Media Ignores Obama Admin’s Effort to Define ‘Poverty’ Upward

Mickey Kaus has alerted readers to a change in the way the federal government figures the poverty line and that new way so alters the formula that we will never be able to show any improvement in rates of poverty going foward. Worse, the new formula stops measuring strict want and instead measures a more vague “inequality” of income.

The Obama administration has reinvented the poverty formula and is now calling it the “supplemental” poverty line.

“‘New’ is not necessarily ‘improved,'” Kaus dourly notes.

As Kaus explains, the old formula was based on, “the level that bought a minimal market basket of food in 1963-4, adjusted for subsequent inflation and multiplied by three.” The goal was to measure what level of income could afford basic survivability in the current economy, giving a base line of income that could meet basic human needs.

But the new formula is more complicated and “deceptive” to boot.

The new “supplemental” poverty line is a complicated measure produced by formulas that are barely understood by poverty experts. It takes into account in-kind government benefits, which is fine, and regional costs-of-living. But at its core it is a deception: it measures not absolute poverty but relative poverty–i.e. inequality.

Kaus points out that in the past it was possible to see rates of poverty decrease as the nation grew, but now that won’t be possible, much to the delight of the Old Media establishment.

Under the old poverty line, “poverty” could be eliminated as society got richer–an achievable and widely shared goal. But the new poverty line will rise as society gets richer (“adjust for rising levels and standards of living”). The newly measured poor will always be with us in substantial numbers, just as there will always be a third of the American population trapped in the bottom third of the income charts. That will yield a permanent, inextinguishable stream of NYT front page “poverty” stat stories–even if “poverty” no longer means ”poverty” in the sense we now understand the term.

Kaus isn’t the only one that noticed this change. Richard Bavier, a veteran economic analyst at the Brookings Institute, says the new poverty line formula is “carefully designed so that the public will think it is one thing when it really is something else.”

Granted poverty will always be with us, but now the Obama administration and its compliant Old Media lapdogs have made sure that it can never improve regardless of how well the country does!

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  • jim_m

    Well of course. Because you cannot live in America if you don’t have an obamaphone.

  • 914

    ” Richard Bavier, a veteran economic analyst at the Brookings Institute, says the new poverty line formula is “carefully designed so that the public will think it is one thing when it really is something else.”

    What a coincidence, just like the Benghazi video charade.

  • cirby

    More to the point, this has a reverse correlation: if they take money away from the rich (while the poor stay the same or are even slightly worse off), poverty “gets better”.

    So, as long as they take enough money from the top two-thirds, you become less poor – even though you’re starving to death.

    • jim_m

      Actually, since obama’s policies make income inequality worse he now has a measure that will continue to get worse and which he can use to push more of his misbegotten policies to ruin or country.

  • GarandFan

    Well obviously the government needs MORE MONEY from us in order to fight POVERTY.

    Having traveled over most of the world thanks to Uncle Sam, I’ve gotten to see REAL POVERTY. The libs haven’t a clue as to what they’re talking about.

  • ackwired

    The good news is that this is a supplementary measure, and it does not replace the existing poverty measure. It also includes such things as government service received and geographical differences, which should provide good information when evaluating poverty. The part that Mr. Huston is concerned about is that the supplemental measurement sets the poverty threshold at “The 33rd percentile of expenditures on food, clothing, shelter, and utilities (FCSU) of consumer units with exactly two children multiplied by 1.2.” This certainly would appear to be an arbitrary, illogical threshold, and reason for concern if the supplementary measure were ever proposed to replace the current measure.

  • herddog505

    I thought that they were always doing this, which is why the poverty rate stays pretty constant no matter how much money we throw at the problem.

  • Vagabond661

    We aren’t fighting poverty. We are feeding government.