Today in Total Nitwittery

If you own a toaster oven, you are not poor:

Poverty in America is certainly a serious problem, but the plight of the poor has been moderated by advances in the economy. Between 1970 and 2010, the net worth of American households more than doubled, as did the number of television sets and air-conditioning units per home. In his book“The Poverty of the Poverty Rate,” Nicholas Eberstadt shows that over the past 30 or so years, the percentage of low-income children in the United States who are underweight has gone down, the share of low-income households lacking complete plumbing facilities has declined, and the area of their homes adequately heated has gone up. The fraction of poor households with a telephone, a television set and a clothes dryer has risen sharply.

In other words, the country has become more prosperous, as measured not by income but by consumption: In constant dollars, consumption by people in the lowest quintile rose by more than 40 percent over the past four decades.

Income as measured by the federal government is not a reliable indicator of well-being, but consumption is. Though poverty is a problem, it has become less of one.

Look. I am not saying that there aren’t degrees here, and that by and large somebody living without INDOOR PLUMBING in 20FUCKING11 isn’t worse off than somebody who has it, but can we please stop with “your lack of income is not a problem if you have a waffle iron?” This line of thinking is a cousin to all those dicks who saw Slumdog Millionaire and were like, “Poor people in America have nothing to complain about har har har.”

Jude and I were talking about this recently, about just how few truly rich people have ever been to a second-hand store and know that you can get an air conditioner or a microwave for ten bucks. They might suck and be old, but they will be an air conditioner and a microwave and thus prove to this cockyank that you are not THAT poor. Not really poor. Not Charles Dickens/Appalachia movies poor.

Some apartments come with a washer/dryer. They’re still not mansions. Some apartments come with air conditioners. Doesn’t make them summer homes in the Caymans. I used to live in a place that was billed “luxury apartments” and once a friend came to visit and was all “ooh, fancy!” until I drove her around and showed her that all the apartment complexes in the area said “luxury,” regardless of how small/weird they were. And even if “luxury” meant something special (one place did have wood-burning fireplaces, which was kind of nice) it still wouldn’t make me Donald Trump.

American views about inequality have not changed much in the past quarter-century. In their 2009 book“Class War? What Americans Really Think About Economic Inequality,”political scientists Benjamin Page and Lawrence Jacobs report that big majorities, including poor people, agree that “it is ‘still possible’ to start out poor in this country, work hard, and become rich,” and reject the view that it is the government’s job to narrow the income gap.



20 thoughts on “Today in Total Nitwittery

  1. That’s a damnable slander on kitchen appliances. What did the poor defenceless kitchen appliances ever do to you, huh?
    Seriously, though, can I just be preemptively totally fucking sick of this bullshit argument? Last summer I was on fucking welfare and my landlady put a goddamn air conditioner in our living room (I live in a tiny house, probably the main floor is only about 1000sf, so that lowered the temp in the whole house), because I had what the doctors referred to as a “neurological event” one day after a week of 30+ Celsius fucking degree days and had to go to the emerg because my blood calcium had fallen almost to nothing (I’d sweated it all out), and everything was so out of balance, I got the kind of migraine so severe and sudden (literally between one step and the next), they were worried I’d had a fucking stroke.
    I think it’s fair to say that if you’re fucking bloody almost dying (or actually dying, as happens sometimes) from the heat because you don’t have an air conditioner due to lack of cash (either to buy it or run it, since those things do eat current like it’s candy), you’re poor, no matter what kind of other gizmos you might have in your kitchen.
    Also, bringing in kids not being underweight is a total red herring. These days, the cheap-ass foods po’ people eat make you fat…and malnourished. (Yes, it’s possible to be both, which is another thing these dunces don’t get. What part of too many calories not being synonymous with good nutrition is hard to understand?)

  2. What matters is the differential between poor and rich, not absolute wealth as measured in terms of consumer goods. Why? Two reasons: one, because poverty is a RELATIVE measure from within a society, which is why the poverty level is different in the US and Congo. Two, because wealth is a measure of social (political and economic) POWER, and when the differential increases, as it has for the past 30 years, the ability of the poor to have a day in how their country is run diminishes, which is really te whole problem with relative inequality.
    “who cares if you live in an oligarchy?! You have a toaster!” could only be said by a roc bastard whose turn at the guillotine is surely coming!

  3. RE: Weight of children in poverty. The cheapest foods are also the most fattening. Plus walk into a so-called corner grocery or 7/11 – type business in a low income area. Not a veggie in sight but plenty of beer and potato chips.

  4. Phone? You get them with food stamps these days.
    Television? We usually have two or three waiting to be handed out, that people have donated to our domestic abuse shelter. Especially with flat screens coming in, they’re being given away like candy.
    Indoor plumbing? Damn those building codes, anyway.
    Hope? No fucking way.

  5. Remember a while back when ppl lost their damn minds because a “so-called” homeless person in a photo (I think w FLOTUS) HAD A CELL PHONE?

  6. virgotex — It was worse than that. The homeless person in question with the cell phone was TAKING A PICTURE of FLOTUS (who, IIRC was touring a soup kitchen) with the cell phone… OMG, a poor person having a cell phone with a camera in it!!! All those people who donate one cell phone when they get a newer, better, more features cell phone… well, where do the idiots think those cell phones go to.
    On the other hand, it is just possible that before some poor people became poor (for example, by becoming unemployed) they had cell phones, toaster ovens, microwave, TVs, good clothes and accessories, etc. Do the idiots think that you give up all the stuff when you lose your job?

  7. Comfortable shoes? Vaccinations? Vitamin C? You think anyone — even royalty — would have had those 400 years ago? Don’t even get me started on flea powder.

  8. I own a convection oven and a toaster. I got them both at the same St. Vincent de Paul for a grand total of $7.

  9. I wouldn’t be surprised if a previous generation of millionaire creeps thought, “But they have fires in garbage cans for cooking food, so how can they be poor?”

  10. it’s only a class war WHEN WE FIGHT BACK.
    tho, technically we are a rich country, but the rich here are INSANELY RICH GREEDY BASTARDS.

  11. Have they considered the effect of population density? If miles away from others, they could collect firewood. Try that in a LA city park !
    If miles away from others, no need for a privy. But in the city, what happens if everyone doesn’t have plumbing?
    etc. etc. etc.

  12. That’s a damnable slander on kitchen appliances.
    Yes. I have a lot more faith in my toaster than these nitwits.

  13. Southern Beale, wish I could think segregation over. But here in Missouri, every time someone with a Hispanic or Ah-rab name is accussed, arrested, or convicted, the local TV comments column will ring with folks asking if the person is here legally (and vehemently defending themselves along the lines of I’m not being racist, I’m just thinking that maybe we can deport them).
    No one ever asks if the person is WASP named Jones or Smith. I’m thinking of actually waiting till the next white person is arrested for something and asking if they can prove they are here legally.

  14. the best definition of poverty in America, is not so much what you have in your home (as some people have pointed out, American’s can buy a lot of stuff on credit.)
    Can you afford to cap a broken tooth?
    Without dental insurance its about 2.5 to 1.8k.
    If you have dental ins, you probably have medical as well. So you have a personal safety net of either insurance or cash. Without this, your on the ragged edge.
    Wish I could remember a source fro this metric.

  15. The decrease in households without indoor plumbing may be a result of migration from rural slums to urban slums. People still have outhouses and hand-operated water pumps in the country, but in the city, even the worst houses need access to flush toilets and city water.

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