[lit-ideas] Re: [lit-id] The Poverty of Heritage

  • From: Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 24 May 2006 19:56:17 -0700

Lawrence Helm wrote:

But the evidence doesn't agree with your assertions. Statistics don't support your prejudices. Anecdotal evidence doesn't trump statistical fact.

I must have missed the part about who actually measured the ground here. The Heritage Foundation's naive assumptions are that one can live as well on $700 a month in the US as one could in Paris or London for $10,000 or more a month. I say their 'assumptions,' for nowhere that I can see do they bother to investigate how much it really costs to live well in a major West European city. In this silly debunking of the very idea that there's any poverty in the US, the fact that people own 'color TVs' and microwaves is evidence of the good life. They fail to note what Julie and others have already pointed out—that these days, every TV is a color TV, and that a set can be bought through the classifieds, as someone has already said, for about $50. They also neglect to ask, as Judy did, whether the microwave is the only cooking appliance in the home.

The raw claim that the poor claim that have access to health care says little. If they have reliable access to it without going first to an emergency room, I'd be surprised.

My prejudices may be one thing, but simple arithmetic, an example of which I set out here for your examination, is another.

Income (pre-tax): 700

Shelter (rent): 250
Groceries and food. 220
‘Cable TV’ 50-80*
Gas (3 refills per month mid-sized middle-aged US car): 3x40 =120**

At this point there is $60 left to cover:

Utilities: heat/oil/electricity/gas/water: 150
Incidentals (newspapers/coffee/books/candy bars/): forget it
Savings: forget it
Car repair: forget it
Wear and tear on rugs, furniture, etc.: forget it
Appliance replacement/repair: forget it.
Light bulbs: (see ‘Groceries’)
Movies/DVD rental/new CDs for ‘stereo music system’: see ‘Entertainment’
Entertainment: forget it.
Vacations: ?
Health care: Oops!
*Our costs for cable and a high speed Internet connection through Comcast is over 100 per month. We don’t get HBO or other fancy channels.

**Other transportation costs might be considered here. An all-zone monthly Tri-Met (Portland Metro Area) bus pass is 72. For ‘honored citizens’ it’s only 21. (But of course no honored citizen in the US lives below the poverty level.)

The rent (250) figure I’m using will get you nothing in Manhattan, San Francisco, Seattle, or other major ‘desirable’ cities. It won’t get you anything _in_ Portland, either although you might find something this low an outlying area from which you’d be likely to have a long commute (see ‘Gas’ and ‘Car repair’).

Supposedly, many people who are considered income poor own their own mansions. If so, 250 is a very low figure for property taxes, maintenance, local assessments, and the like. I assume, along with the Heritage Foundation, that nobody polled mentioned mortgage payments.

I’ve seen better special effects in B movies.

Robert Paul
Reed College

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