KETCHUP = VEGETABLE

With so many Americans in poverty in the 2010 Census, the government is working to alleviate the underlying causes of poverty including income inequality, unemployment, and outsourcing.

No, I'm kidding. They're just going to change the definition of poverty. That will conveniently eliminate half of the rise in poverty since 2006….

…by counting safety-net programs that "have played a large and mostly overlooked role in restraining hardship."

This is nothing more than a shell game: changing the metric by which poverty is measured in order to say that there aren't as many poor people. Whenever you reset any previously arbitrary measure to a new arbitrary measure, it becomes difficult if not impossible to judge progress over a long time.

More importantly, counting money and other aid given to the poor as a part of the measure of whether or not they are poor sort of misses the point that if they didn't have those programs, they would, indeed be poor.

This is all academic, of course, since no one is really poor anyway. How can you be poor if you have a cell phone?

39 thoughts on “KETCHUP = VEGETABLE”

  • Jesus fucking Christ. Why does every article from the Heritage Foundation make me want to gouge eyeballs with a fork?

    That's right kids! No one in America is really poor, they're just lazy. Aren't we swell? Heck, look at all of the fat people… plenty of food to go around. Medical care? Sure… you can visit an ER and have your credit savaged because you make next to nothing but won't be able to find a decent job due to your lack of financial foresight.

    This kind of fraudulent accounting isn't new but it is disturbing that these "official" figures are presented as facts and these facts delude most of the country.

    It seems long past time to move to a country where the poor at least know they're fucked.

  • Middle Seaman says:

    It's a new era. We used to be a democracy, while now the government and their superior the oligarch are simply ridiculing us. They really don't care if 50 millions are poor. Let's pretend that they are rich; let's pretend that companies are called Joe; let's pretend that we work for the people.

    We even have elections. We have a free choice between having cancer or having aids. We are free.

  • A key nutritional characteristic of vegetables are its high potassium to sodium ratio; a high ratio promotes natriuresis and controls blood pressure. Ketchup has too much added sodium to be considered a "vegetable" in a nutrition sense.

  • squirrelhugger says:

    If you accept the premise that these programs are permanent and appropriate, a stable societal resource, there's some logic to it. If you're trying to kill those programs at the same time, maybe not so much.

    No need to go to the poorhouse in an automobile, by the way– we just live in the car.

  • So they change the poverty metric to make it appear that poverty has gone down. Next step will be to say the decrease in poverty justifies cuts to the same programs the new metric used. This downward spiral our collective handbasket is on will continue until Republicans literally say "He's not poor – he still has 2 pennies to rub together!"

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Redefining is what the powers-that-be do when the poo-poo's about to hit the oscillating ventilator.

    Like, 'inflation's low.'
    Yes, it is – because you fucking assholes don't factor in the price of gasoline, home gas & heating oil, milk, and other food stuffs.

    Lamb and fish, once considered 'poor peoples' food, now cost an arm and a leg.

    So, fuck you, powers-that-be!
    I don't want to hear "what the market will bear," when it's my cupboards that are bare.

    Sometime soon, this little American experiment is not going to end well.

    Soon, people will realize that we revere the wrong revolution.
    The French had the right idea.

  • This is no different than changing the metric for Cost of Living so seniors get screwed on COLA increases, or not counting long-term unemployed as…wait for it…Unemployed (I guess we need a new category: Uncounted). Add in the push to get people on "legal" drugs and we are truly living in an Orwellian 1984. Did Orwell include reality TV shows?

    More than anything, as Orwell predicted, this demonstrates the effect of language on thought (control).

  • Usually in history, Gilded Ages end with a financial collapse. Seems like this time, the Gilded Age is just getting cranked up.

  • Help me figure out something here. Ignoring the douchebags who say, "stop complaining, you can get a lot poorer than THAT!" for the time being, aren't we forgetting that people in Haiti/Gaza/Sierra Leone/etc. are in fact a lot worse off than than the poorest American?

  • Grumpygradstudent says:

    The Census (and some other institutions) have been calculating these alternative measures for a long time. It's useful if you want to get at the underlying construct you're trying to measure is "how many resources to people have at their disposal?" In other words, this is neither new nor stupid nor politically cynical.

    As the original NYT articles that your link quotes says, the alternative measures also factors in things like health care and child care costs and cost of living differences across regions. It doesn't so much change the poverty rate as it changes the distribution of poverty across groups.

    It's nice to be consistent over time, yes, but when it comes to the official poverty line, we're being consistent about a completely idiotic metric.

  • Grumpygradstudent says:

    Damnit…I really should proofread before I post.

    Here's an edited version.

    The Census (and some other institutions) have been calculating these alternative measures for a long time. It's useful if the underlying construct you're trying to measure is "how many resources do people have at their disposal?" In other words, this is neither new nor stupid nor politically cynical.

    As the original NYT articles that your link quotes says, the alternative measures also factors in things like health care and child care costs and cost of living differences across regions. It doesn't so much change the poverty rate as it changes the distribution of poverty across groups.

    It's nice to be consistent over time, yes, but when it comes to the official poverty line, we're being consistent about a completely idiotic metric.

  • Nobody is going to do anything close to a revolt……If it didn't happen when they (Banksters) stole your (99%)'s wealth in '08, it ain't going to happen now.
    Moving your money is not akin to a revolution.

  • @deep cap
    – Not to be argumentative, but your point would be…? Starving is starving, whether we are starving living off of subsistence food in Haiti, or living off of soup kitchens in America. The poor in America still suffer from malnutrition, exposure to the elements, violence in the streets, lack of preventative healthcare, lack of educational opportunity, lack of *decent* employment opportunity (sorry – flipping burgers doesn't count, since you can't live off a McD salary). And to address the issue of cellphones – pay as you go phones are very inexpensive and cost less then a land line. Unless you think the poor should have to stand on the street at a pay phone in order to check on their employment opportunities.

    Don't get me wrong, the conditions in all of those countries are deplorable. And we, as a country, should do all we can to help raise the standard of living everywhere. (Yes, I am indeed a proponent of Universal Human Rights as espoused in the UDHR). However, that does not abrogate our responsibility to the poor and unemployed/underemployed in our own country. It's a sad day when we can feel sympathy for the poor elsewhere, but the poor in our own country are victim-blamed into obscurity and irrelevence.

  • The thing is, first they tell you that the poor are not poor because they have these gadgets, allegedly, then they tell you they ARE poor BECAUSE they have these things(instead of investing their McDonald's check on the stock market), but then they tell us that the ability to have these things is what makes America the greatest country in the world. It's a vicious circle of sheer idiocy!

  • – changing the metric by which poverty is measured in order to say that there aren't as many poor people –

    Reminds of the time that the African nation of Gabon undertook a census and the pop. numbers correlated with Gabon's GNP based on resource extraction indicated a remarkably high per capita income for a developing African nation. So President (for life?) Bongo rewrote the census and doubled the pop. with the stroke of a pen. Talk about changing metrics…

  • The sad thing is that this redefinition will probably go over big with many of the people adversely affected by it: to be told one is not poor may be an insult to one's intelligence, but it's also a reassurance/compliment to one's pride.

    As I've noted elsewhere, Reagan's legacy invested many Americans (many *white* Americans) with an irrational sense of pride in their identity as "hard working," as opposed to their dusky neighbors, who were "poor." For such people to be told that they are not "part of the problem" simply confirms this bias: poverty is what happens to other people. Nauseating enough that it's a lie; much worse that it's such an easy sell.

  • truth=freedom says:

    I'll note, much like @Grumpygradstudent, that the issue here is to change the calculation in order to do a couple of somewhat related things: 1) get a better grasp on what the scale of poverty is, having accounted for all sources and sinks of income– which will finally include transfer payments, true, but also health care expenses (!) and child care (!!); 2) account for things like the differential cost of living. One representative of the Census I heard yesterday defended the change by arguing that you can't assess the value of your program if you don't include the program's payments in determining poverty rates. Whether this means they will always report the numbers as, "1) this is the rate with payments, 2) this is what it would have been had the programs not paid out," remains to be seen.

    I count this as a good thing. Or at least a better thing. How else to counter the Heritage Foundation's nonsense that you can't be poor if you have a cell-phone (or even, horrors! a flat screen TV!) or you got enough to eat? To be sure, defender's of public assistance to the needy have to be more aggressive if they're going to make a safety net be the safe net the name suggests that it ought to be. But without a source of information that's at least got the appearance of objectivity, there's no voice that can be credible in the current media environment whilst calling for additional assistance.

    The fact that the poverty rate only increased half as much under the new measure? That's just an artifact. If you have to focus on something there, focus on the fact that, despite Rs claims that we coddle the poor, the poverty has increased substantially.

  • Interestingly, being lazy and stupid (ie poor) is not what happens to people one is either related to or is known to you.

    That's my brother's attitude towards me. These other people made unwise decisions, are lazy or a combination of the two. However, *I* have a good work ethic according to him. I just haven't had the "right breaks", so all I need to do is keep pushing and eventually my "luck will change".

    So it's all a matter of degrees.

  • Oh, god! Why did you make me look at a Heritage Foundation article? My eyes… the burning…. gah…

    I spent the last 5 years with inadequate health care, struggling to pay for food, shelter and clothing. I can't… I don't know how else to react to that but to sputter and say "fuck" a lot.

  • @Glen.h: …and 80 years ago the US might well have been the first nation that went to the poorhouse wearing shoes. The times they are a-changing.

  • So, if you are being kept alive through receiving treatment for cancer, you don't have cancer.

    Think what that will do for cancer research and efforts to minimize carcinogenic substances in the environment!!

  • This is sort of a tangent, but I think it relates to the larger issue here: how does one determine the true "poverty" level in a society where so many "unnecessary" things are, in fact, necessary to function in THIS – not some other, but THIS – society in 2011?

    It's becoming harder and harder to find or hold a job without a cell phone or computer. Cars (and gas) are virtually mandated for most people due to the built geography we live in. In many workplaces, employees are required to maintain a "professional" appearance, which requires a certain kind of wardrobe, and ways to wash and press clothes. One can't raise and preserve one's own food when one works and commutes all week, so grocery stores and refrigerators and convenience foods become necessary. So on and so forth.

    What it seems to me is that some people want to point to the life of an agrarian peasant in a pre-modern society and say, "Look! People don't need electronics, cars, refrigerators, or more than one outfit to survive! Lots of people know how to live with less!" Yeah – but that doesn't mean you can live that kind of life HERE, in 2011. Our entire society is largely structured to require more STUFF in order to function in it.

  • I see GGS's and t=f's points, that a better measurement gives better information. However, I think it's important not to lose sight of the outcome (whether the outcome is the goal is another matter, of course): under the new measurement, is the "poverty rate" lower or higher? If it has changed, what does that mean in real terms? We've been down this road before, with the unemployment rate. For baseball fans, is a 3.00 ERA in 1968 the same as a 3.00 ERA in 1931? When you redefine something, or the underlying reasons are changed, but the label is kept the same, it's human nature to assume that the numbers represent the same thing. I think it's safe to say that any redefinition that produces politically palatable results is not going to be clearly explained. Same as the unemployment rate.
    Anyway, all this is interesting, but so is the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin. Perhaps the larger point, that the GOP is winning in its war to destroy America in order to save it, is where we should be focusing our attention. Carthago delenda est!

  • @marismae:

    But are they starving? We've been hearing so much about obesity rates among America's poor, that I'm not sure that qualifies as starving. At least not on the caliber that we see in Sudan. Yes, I understand that it's "food insecure" but "food insecure" is still better than outright starvation? (And war and corruption and all the other host of ills in those other nations.) Americans really do have it sooooo much better than other nations it seems silly to complain.

    The 1% is hurting everyone, but definitely the poor in other countries are feeling it a lot worse than the poor in our country.

  • ". For baseball fans, is a 3.00 ERA in 1968 the same as a 3.00 ERA in 1931? When you redefine something, or the underlying reasons are changed, but the label is kept the same, it's human nature to assume that the numbers represent the same thing. "

    I'm a baseball fan, and I know that 3.00 ERA in 1931 is more impressive than one in 1968. Bob Gibson had an 1.12 ERA in 1968, and it was referred to the "Year of the Pitcher"

  • @deep cap
    Yes, people are indeed starving right here in the USA. I know it's hard to believe, given the overblown rhetoric about poor people being obese. But have you studied how metabolism works – and why skipping meals can slow it down, contributing to rapid weight gain when you CAN eat? And do you understand how the processed cheap/convenient foods contribute to obesity? Unless you do, I respectfully submit that you have no right to talk about the issue of starvation and malnutrition as if it isn't a problem in the U.S.

  • @deep cap

    But are they starving? We've been hearing so much about obesity rates among America's poor, that I'm not sure that qualifies as starving. At least not on the caliber that we see in Sudan.

    I was the poorest I ever was when I was at university, and I've never been hungry, except in the forgot-my-wallet-had-to-skip-lunch way.

    It doesn't take much to imagine what it's like to be so poor you don't have enough to eat. I imagine it's humiliating, scary, and lonely. I imagine that if you have to put your children to bed hungry, see them sick and listless and tired, then it feels like someone is sticking a knife in your chest. I imagine that being cut off from the (sometimes unhealthy) rituals around food that people in the west share, feels like another way of the world telling you that you're not a proper parent, a proper person.

    Ignoring all of the other things you probably can't afford if you can't afford food (like heating, and laundry detergent, and adequate housing), and ignoring all that we know about the life-shattering impacts of relative poverty, as well as absolute poverty, I'm still surprised you can be so cavalier. How separated from a sense of our common humanity do you have to be to handwave away people's hunger, just because they're not literally dying in the street?

  • Elle: that's a nice emotional picture you paint there but it's not based on statistical fact.

    Yes, I understand that many people in the US suffer from "food insecurity" meaning that while they are not starving to death they are not getting a diverse and adequate nutrition required for healthy living.

    What I am objecting to is the typical "white people problems" or in this case is "US citizen problems" where we bitch and complain while people half the world away are DYING an we don't even give a shit about it. So instead of demanding change so that the 1% won't continue taking advantage of "us" we should demand equality for all people–especially those who are DYING from starvation.

  • And while you are changing the 1% into whatever you want them to be, you can break off a little of yours and send it to the literally starving thru reputable organizations that are engaged in feeding the hungry wherever they happen to be.

    Or you can take direct action and join or start an organization to do so (at least for the close by sufferers)

    //bb

  • @Deep cap- Americans can't really do much to actually solve those problems in the rest of the world until they solve the problem at home. Both of these problems stem from one source- capitalism. Do not forget that the radical free market bullshit which is peddled in the US comes from the same school as the free trade mantra which has hurt Africa, Latin America, Asia, and Eastern Europe, all under the guise of helping them.

    @BB, Unfortunately, a lot of charities are businesses. If you read books like Bad Samaritans or the more specific The Road to Hell, you will see why charity isn't going to have a big impact.

  • @deep cap

    Elle: that's a nice emotional picture you paint there but it's not based on statistical fact.

    What kind of statistical data are you after? An emotional attitudes to hunger survey?

    What I am objecting to is the typical "white people problems" or in this case is "US citizen problems" where we bitch and complain while people half the world away are DYING an we don't even give a shit about it. So instead of demanding change so that the 1% won't continue taking advantage of "us" we should demand equality for all people–especially those who are DYING from starvation.

    I think that poverty probably doesn't meet the definition of a 'white person problem', because those who are affected by it are much more likely to be black. I'm not entirely sure I understand your point, which seems to boil down to: "let's fix things for the hungry people once the dying people have been saved." While this may have made a lovely speech for a third grade social studies presentation, it bears no relationship whatsoever to reality.

    Yes, poverty is a global issue, in the sense that our economic systems are inseperable. Yes, most global anti-poverty agencies work across nation states. Yes, economic rights are mediated by international treaties. No, that doesn't mean that anyone should get a pass on caring about inequalities until some supposed greater inequality is met.

    If you haven't already done so, you should read Nickled and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America. Anyone who doesn't think that America is riven with structural economic equalities, that require structural solutions, is suffering from a little bit of an analysis deficit.

  • My mother is responsible for the administration of a program that sends kids home with backpacks full of food for the weekend just to make sure that they will be able to eat between Friday afternoon and Monday morning when the school will provide them breakfast again. She lives in a predominately white (91%) community of about 20,000 people with a median income around $35000. Every weekend though they send out over 400 backpacks with food to kids that have demonstrated a need. That is over 10% of the grade school aged population in that community and this isn't a particularly poor town. There are children in our country that regularly go hungry because of the "food insecurity" their families face.

  • I'm a committed progressive, but I think that determining poverty by assessing all resources available to an individual or household rather than simply cash income is a good idea, because I care more about accurate statistics than I do about promoting my political beliefs.

    To an economist, if I make $20K/year and pay $1,000/month to rent an apartment, and you also make $20K/year and live next door to me in an identical $1,000/month apartment but receive an $800/month rent subsidy, you're better off than I am, right? Why shouldn't this matter.

    Of course, in the above example, I'm probably also eligible for the subsidy, and if I'm smart I should apply for and collect it, but as long as I'm not doing so, for whatever reason, I'm poorer than you are, and by no small margin.

  • now, now we must keep on pretending the poor and losers in American society are there do their own fault. that is what we have been continually told. it's all "their fault!"

    screwing up your body with sugar and other "drugs" that affect how we think and feel and generally behave is what the war on poor/middle class is all about. if Americans are fighting just to find food, the Rich have all the time and energy to control the Society we live in.

    the don't look over there, beyond the curtain, the idea is we Americans should be happy just because by birth it happen we ain't "black" and "poor" or whatever the "evil" loser is the focus of the Heritage/Conservative BS blame game today.

    destroying the body's ability to self correct through corn sweetener/sugar loaded food is a war crime in itself. our bodies need to function properly, and is what good food is all about.
    all the Fast/Junk food is designed for the short term fill ups and creates long term physical damage. Obesity for one and then various diseases, aka dis-ease, that leads to very very expensive visits to the ER room that you and i all pay for. Read what physical ailments are flourishing in our FAST FOOD Society. Fast Food kills and the taxpayers, you and me, are paying for it. just look at our Private Health care system and it's rip off of us all taxpayers.

    Poverty isn't just limited to good food. Poverty is also a society that misdirects the values of worth and then trashes the "loser" who can't afford "proper" nutrition/food, or housing, jobs, etc.

    to think helping poor people isn't cost efficient, i.e won't save "YOU" and "ME" money directly is another lie that has been part of the mind game the Heritage and other Conservatives want the non-thinking, scared WHITES to parrot. which they do.

    the pretension that screwing the poor doesn't eventually wind up screwing you and me, all of us, is part of the War on the American Middle Class. with such easy targets as blacks, latinos, women, hippies, gays and other NON White Males, Poverty is an easy way to divide and conquer, which the Elites have done so well

    bringing up the name of Alex Keaton and the Family Ties, if i remember the name of the program is quite a throwback. how much i pitied and felt sorry for Alex Keaton shows how naive i was to see how successfully the "talking points and lies" that Alex Keaton symbolized. Common sense is obviously not common. needs to be renamed.

    i always thought common sense would show the stupidity and hatred involved in such a viewpoint/Alex Keaton's. shows how dumb i was to think fellow Americans thought. period.

    as they say, sow the Wind and reap the Whirlwind.

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