By Mike Cronin
When you are told that you need to help the poor in this country, what image comes to mind? Are you thinking about the homeless lady pushing around a shopping cart full of her meager possessions? Do you envision whole communities in America that live in shanty towns and dig through landfills to scrounge for their daily sustenance? Well, that kind of abject, absolute poverty may exist somewhere in America, but it’s exceedingly rare. When politicians, clerics, and pundits demand your sacrifices so they can help the poor, they are speaking “Weaselese.”
Most of the poor in this country may suffer from relative poverty, but not absolute poverty. According to 2010 Census Bureau and other government statistics cited in a Heritage Foundation backgrounder:
- 80 percent of poor households have air conditioning. In 1970, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.
- 92 percent of poor households have a microwave.
- 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 TV.
- 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 TV.
- One-fourth have a digital video recorder system, such as a TiVo.
- 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.
- 82 percent of poor adults reported never being hungry at any time in the prior year due to lack of money for food.
- Over the course of a year, 4 percent of poor persons become temporarily homeless.
- Only 9.5 percent of the poor live in mobile homes or trailers, 49.5 percent live in separate single-family houses or townhouses, and 40 percent live in apartments.
- 42 percent of poor households actually own their own homes.
- Only 6 percent of poor households are overcrowded. More than two-thirds have more than two rooms per person.
- The average poor American has more living space than the typical non-poor person in Sweden, France, or the United Kingdom. In fact, at 1,400 square feet, the dwelling of the average poor American is still substantially larger than the average dwelling in every European nation except Luxembourg.
- The vast majority of the homes or apartments of the poor are in good repair.
The next time you feel shamed into to voting for a politician that demands a sacrifice from you in order to help “the poor” through his government programs, understand that your hard-earned money, and your neighbors’, isn’t helping “the poor” stave off starvation, it’s enabling them to buy cars, air conditioning, flat screen TVs, TiVos, and Xbox-es.