A former colleague from my days at the Heritage Foundation, Robert Rector, has a very disturbing article at National Review Online. Robert explains that the Obama Administration is putting together a new – and rigged – definition of poverty that has nothing to do with material deprivation. This new system instead will be a measure of income distribution, thus creating a public policy bias supporting spread-the-wealth type policies:
…the Obama administration announced it will create a new poverty-measurement system that will eventually displace the current poverty measure. This new measure, which has little or nothing to do with actual poverty, will serve as the propaganda tool in Obama’s endless quest to “spread the wealth.” …The current poverty measure counts absolute purchasing power — how much steak and potatoes you can buy. The new measure will count comparative purchasing power — how much steak and potatoes you can buy relative to other people. …In other words, Obama will employ a statistical trick to ensure that “the poor will always be with you,” no matter how much better off they get in absolute terms. …The weird new poverty measure will produce very odd results. For example, if the real income of every single American were to magically triple over night, the new poverty measure would show there had been no drop in “poverty,” because the poverty income threshold would also triple. …Another paradox of the new poverty measure is that countries such as Bangladesh and Albania will have lower poverty rates than the United States, even though the actual living conditions in those countries are extremely bad. …For most Americans, the word “poverty” suggests destitution: an inability to provide a family with nutritious food, clothing, and reasonable shelter. But only a small number of the 40 million persons classified as poor under the government’s current poverty definition fit that description. Most of America’s poor live in material conditions that would have been judged comfortable, or even well-off, two generations ago. …Clearly, “poverty” as currently defined by the government has little connection with “poverty” as the average American understands it. The new Obama poverty measure will stretch this semantic gap, artificially swelling the number of “poor” Americans, and severing any link between the government’s concept of poverty and even modest deprivation. In honest English, the new system will measure income inequality, not poverty. Why not just call it an “inequality” index? Answer: because the American voter is unwilling to support massive welfare increases, soaring deficits, and tax increases to equalize incomes. However, if the goal of income leveling is camouflaged as a desperate struggle against poverty, hunger, and dire deprivation, then the political prospects improve. The new measure is a public-relations Trojan horse, smuggling in a “spread the wealth” agenda under the ruse of fighting real material privation… In effect, the Obama poverty measure sets a new national goal of class warfare and income redistribution.