living off the government instead of using the programs as a "hand up" instead of a "hand out". We used it until we could do better. It did not become a way of life for us like it does for so many.

      • nell w says:

        You and me have a right to be irratated. I can't afford half the items they have and have worked all my life and paid taxes for what? so they could have the things I could never afford. I don't want anyone to go hungry or not have a roof over their head, butthe rest they can get out and earn or go with out like the rest of us.

      • bogatabeav says:

        I've heard too many iterations of this exact same story. I call BS.

        PROTIP: You made the mistake of over-sensationalizing your plight by riding the bicycle. The bike had nothing to do with the ironic conclusion, so you had to shoehorn the Chevy Vega at the end. You should have mentioned how your car was barely running or how you had to stop a couple of times to add water in the radiator. That's a way more believable lie.

    15. Mike M says:

      How many "impoverished" have cell phones provided by the government? How many of their children carry sell phones?

    16. Mark E. Galloway says:

      Seems that many poverty-stricken individuals appearing on televised news reports look pretty well fed, to the point of being rather rotund…

    17. MsPraise says:

      I'd love to know how many new tattoos the poor got. If people have the money for tattoos, why do they need AFDC, Food Stamps, etc??

    18. cyn says:

      When most of the jobs out there these days only pay $10 (sometimes less) to $14 per hour … how can someone get out of their perdicament. Many very qualified workers that once had livable wage jobs ($40k or more per year) are now working at two $12 per hour jobs just to make ends meet and pay the mortgage or rent…. living from pay check to pay check…. All this while the CEOs that didn't even start the companies they work for make millions.

      • Gson says:

        Minimum wage was NEVER meant to be a life-sustaining wage. It was meant for those going through apprenticeships, high school students and the like who are learning how to work and live in the real world. Those complaining about raising families on minimum wage have already lost the battle…. without SKILLS, this is where they will always be.

        The availability of FREE courses from a wide variety of sources to learn new skills sets are out there for all those who wish to take advantage of them. For those who do not wish to learn life sustaining skills, quit complaining. If people truly want to improve their lives, they CAN do it – it just takes hard work! This is still America and there is still the opportunity to "find the American" dream… you just have to "work" for it!

      • Bob says:

        Since when is it unacceptable to work for $10-$14 an hour? Are they getting out of their perdicament (sic) by living on other people's hard-earned money? Earning a wage, no matter how small, generates self-respect, which generates confidence, which generates success. Living on handouts generates nothing but despair and a pattern of victimization and failure.

      • Jeff, Illinois says:

        Exactly correct .. . Thanks for speaking up . . !!!

      • David born in Texas says:

        I am one of those people who dropped from $50k to half of that. How much of that CEO's money should I demand because when it all gets redistributed this will no longer be called The United States of America! Why do you people not understand this?!?!

    19. Jon says:

      Begs the question. Regardless of the% poor; regardless if someone has a $25 window air conditioner, alternatives can be identified to move as many people out of poverty as possible. A quid pro quo approach is the best. People are expected to work for any benefits received. The element missing in welfare reform was that culturally poor be coached in competing in the market place. The upper and middle class kids are taught that competition from birth, not so the poor. Build on something positive rather than focus on the negative.

    20. HoustonJR says:

      Poverty in the US has shifted. The shift that has occurred is those who have worked hard during their lifetimes are know being stripped of the gains from their labors. Many of the best jobs have left the country, job markets are being flooded by both legal and illegal immigrants, and with the economic crash of 2008 many businesses were shut down.

    21. Jeff Dover says:

      Those who are "truly in need" are a small number, indeed. My mother, 86 years of age and a liberal, is convinced that there are starving children everywhere in the country — no matter that she's never seen one and couldn't find one if her life depended on it! Food and assistance is so available and so ubiquitous in this country that any unfortunate child who is starving is the victim of a crime of some sort and may never be discovered until it's too late or the child somehow escapes.

      These liberals don't need evidence. Their myths have the power of religion.

    22. Jolene from Texas says:

      Just because a family's income situation is suddenly put into the "poverty" status, and there is little to no food or replacement clothing in the household, no money for next months rent, or gas tank refil. Does that mean they suddenly should have thrown out the DVD's, TV's 2nd car, closet of clothing, dishwasher, or what ever determines the census folks to think the "poor" are having it pretty good after all. There should be a distinction between being able to buy all those extra comforts of life, after not having income enough to really live on, and those folks who had earned all those nice things before hard times befelll them. But don't judge them by if they have cable or how many square foot living space they happen to be in when their worlds stopped. Should a woman not wear a nice expensive scarf to keep her neck warm in winter, that was likely even a gift from her mother, just because she has to stand in line to get some food assistance???? But you know she will be judged by having an expensive clothing item, and deemed not deserving. Judge not others, before looking at yourself.

      • Donna says:

        I agree with you that a if a family could afford to be the niceties of life and then is suddenly put i the poverty status, then they should not have to get rid of those niceties. However, they SHOULD cancel all unnecessary expenses, such as cable TV, cell phones, newspapers, new clothes (as opposed to secondhand clothes) and TIVO so they can afford the necessities such as food and rent.

        If they cannot afford even the necessities, then yes, they should sell the big house, the DVD players, the VCRs, the second car and anything else unnecessary BEFORE they apply for public assistance!

      • Judith says:

        Yes, it's very posible that a "poor" person may have purchased his cell phone, computer, air conditioner and plasma TV prior to "falling upon hard times." But if he can afford to pay cell phone, cable, internet and high electric bills (for the air conditioner) then he should certainly be able to afford gas and groceries!

      • Blam says:

        I agree. My mother and brother lost everything in 2008, the house, their jobs, everything. They still had nice things like a washer and dryer that they were trying to sell, just to pay rent. One thing you do have to remember though is that some people lost everything, and then there are those who live above their means and think that they are poor.

      • David born in Texas says:

        And we are supposed to fund the sustaining of that lifestyle instead of doing what I did while unemployed? I sold everything I could, I did not knock on your door and ask you to pay my cable bill, I worked 2 part-time jobs until I got one full-time job. I called my creditors and said "I'll pay you when I can", and I still haven't caught up but I the tax payers have not had to help me. Your post shows you are clueless to the real issues here.

    23. MJF says:

      So the "poor" have wide screen TV's and I am still using a 27" old style analog TV. I can't afford a new TV right now, so by Mr. Obama's logic (take from those who have), can I get one from a "poor family" to even things out?

    24. toledofan says:

      I think that there is a natural 3-4% of people who live in poverty just because they can't help it because of mental illness, abuse, physical disorders, broken families, etc. I think these are the true people in poverty. The ones that we need to help as much as we can. On the other hand I think there are some that are there because they don't know the difference and they are emboldened t o the man to provide for them, no matter what just because they don't know any better. Some of these have gotten so good at it that they live under the governments thumb their entire life. And then there are those who are hurting because of the governments inability to create a meaningful environment that facilitates job growth, expansion and innovation. I guess the point is there are different levels of poverty, so, if everything is a right, like, a color tv, insurance, food, shelter, refrigerator, car, boat, smokes, etc., then I guess what's the point of even trying to define what poverty is. Soon, most of us will be there whether we like it of not.

    25. Dr. Henry Sinopoli says:

      As long as individuals remain intellectually poor, they will remain financially poor. Throughout history, the spoils go to those who utilize their mind, even in primitive times, those who controlled the strength of a nation, controlled the people.

      Today, with slick non-profits, media bias professionals, and PAC purchased politicians, those who are ignorant are anesthetized with verbal garbage…they will remain poor. As long as Heritage and other influential policy makers agree with the lifer-politicians…forget saving the intellectual or financial poor.

      (P.S. – Guess what? I already know you will not publish this.)

      • MikePinNaperville says:

        Who says we need to save the financially poor? There are always winners and losers in life. All we can do is give everyone an opportunity to be successful. If they don't make something of it then they live with the consequences. Maybe you need to go play that old computer game "Oregon Trail". You make life decisions and live (or die) with the results. It is supposed to teach taking responsibility and planning for life's issues. Maybe you are stuck reading Shangri La.

      • duelles says:

        How poor are you, Dr? A bit of recognition of what life is all about works for me. I have few of the material advantages that the poor seem to have, yet I have ove $1M in the bank. I merely live on less than I earn. No TV, tiVo, DVD, no satellite. I do own my own home and car.
        I do think for myself since I get no MSM.Only what I choose to read or see. I chose you. YOu are pathetic and misguided.

      • Bob says:

        Oh, you're so smart, Dr…

      • Jeff, Illinois says:

        Dr. Henry . . . Amen . . Beautiful . . I've had the same difficulty getting opposing views published while many who personally attack me regularly are posted on this website . . I guess we're seeing 1933 Germany all over again as the corporatist agenda in this case is playing out instead of We The People . !

    26. weary conservative says:

      Mr. Brownfield left out that 99.9% of the 'poor' have a cell phone for every family member with which they text constantly.

    27. The Farmer says:

      CONGRESS maybe should play the cards they were dealt by the Administration, one card at a time.
      In the spirit of ergency that the President presented it to them, do not change it, just improve it by amendment, put it to a vote, then send it to the Senate.
      FOR INSTANCE; say the first idem in the Obama bill is a request for $87 billion to extend unemployment benefits. Congress could pass such an item with stipulations the left won't like.
      Obama wants to build or repair roads, OK but it all has to be done by low bid, and non union labor should be encourged to bid.
      A wise person could and would do that sort of thing with each item in the bill, in effect making a silk purse out of a pig snout.
      If Congress would do that sort of thing Obama would veto all of his own bill.

    28. Bobbie says:

      The government has no right to misconstrue this matter. If it was true, we'd here about it through sources not government related. "poor' is a relative term and the government has no role interpreting it that results in government gain. without government giveaways people figure things out for themselves but government has become so accommodating behind the backs of the self reliant and with their money, people won't figure things out for themselves unless they're held accountable to. With children, we've been figuring things out for the last 7 plus years on a net of $28,000 dollars. no increase in private wages only increase in taxes and costs and bigger government.

      When you don't look to the dependency of government, you find resources that have always been available. Family, friends! It's getting impossible now and we'll be forced to give up our independence all in the name of the government's false interpretation and expensive costs, if things aren't changed to reflect self reliance of the majority of Americans and in return reduce the government and hold them accountable to their oath, alone! TAXES would naturally reduce with less government control!!!

      • Bill says:

        Governments JOB is to misconstrue. You know, those making $250,000 are considered the millionaires and billionaires of America. The last I heard, it took four incomes of $250,000 to make a million and those people don't fly corporate jets! I a, waiting for the poor to pay their fair share of taxes!

    29. Will B. Free says:

      Actually, I thought the numbers would have been higher. As a paramedic in California, the running joke is that EVERYONE on Medi-Cal ( California's version of Medicaid) has a large, flat-screen babysitter (aka TV); not to mention luxury cars in the driveway, especially amongst first generation immigrants who bring their parents/ family members over here when their health is failing and get them signed up for Medicare and Medi-Cal. You can't put a lien against a house they don't own and you can't garnish the wages from a job they don't have, nor can you deny them services for not paying previous bills. No politician in Washington has the guts to put an end to the three biggest problems: immigration, EMTALA and frivolous lawsuits.

    30. Wolfman says:

      Poor in America
      People in America are saying the poor in America are not really poor because of the following:

      that popular image. The following are facts about persons defined as “poor” by the Census Bureau:
      80 percent of poor households have air conditioning
      Nearly three-fourths have a car or truck, and 31 percent have two or more cars or trucks
      Two-thirds have at least one DVD player and 70 percent have a VCR
      Half have a personal computer, and one in seven have two or more computers
      43 percent have Internet access
      More than half of poor families with children have a video game system, such as an Xbox or PlayStation
      Nearly two-thirds have cable or satellite television
      One-third have a wide-screen plasma or LCD television
      One-fourth have a digital video recorder system, such as a TiVo

      Looking at it from just seeing these facts is every bit as misleading as leaving these facts as a lot of liberals try to do. How do I know this? Because I am one of those people who are now considered poor.

      I did not start off in this category but I am now part of it. You see a little over ten years ago, I was in the upper middle class. I had a very high paying job in the high tech industry in silicon Valley. I had bought into the idea that as long as I could prove myself, I would never need to obtain a degree. This had proven true for the 16 years I was in high tech. The companies I had worked for like my work so much they ended up sending me around the world to all their subsidiaries to do for them what I had done for the U.S. based companies. Companies used to look at my accomplishments and not care if I had a degree or not. This all changed when the dot com bomb happened. At that time there were so many companies that closed their doors, it left hundreds of thousands of high tech workers unemployed. There were so many people looking for jobs in the high tech market, it became almost impossible to review all the resumes. As a result the HR departments had to expedite going through them. The base for proceeding through the application process was, does the applicant have a degree? This literally made it impossible for those of us with years of proven accomplishments to obtain a job in this industry anymore. Then corporations convinced the U.S. Government they could not get enough high tech worker from within the U.S. and would need high tech workers from overseas. This could only happen if the U.S. Government would issue thousands more V1B visas. This would bring in thousands of workers from foreign countries willing to work for pennies on the dollar compared to the Americn worker. This made it even more impossible for those who did not have a degree to get a high tech job. There were still plenty of experienced, out of work high tech workers without degrees but with the government providing slave labor from overseas, the American worker without a degree could no longer compete. This situation has not changed other than to have worsened. A lot of these workers are now in their late fifties or early sixties and have run into age discrimination. YES THAT DOES STILL EXIST.

      Continued below:

    31. Wolfman says:

      Continued from above:
      I have been out of work or completely under employed financially now for over ten years and this is not because I am lazy or not willing to work but because our system has been co-opted by the good old boy mentality. You either jump through the hoop of obtaining a degree like I did or you will not even be considered. It does not matter how much experience you have or how much you have proven yourself in the past, you do not belong to our insider club of degreed population so you don't count.

      Anyway, all that to frame the point I am trying to make. Most of the things I have from above is from the time before I fell into poverty. Still a lot of those things listed I do not have. Most of what I do have is ancient, like an 11 year old HP Pavillion computer or the same vitage Toshiba laptop that both crawl so slow you can take a coffee break between key strokes. A big screen CRT TV (YES that is CRT as in Cathode Ray Tube,)we were given when the person chose to buy a hang on your wall big screen TV. A Chevy Astro Van that is running but held together by a wing and a prayer. A second car that was donated to us that was running when we got it but it did not even make it through two seasons before dying. We do not have any service for TV at all. We do have DSL because no on accepts job applications in person anymore and I have been out of work for a year and a half in spite of my experience. As far as 70% having VCR's, BIG WOOP. You can find these for free in almost any community. DVD players can be had for 30 bucks at WalMart, how many Aericans can say this is all they have for entertainment? Most of the poor are very limited in having any entertainment, so 30 bucks for providing the only entertainment they might have all month long is not bad. Beats the heck out off paying for an on line service.

      As far as the rest:
      More than half of poor families with children have a video game system, such as an Xbox or PlayStation
      Nearly two-thirds have cable or satellite television
      One-third have a wide-screen plasma or LCD television
      One-fourth have a digital video recorder system, such as a TiVo

      I cannot comprehend how someone who falls into poor pay definition could even start to afford theses things unless they purchased them and then fell into poverty the way I did but more recently, or if a relative is paying for it. However, just because they have them does not mean things are really going well. As I have shown, there are factors that weigh in on things reported in these reports that have not been taken into account at all.

      I do not want a hand out, but am forced to take one when someone is in the generous mood, I would rather be back to work proving myself than to rely on the government and unemployment. However, having said that, we would already have been homeless if the unemployment had not been extended. We are making it on unemployment but have no money left over for the things most Americans take for granted, like being able to eat out every once in a while or afford the gas to go do something. Don't judge me until you have walked a mile (TEN YEARS,) in my shoes

      • Bobbie says:

        I think the point is the government is accommodating before the initiative to be self reliant sets in. It's putting an unfair tax increase on those barely making it independently which will force more on the government dole. The catering by the government to provide for those "poor" just narrows their thinking to lose all sense of priority. Statistics like this show very "poor" governing in America!

    32. Christa Hillmer says:

      Many poor Americans have significant luxuries because they don't have a working knowledge of good personal finance. I know of an impoverished, single mother who after being given a personal donation of $50 to buy groceries wanted to celebrate by taking her five children out for Happy Meals at McDonald's. in the mind of most poor Americans, extra cash means there is "money to blow." She believes she is a good mother, but her family will always live paycheck-to-paycheck, subsidized by welfare. If she ever gets a better-paying job, she will not save or invest her extra earnings

    33. Carol M Kite says:

      After reading the statistics related to poverty, I guess I am part of that class. There's a lot I don't have, some I have only because of better times when my husband was alive 15 years ago. It's a struggle keeping ahead of bills today, but don't consider myself impoverished. Obama's plans are twisted & definitely would cost lots more than he's admitting to. America's citizens have been put through quite enough already! He needs to be stopped from spending any more money or everyone will be hurt.

    34. Paddyo says:


    35. Sally Bennett says:

      It is interesting to me that the majority of the poor said they did not experience hunger. I cannot understand why parents do not feed their children breakfast in the morning before school, so the schools are serving breakfast. There are inexpensive oatmeal packets that children can prepare on their own at home when they reach a certain age, if the items are put out for them the night before. I can see no reason why the public schools must serve breakfast to students.

    36. Debbie says:

      I believe that a lot of the 'poor' are so because of job loss. A lot of the things (AC, vehicles, gaming systems, etc) could have been purchased when these households were prospering. When one's job is eliminated, and there are no other jobs, one becomes 'poor'. Another post stated that "Able bodied people should be required to work, no exceptions." I agree, but I don't see the jobs (well, I do see them, I see them leave the USA for corporate profits). If one has to choose between entitlements that put food on the table for their children OR working for minimum wage and not being able to provide for them, of course one will choose what is best for their children…some people don't see that logic. This doesn't mean that these parents are lazy, or don't want to work…they just want an income that can provide for their families at the same level as entitlements do.

    37. Jeanne Stotler says:

      subsidizing households takes away the joy of knowing that you and you alone accomplished something. I have had many up and downs in my life, some before I was aware they were downs. My mother was widowed with an infant in 1934, there was no soc. sec. and we were in a depression. Her Dad, a Lt. Col. Jag in USAF took us to live with him, Mom went back to school and soon was on her own, then came WWII with all the rationing, a step father who mistreated me was the reason I left home at 18. I married and raised my children and became a widow, I worked 8 to 16 hours at night and worked until I hurt my back, I believe you "teach a man to fish" I still do part time work and I am alost 80, when I see people who have kids to get larger payments and live off of the rest of us and believe it's their "RIGHT" it makes me furious. Work of some kind should be required to get welfare if you are not disabled.

    38. Greg Norton says:

      Poverty in America had been declining since our founding. The official poverty level was around 30% at the end of WWII. By the mid 1960s it had dropped to 15%. Then the War on Poverty was instituted because "the country is rich enough to completely eliminate poverty". Since then the official level has ranged between 12% and 15%. 45 years without any progress. An amazing accomplishment.

      As usual, the government came to the party late, instituted a program to claim credit for results, and halted progress. Now, poverty is a government program employing an army of middle-class folks paid to "deal with" poverty while maintaining poverty at its current levels. Illegitimacy, fatherless families, poor education, lack of jobs (and being priced out of the labor market by statutory minimum wages), and disincentives for work are not the causes of poverty; those things are tools implemented by the Poverty Lobby to maintain poverty at present levels, thereby ensuring employment.

      Of course, LBJ and Pierre Salinger didn't mean to do all this. Still, it's the predictable result of their programs.

    39. Kelly Crist says:

      I believe that 75% of the rest of the world would like to have it easy as our poverty stricken.

    40. Alan says:

      The real problem is even though they are "able bodied" they are unable to work. Either no one will hire them, as their skills and abilities are so poor they are not worth the time, or their eroded work ethic will mean they won't last long. You know, it is great to think "everyone should work" but it does not take into account that some people are simply unhirable.

      • Linda says:

        Able bodied people on welfare should be required to earn their checks. The state can require them to do work such as cleaning parks, highways etc.

      • Judith says:

        It might surprise you how quickly work ethics, skills and abilities could improve if these peoples' survival depended upon it!

    41. The Wazoo says:

      Old Chinese Proverb:
      Give a man a fish, he eats for a day.
      Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.

      If a man refuses to fish, he gets nothing!

    42. Cecilia Ruhnke says:

      What the government gives away should be healthy. Beyond that there are no laws about what we buy at the grocery store. Cecilia Ruhnke

    43. Joe S says:

      Isn't cable TV a constitutional right? How about Tivo?

    44. Jama says:

      Does anyone know if these stats include folks and their families are here illegally?

    45. steve says:

      Really? You are citing that a lage percentage have air conditioning or a VCR or a vehicle?

      This may surprise you, but poverty does not mean homeless. Look it up in the dictionary – they don't mean the same thing. Poverty – in America – means a family of four living off about $22,000 a year or less. That is poverty.

      Are you saying that these folks below the poverty line should give up their cars, air conditions, tvs, computer, etc. before they can get an unemployment check or food stamps?

      I think it's safe the say the vast majority of staff at Heritage were born with silver spoons in their mouths and never had to deal with living in poverty.

    46. RennyG says:

      AMEN!!! Beautiful and informative."Do you feel lied to???" I am retired and on SS only, and some of these people have more than me! Why is it the government is allowed to give us their information, not true, and Heritage gives us facts!
      I keep praying because I know our Lord is watching these guys!!!!

    47. Nancy Barrett says:

      My friend came bursting in my door, demanding that I look through my skimpy food supply to give it to Sharon, because they were out of food. I refused, because it was the end of the month AND my friend had told me that Sharon sold her kids' food stamps so she could buy minutes for her CELL PHONE! She didn't have a job – she had six kids – so why was she spending so much money on a cell phone?

    48. Hillbilly says:

      Your comment "collapse of marriage", "erosion of work ethics" and "strengthen marriage in low income families, rather than ignore and penalise it" should be the major talking point when refering to welfare. An Official who places LNU(Last name unknown) is not doing his job; with todays technology he should not sleep until he has the correct LN. The absent Father should then be required to meet his obligation. Placing LNU on a birth certificate is the worse case of "CHILD ABUSE". I would like to see a Public Service Ad on this subject….I had a newly released exConvict come to me for a job. I said only if you forget about your previous interest and get interested in your wife and kids. Your wife and kids must come on Friday to pick up the check and you spend all available time with your Family. Results: I and his fellow workers spent time with his family. One of the happiest families that I have known. There is nothing more satisfing than a happy family life.

    49. Linda says:

      I am glad that you have come up with some statistics. I hope these will be passed on to Congress and the Obama Administration; however, I have no hope that the Administration will make any corrections to their numbers. Over the years of the Obama Administration, I have reached the final conclusion that this President will say what he wants to say with no supporting documentation to back it up. I am hopeful that many people will look at statistics or face the reality that Mr. Obama says what he wants people to believe. I have worked with various programs to assist the poor, and there are funds available to assist them. In the past, the requirement for people to seek work is a farce. When there are no really good jobs, how can we expect people to go to work. The poor is not interested in low-paying jobs, nor is most of them interested in working.

    50. Niki says:

      Re-instate the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps). It is the only half way decent program that came out of FDR's New Deal. Nooo…let's just hand out money, food, insurance, housing and not require a damn thing! Government wants to regulate obesity? Begin by putting regulations on what may or may not be purchased with food stamps, not the money I have earned! Government wants to pay for housing? Then why do they have to contract out the lawn maintenance, pressure washing, etc.? It is hard to believe that with all of the unemployed receiving benefits, no one can operate a lawn mower or pressure washer to keep subsidized housing looking decent. One of the most infuriating is healthcare…medicaid programs that reward you for taking your child to the doctor? As if not having to come off of a dime isn't enough? Entitlement…it will be the demise of this country. It must be stopped!

    51. Thor H. Asgardson says:

      The poor might own ALL of the aforementioned material goods, but that does not mean that they are NOT suffering the poverty of an empty refrigerator.

      Rent takes up virtually the entire paycheck of the poor, with barely enough money left over for gasoline to get to work, or food for lunch, while at work.

      If one gets a rotten tooth, one cannot afford to fix it. Dental check-ups and basic tooth scaling by a dental hygienist are beyond the means of the poor.

      The poor– for the most part– are NOT getting enough to eat.

      "Is this my new reality, Mr. "President?"

      For an excellent reference text on the subject; try reading "Nickel and Dimed" by Barbara Ehrenreich.

    52. Bethy says:

      Why the nerve of the poor people in this country! Having a way to keep food fresh? Having a means of transportation (running or not)? Having access to information? HAVING A VCR???

    53. loriann says:

      Consolidate all the entities of governments that assists the needy and work with a national company such as Wal-Mart to house school and employee these people and their children.

    54. What has become the so-called "Poverty Issue" in this country is more or less only propaganda used by people who have realized that the very few who actually suffer from poverty (either from their own poor choices or otherwise). It's to show that very few % of people that someone supposedly cares for them, and therefore, should vote for/ support them.

      Also realize that most people claiming to be poor are some of the furthest from it. Even if they are poor in the bank, if they have valuable items in their living rooms and a closet full of clothes, they have to opportunity to cash those in to stave off such issues, do they not?

      I know for a fact that if you make 10.oo an hour, and you work for a handful of hours a day, then you're able to feed at least yourself, if not some other people in your family (if you have a family to feed). You don't need large meals to be satisfied until the next time your stomach needs sustenance.

      Another point is that many of the children of these so-called poor/impoverished families are OVERWEIGHT and or OBESE. Why don't these children get up and move, maybe even get a small job for afterschool times? Instead I find that most of them will do what they can to AVOID work, and instead are actually watching TV, and or playing a videogame system that they still have, despite being short on money.

    55. Weldon says:

      the things the poor have in America were not available even to the Rich 60 yrs ago. America Capatilism has provided well for its citizens that few apreciate .

    56. paul says:

      the cenusus bureau released these interesting numbers on poverty. Immediately, The Heritage
      foundation came out with their opinions based on "facts" releasde by u.s. government.
      in the wall street journal, about three days ago, proctor and Gamble announced their new
      marketing strategy. They found out the the middle class size is shrinking. in the meantime, the
      upper class is holding on and prosperous. The company is reducing offering for the shrinking
      middle class and expanding their offering for the lower and wealthy class. this is an interesting

    57. GAB says:

      I believe that the results of any report is defined by the information gathered and since the government is the source of this info, well I say consider the source. I have been through the Appalachian hills and the southeastern rural hill country. It leads me to wonder if the information from these areas was even included because the real poor are definitely still with us. I agree that able bodied people should be made to accept jobs that are available before receiving any government money. Too many on the dole have become too proud to take work that they think is beneath them.

    58. Bob Schmetzer says:

      Opinions are all made from a vantage point. Those who have excess will view the poor as unworthy citizens. Events beyond some peoples control set the stage for their poverty. Mental hospitals closed under Republican rule in Pa. some years ago. The churches that supported this position said they would take control of these people in the private sector. One couple had money for the month and spent it on potatoe chips and pepsi . Their money was gone in a week. They begged for money on the streets.The man beat his female partner and always had the police there at the apartment. He put lighter fluid on a puppy and lit it. The dog ran out of the garage into the street causing a auto accident.Society has a role to play , regardless if it dosn't want to spend the money. People say they live by a higher moral standard by being good christians. You are your brothers keeper. When they are thirsty, give them some of your water, when they are hungry , share your food. Not just on feel good holidays but everyday.Your payback will be in showing your children compassion and love to pass on. That is the New Testament.

      • L T says:

        Agreed, too many conservative Christians stand in righteous(self) indignation under the banner of Paul's admonition of "no work-no eat". They would do well to continue reading, especially the part where Jesus says that as you've done to the least of these, you've done to Me. Most of them are nothing but goats running around trying to act like sheep. For insight into what happens to the goats look at Matthew chapter 25.

    59. I thought so!

      Jolinar of MalkShur

    60. Herb Tucker says:

      It is important that we place the facts on the table to arrive at solutions that address the actual problems and not use their plight to further a nanny state agenda, as the Demagogues, err I mean Democraps so often do. As noted in the report, personal responsibility, a good work ethic and opportunity, not a sense of entitlement, is what policies of the state need to encourage.

    61. Bobbie says:

      poverty is the result of governing beyond ones own.

    62. L T says:

      Many here need to get out and meet some poor people. Admittedly many work the system. Most don't. Most work multiple jobs, with no benefits and minimum wage. The solutions I see in many of these postings will lead not to "forcing deadbeats to get a job" but will result in the US descending into third world status. A couple of things to remember about the third world, there are no millionaires, only people making a few hundred a year and those in the ruling class that are billionaires. To you with some money, think now where you will most likely fall. Another thing to remember is that most third world leaders deny their people are in poverty. After all, they have a pot, a fire pit and a plywood hut. Any more than that would spoil them. Yes, the country is failing and most are blaming a symptom for failure and not the cause.

    63. Orval Wood says:

      I recognize that there are a few people who truly need help. There are two classes of citizens, those who pay taxes and those who don't. Those who don't seem to care less if they break a school window, ruin a park bench or shelter and tables, shoot up road signs or tear up mail boxes etc.

      Wisdom would have all citizens pay taxes. I am for a national sales tax. A flat tax is too easy for congress to make a political football again in my opinion. Minimum wage should be eliminated. It prohibits low income people from making agreements on hiring between themselves to their mutual benefit.

      I feel among those who are listed in this bulletin there is one heck of an underground economy that could raise billions over time with a national sales tax.

      Thank you for your service,
      Orval Wood

    64. Alejandra says:

      My english writing assignment was meant to be on the cause of poverty in the united states…..
      now im blank…

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