By Paul Bedard
As President Obama crafts a reelection income equality message aimed at punishing the rich and rewarding the poor, his own government finds that the 46 million living below the so-called “poverty line” live and spend pretty much like everyone else.
Forget the image of Appalachia or rundown ghettos: A collection of federal household consumption surveys collected by pollster Scott Rasmussen finds that 74 percent of the poor own a car or truck, 70 percent have a VCR, 64 percent have a DVD, 63 percent have cable or satellite, 53 percent have a video game system, 50 percent have a computer, 30 percent have two or more cars and 23 percent use TiVo.
“What the government defines as poverty is vastly different from what most Americans envision,” he writes in his newly released book, “The People’s Money.” Consider other details from two recent Department of Agriculture surveys cited in the book:
–On an average day, just 1 percent of households have someone who is forced to miss a meal.
–On any day, children are hungry in .25 percent of U.S. homes.
–96 percent of poor parents say their children were never hungry during the year because they couldn’t afford food.
–83 percent of the poor said they have enough to eat.
Says Rasmussen, “About 40 million Americans are officially defined as living below the poverty line. Yet most of those have adequate levels of food, shelter, clothing and medical care. Sixty-three percent of American adults believe such a family is not living in poverty,” he writes. “Only 16 percent believe that a family is living in poverty if it has two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR, but that’s what the average family living in poverty has as defined by the U.S. government,” he adds.
Rasmussen, who condemns Washington for ignoring the public’s will to run out sky-high deficits, doesn’t mean to criticize households with earnings of $22,314, the 2010 poverty level for a family of four, but finds that the nation believes too much is being spent on welfare.
According to his polling in the new book, 71 percent believe too many are receiving federal welfare benefits and would like to see official measures of poverty tightened to reduce the number of eligible participants.
The president, however, is going the other way and even reviving plans to help homeowners refinance their mortgages, an idea similar to a stimulus-era idea that in part led to the Tea Party movement. Plus, Rasmussen reveals, the administration’s spending on means-tested programs like food stamps, public housing assistance, weatherization spending and others “is slated to continue growing dramatically even after the recession comes to an end.”