For the past two days, we been looking at The Heritage Foundation’s recent report: “Air Conditioning, Cable TV, and an Xbox: What is Poverty in the United States Today?” Here’s where I take a minute to talk about the strange attitude I detect from the report.
If you had come up to me and said: “I heard that you think that poor people are hungry and homeless, but as it turns out, most poor people have a roof over their head, access to enough food, and have access to many basic appliances,” I would be thrilled! Isn’t that great! Many of the poor people in the U.S. aren’t living in abject squalor! Anti-poverty programs are working! That means that there’s hope that they may be able to earn more money and put themselves out of poverty! Wonderful!
I would not say, “Well, if there not homeless, hungry, and destitute, then they’re not really poor.” But, that’s what the authors of this study seem to be saying. By snidely putting the word “allegedly” in front of the word “poor”, they suggest that, because the poor aren’t utterly destitute, they aren’t really poor.
The report also complains that the media portrayal of poverty is inaccurate, in that television news descriptions of poverty often show complete deprivation, while most poor people don’t live that badly. I am surprised at their surprise, since television news is known to televise stories that are about exceptional circumstances. This is analogous to resenting the television news story about a bulldog that can skateboard, when most bulldogs certainly cannot skateboard. Why don’t they show the non-skateboarding bulldogs? That way people will know that most bulldogs don’t skateboard.
The report is written in a superficially academic voice, but underneath it drips with resentment. All the little asides add up. Couple that with the “Obama’s gonna make it worse with creeping socialism” chapter, and you have a recipe for a report that doesn’t seem to be as concerned with solving problems of poverty as one would hope, as much as it is concerned with driving an ideology and public policy.