Mickey Kaus on the poverty con being perpetrated by the New York Times
Not â€œpoorâ€ but â€œpoor adjacentâ€? AÂ stat too far: Letâ€™s just suppose, as a thought experiment, that the New York Times is a liberal conspiracy.Â InÂ this hypothetical alternate reality, the paperâ€™s editors would likeÂ the government to do more to redress the material disparities generated by our version ofÂ capitalism, and they commission stories designed to bring this better world closer.Â They might think it a brilliant idea to get the U.S. Census BureauÂ to calculate, not just how many people are poor according toÂ the governmentâ€™s fancy new Supplemental Poverty Measure (which takes into account regional cost of living, and government benefits like food stamps, plus medical expenses and taxes**) but how many are under 150% of this newÂ poverty line. Not poor, but â€œnear poor.â€ Bet there are a lot of them!
Sure enough, the Times was able to come up with a headline, â€œThe â€˜Near Poor Struggle, and Startle the Census.â€Â Â All the quoted Census official said was â€œThese numbers are higher than we anticipated,â€ not â€œwe were startledâ€â€“but thatâ€™s probably just because she is a mild-mannered census official! It was enough, in any caseÂ to trigger aÂ professional-grade Â fuzzily portentous front page â€œcomes-at-a-timeâ€ graf that manages to rope in Occupy Wall Street:
After a lost decade of flat wages and the worst downturn since the Great Depression, the findings can be thought of as putting numbers to the bleak national mood â€” quantifying the expressions of unease erupting in protests and political swings. They convey levels of economic stress sharply felt but until now hard to measure.
But the conspirators also made some mistakes. They let Jason DeParle co-write the story. DeParle wrote a terrific, heartbreaking, important book about the urban poor and welfareâ€“but perhaps because of that experience heâ€™s aware of the non-liberal views of poverty and the sense in which they contain more than a germ of truth. He is, in a word, unreliable.***
So the NYT piece notes, in its lede graf, that within this â€œnear poorâ€ category â€œmany own homes.â€ Some 20 percent of the â€œnear poor,â€ it turns out, own their homes mortgage-free. One reason they donâ€™t earn much income may be because they donâ€™t need it to pay the rent! And DeParleÂ contacts Robert Rector of the Heritage Institute, who notes that â€œnear poorâ€ is a loaded term designed to â€œsuggest to most people a level of material hardship that doesnâ€™t exist.â€