Walmart Admits: ‘Our Profits’ Depend on ‘Their Poverty’

From Common Dreams:

Critics cite irony of annual report filing: ‘This is a company that everywhere it goes it creates poverty’

Lauren McCauley

Although a notorious recipient of “corporate welfare,” Walmart has now admitted that their massive profits also depend on the funding of food stamps and other public assistance programs.

In their annual report, filed with the Security and Exchange Commission last week, the retail giant lists factors that could potentially harm future profitability. Listed among items such as “economic conditions” and “consumer confidence,” the company writes that changes in taxpayer-funded public assistance programs are also a major threat to their bottom line.

The company writes:

Our business operations are subject to numerous risks, factors and uncertainties, domestically and internationally, which are outside our control … These factors include … changes in the amount of payments made under the Supplement[al] Nutrition Assistance Plan and other public assistance plans, changes in the eligibility requirements of public assistance plans …

Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, is notorious for paying poverty wages and coaching employees to take advantage of social programs. In many states, Walmart employees are the largest group of Medicaid recipients.

However, this report is the first public acknowledgement of the chain’s reliance on the funding of these programs to sustain a profit.

According to Stacy Mitchell, senior researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, the irony of their admission is that Walmart “is the company that has done, perhaps, more than any other corporation to push people into poverty.”

Citing a Penn State study, Mitchell told Common Dreams that research has proven that “when Walmart opens a store, poverty rates are negatively impacted” and that the more stores that have opened in a particular county, the worse it is. “This is a company that everywhere it goes it creates poverty.”

In addition to their own worker’s low wages, Mitchell explains that Walmart, because of their enormous size and market power, have “held down wages for the whole sector.”

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All Around Bigot Pat Robertson: Jews Too Busy Polishing Diamonds To Fix Their Cars

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‘Shem***’ is not OK to use in any venue

From The San Diego LGBT Weekly:

Trans Progressive

I’ve had a back-and-forth with Nicole Murray Ramirez at LGBT Weekly over RuPaul’s promotion of the term tra**y. We disagree on the pejorative nature of the term, but it says something that the former Tra**y Awards has changed the name of the event to the Transgender Erotic Awards.

“When we named the show the ‘Tranny Awards’ in 2007 the climate was different and the usage of the word ‘tranny’ was appropriate as a catchy title in an online porn event,” creator of the awards event Steven Grooby explained in a Cosmo magazine article. “As we aim to be inclusive of all areas of transgender erotica and are looking to broaden the appeal of the show to mainstream media, we believed it was time to re-brand the event.”

Even Jerry Springer recently announced that he’s going to stop using the term tra**y because the term has clearly become offensive.

But now RuPaul has gone clearly into antitrans pejorative use. In season 6, episode 4 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, he used, and encouraged the use of “shem***” by LGBT and straight people in how he and the drag queens on the show used the term.

There is no gray area, as there is with tra**y, on the use of the term shem***. This is a vile term that trans people (outside of the porn industry) don’t use to describe themselves. There are African Americans who refer to themselves by the n-word, and there are gays who refer to themselves by fa**ot, but essentially there just aren’t any trans people outside of the porn industry who refer to themselves as shem***s.

Of course, if one refers to gays as fa**ots, RuPaul takes offense. June 2, 2013 he Tweeted at Amanda Bynes about her use of the word fa**ots in one of her Tweets. “Derogatory slurs are always an outward projection of a person’s own poisonous self-loathing @AmandaBynes,” he wrote.

So when it comes to anti-trans derogatory slurs, RuPaul must either be a hypocrite or self-loathing – there is no gray area here. His use of the term shem*** in an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race is giving lesbian, gay, bisexual and straight people permission to use a derogatory, dehumanizing slur.

Apparently, RuPaul has no idea of how the term has been used by members of the LGBT and feminist communities to deride trans people. It was back in 1979 that lesbian and feminist Janice G. Raymond used the term in her book The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male. She justified the use of the term, describing trans women with the term “male-to-constructed female” and that trans experience can be boiled down to trans women’s “artifactual femaleness.” Raymond’s use of the term isn’t the only time the term was used to deride and dehumanize trans experience and trans people, but it epitomizes it.

Trans people deserve to be heard about which terms are problematic, defamatory and derogatory. We trans people deserve better from our LGBT entertainers than what RuPaul gives us; what he gives us is use of, and functionally working to normalize the use of, one of the most vile anti-trans pejoratives that function to dehumanize trans people.

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“Our Only Hope Will Come Through Rebellion”

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Disturbing New Report: Air Pollution Killed 7 Million People in 2012—Or About 1 in 8 Premature Deaths

From The Guardian UK:

Imagine if Jackie O got arrested for losing her son after smoking. Now meet the woman facing life in prison for something like that, Wednesday 26 March 2014

Seven and a half years ago, a Mississippi teenager named Rennie Gibbs went into premature labor and delivered a stillborn baby girl named Samiya. Initially, experts attributed the baby’s death to the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. But when traces of a cocaine byproduct showed up on the autopsy report, a medical examiner declared the stillbirth a homicide and cited cocaine toxicity as the cause. Shortly afterward, the 16-year-old Gibbs was charged with murder, specifically “depraved heart murder”, a charge that can carry a sentence of up to 20 years to life in prison.

Since her grand-jury indictment in 2007, Gibbs’s team of attorneys has been fighting for the charges to be dropped on both technical and legal grounds. The defense argues that there’s no scientific proof that cocaine use can cause a stillbirth – and that the “depraved heart murder” statute did not apply to unborn children at the time of Samiya’s death. A decision is expected any day now as to whether the Gibbs case will finally proceed to trial or get dismissed. If it does go to trial, and Gibbs is convicted of murder for being 16 and pregnant, then a dangerous precedent may be established that should make anyone with a uterus feel very afraid.

This week, I spoke with one of Gibbs’s attorneys, Robert McDuff, who told me that he volunteered his services to the public defender assigned to the case back in 2009 because he was concerned about the implications for women everywhere if the prosecution is successful:

It’s ridiculous that this teenager is being prosecuted for a murder charge not justified by either law or science. If she can be tried for allegedly taking drugs during her pregnancy, what is to stop other women who miscarry or suffer a stillbirth from being prosecuted because they smoked cigarettes or drank alcohol or just didn’t follow their doctor’s orders?

Central to the Gibbs case is whether her alleged cocaine use directly caused her baby’s stillbirth. A recent ProPublica investigation by Nina Martin goes into some detail on this aspect, outlining serious doubts surrounding the medical examiner’s conclusion that drugs were the cause of death. The reliability of the examiner’s work has been called into question before, and at least four murder convictions based on his evidence have been overturned.

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One Percenter Convicted Of Raping His Infant Child Dodges Jail Because He ‘Will Not Fare Well’

From Huffington Post:

by  Ashley Alman

A Delaware man convicted of raping his three-year-old daughter only faced probation after a state Superior Court judge ruled he “will not fare well” in prison.

In her decision, Judge Jan Jurden suggested Robert H. Richards IV would benefit more from treatment. Richards, who was charged with fourth-degree rape in 2009, is an unemployed heir living off his trust fund. The light sentence has only became public as the result of a subsequent lawsuit filed by his ex-wife, which charges that he penetrated his daughter with his fingers while masturbating, and subsequently assaulted his son as well.

Richards is the great grandson of du Pont family patriarch Irenee du Pont, a chemical baron.

According to the lawsuit filed by Richards’ ex-wife, he admitted to assaulting his infant son in addition to his daughter between 2005 and 2007. Richards was initially indicted on two counts of second-degree child rape, felonies that translate to a 10-year mandatory jail sentence per count. He was released on $60,000 bail while awaiting his charges.

Richards hired one of the state’s top law firms and was offered a plea deal of one count of fourth-degree rape charges — which carries no mandatory minimum prison sentencing. He accepted, and admitted to the assault.

In her sentence, Jurden said he would benefit from participating in a sex offenders rehabilitation program rather than serving prison time.

Delaware Public Defender Brendan J. O’Neill told The News Journal that it was “extremely rare” for an individual to fare well in prison. “Prison is to punish, to segregate the offender from society, and the notion that prison serves people well hasn’t proven to be true in most circumstances,” he said, adding that the light sentence for the member of the one percent raised questions about “how a person with great wealth may be treated by the system.” (Though perhaps it provides more answers than questions.)

According to the The News Journal, several attorneys claimed treatment over jail time was a deal more typically granted to drug addicts, not sex offenders.

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Friday Night Fun and Culture: Linda Perhacs

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Anti-Trans Slurs and Drag: Who Exactly Is Transgender, and Does It Matter?

Years ago I argued that the term transgender should have a more limited meaning than it has come to have.  With every one and their gender-queer emo cousin claiming to be transgender the term has come to have no actual meaning.

Personally I tend to think of a lot of folks under the so called umbrella as not actually being transgender.  That includes butch women and femme guys as well as drag queens and cross dressers.

I know that gut feeling puts me at odds with the community leaders yet I don’t care enough to argue for my position.

From Huffington Post:

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The Nation’s Most Segregated Schools Aren’t Where You’d Think They’d Be

From Huffington Post:

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Air Pollution = Biggest Environmental Health Risk, Says WHO

From Common Dreams:

Andrea Germanos

Air pollution is the world’s largest single environmental health risk, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.

According to the body’s just released estimates, seven million people died in 2012 as a result of air pollution. That amounts to one in 8 deaths worldwide.

“The risks from air pollution are now far greater than previously thought or understood, particularly for heart disease and strokes,” stated Dr. Maria Neira, Director of the WHO’s Department for Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health.

Their findings attribute 80 percent of outdoor air pollution-caused deaths to heart disease and stroke; those diseases were implicated in 60 percent of indoor air pollution-caused deaths.

Because the indoor air pollution is often the result of smoke and soot from cooking stoves, women and children pay a particular heavy price.

“Thanks to effective regulatory and legislative policies over the years, the United States has made significant strides towards cleaning up deadly emissions from some of the largest sources of air pollution — old dirty diesel engines and coal-fired power plants – and has done so cost-effectively,” Ann Weeks, Senior Counsel and Legal Director at Clean Air Task Force, told Common Dreams. “But, as the WHO finding points out, the rest of the world, particularly the developing countries, has a long way to go.”

The WHO called their new data a “significant step in advancing a WHO roadmap for preventing diseases related to air pollution” — and Weeks said the U.S. experience can help in creating such a roadmap, “particularly [for] women, children and the elderly who are most vulnerable.”

WHO’s Neira issued a call for action as well.

“Few risks have a greater impact on global health today than air pollution; the evidence signals the need for concerted action to clean up the air we all breathe,” she stated.


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It’s Ugly

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Christo-Nazi Pat Robertson On Stoning Gays; Satan Leads Gay Rights Movement

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How Wall Street Is Sucking Huge Amounts of Money from Los Angeles

From Alternet:

Finance industry rakes it in from dubious fees.

By Les Leopold
March 25, 2014

Los Angeles paid at least $204 million in fees to Wall Street in 2013, and probably significantly more, in addition to principle and interest payments, according to the report, “No Small Fees: LA Spends More on Wall Street than Our Streets.” The study, issued today by a coalition of unions and community organizations, shows that due to revenue losses from the “Great Recession,” L.A. “all but stopped repairing sidewalks, clearing alleys and installing speed bumps. It stopped inspecting sewers, resulting in twice the number of sewer overflows.” L.A. spends at least $51 million more in Wall Street in fees than it allocates for its entire budget for the Bureau of Street Services.

The researchers caution that the $204 million figure likely underestimates the true amount, because under current disclosure rules, deals made with private equity companies and hedge funds do not have to be publically disclosed. Also, because the city does not list all these fees in one centralized report, hundreds of individual documents must be reviewed to uncover the amounts. As one of the report’s researchers stated,

“This is the first time an accounting of fees has been exposed for a specific public entity, and we don’t think we have captured it all. So if you do this for every public entity, cities, counties, school districts, states, and universities, transportation agencies and other public entities we could be looking at an astounding amount of money for education and community services money sucked out of the system.”

Astounding indeed. My back of the envelope estimate, extrapolating the L.A. experience to the economy as a whole, suggests that the fees Wall Street extracts from public entities could total more than $50 billion a year — enough to provide free tuition at every public college and university in the country.

The coalition offers the following pragmatic reforms that could be implemented quickly.

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I Didn’t Find the American Dream in New York City

From Huffington Post:

Christian Gabriel

I turned 31 a few months ago, and a month later I moved out of Brooklyn and back into my childhood bedroom in my parents’ house in Oakland, Calif. At that point, my latest bout of unemployment had lasted about nine months, and the looming end of my Emergency Unemployment Benefits at the year’s end prompted the begrudging decision to, at least temporarily, give up my independent life.

I graduated from Vassar College 10 years ago with a BA in Film and dived into life in New York City full of optimism and excitement for my future. I imagined that I’d be “rich and successful” by the time I was 25. After failing to secure a job in my field immediately after college I turned to retail. It was fairly easy work to get, and once I ascended into the world of high-end luxury designer sales, it afforded me just enough money to live a fairly comfortable — if still a paycheck to paycheck — existence while I pursued my creative passions. A couple-year interlude working as a production assistant on films and television shows offered some brief hope that I may actually make it into the business, but life as a freelancer was hard and I spent months on and off unemployment waiting for new projects to materialize. The desire for something stable sent me back to retail, where I remained until I was laid off a few years later. In retrospect I probably could have been more aggressive in securing a career, but in a city like New York you either work or you starve, and jobs became harder and harder to come by as the years wore on and the economy crashed, so the motivation to take what you could get and not give it up was strong.

Being poor anywhere sucks, but there’s perhaps a particular kind of soul crushing that one experiences being poor in New York City. The cost of living is so high, and the constant inundation from all around you of experiences you could be having, things you could be buying, luxury apartments where you could be living, if only you had the finances, slowly break you down inside. Various people have asked about “savings” over the years; I think at one point I might have had two or three hundred dollars in a savings account, but honestly, I don’t know how anyone who lives in New York City could have savings unless they make six figures. My “affordable” rent in Park Slope, Brooklyn was never less than $900 a month, and it never stopped going up, unlike my income. On average, after rent and bills, I probably had less than three hundred dollars per month to put toward food, other expenses and social activities. As the years wore on, and my employment became less and less steady, I relocated to a cheaper building in a less glamorous neighborhood, but since I wasn’t making as much money, that did little to ease the stress of supporting myself. Sometimes after rent and bills I had nothing leftover, and the only reason my rent checks didn’t bounce was because of my credit line with my bank.

Sometimes I really didn’t have the money to eat three full meals a day. I would splurge on a 10 dollar lunch to keep me going through the work day, and then I’d eat nuts, cheese and fruit for dinner, or a can of tuna, or a bowl of plain rice, and drink a cheap beer because I knew it would fill up my stomach. It always seemed like every time I could almost catch a break something would go wrong to keep my head under water. My bank would randomly seize a couple hundred dollars from my account because I had stopped making credit payments when I needed to pay rent, or a bedbug infestation in my building required me to wash everything I owned and buy a new mattress, or even though I had received taxed unemployment benefits somehow I still ended up owing the government money when I filed my taxes and risked having my wages garnished if I didn’t come up with the money.

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Living in Certain “Desirable” Cities Isn’t Worth the Pain

Many years ago, when I was 20 I thought either Greenwich Village or the Haight Ashbury were the best most desirable places to live.

My initial explorations showed me that even in 1967 New York City was an outrageously expensive place to live unless you had a rent controlled apartment.

But it had neat club where musicians I like played, all sorts of book stores and museums as well as a hip scene.

I had wanted to go to California for a long time and it was further away from home, just going was an adventure so I decided on San Francisco and the Haight Ashbury.

I was crushingly disappointed by the Haight.

Oh, San Francisco had a great music scene, was home to City Lights Books.  Just eating in the greasy spoons of Chinatown and the Mission was an adventure.

And the hip scene was beyond words.

But Berkeley had all that and more, plus it had cheap places to live as well as a far less brutal police force.

So my friends and I moved to Berkeley.

In 1974 I moved to Los Angeles.

In those days LA was a paradise.  Beautiful weather.  I found a cheap apartment on Sunset, just east of where the Strip began.

In the early 1980s I moved back to the Bay Area.  The rents were already sky high and while the music scene was still affordable living there was a struggle.

I spent the end of the 1980s back in LA.  The neighborhoods I could afford were more dangerous and the apartments weren’t as nice.  The bookstores were moving away from Hollywood and everything was getting to be a struggle

When I met Tina I went to live with her on Long Island.  It was my first experience with living in suburbia.

It was nice.  Really nice, quiet with room for hobbies.

Together we moved to Dallas/Fort Worth.  We live in a nice suburb and while we are planning on down sizing to a smaller house with lower taxes we are generally looking in the same part of north east Dallas.

We like Texas in spite of the politics and religion.

Great cheap restaurants, great live music scene, Half Price Books and really nice people.

Now we live on the edge of a major metroplex, one where artists and other lower income folks can actually live and have enough left over to enjoy life.

But more importantly I don’t really miss New York or Los Angeles and I sure as hell don’t miss San Francisco, which I grew to hate.

But most of all I don’t miss the supercilious attitudes, the pseudo-sophistication and vague sense of superiority people who live in those high price places project upon those of us who live in more affordable areas.

Virginia Christian School Bans 8 Year Old Girl Because Tomboy Looks Not Biblical – Sunnie Kahle

We can’t just geoengineer our way out of climate change

From Rabble.Ca:

By David Suzuki
March 18, 2014

Because nature doesn’t always behave the same in a lab, test tube or computer program as it does in the real world, scientists and engineers have come up with ideas that didn’t turn out as expected.

DDT was considered a panacea for a range of insect pest issues, from controlling disease to helping farmers. But we didn’t understand bioaccumulation back then — toxins concentrating up the food chain, risking the health and survival of animals from birds to humans. Chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, seemed so terrific we put them in everything from aerosol cans to refrigerators. Then we learned they damage the ozone layer, which protects us from harmful solar radiation.

These unintended consequences come partly from our tendency to view things in isolation, without understanding how all nature is interconnected. We’re now facing the most serious unintended consequence ever: climate change from burning fossil fuels. Some proposed solutions may also result in unforeseen outcomes.

Oil, gas and coal are miraculous substances — energy absorbed from the sun by plants and animals hundreds of millions of years ago, retained after they died and concentrated as the decaying life became buried deeper into the earth. Burning them to harness and release this energy opened up possibilities unimaginable to our ancestors. We could create machines and technologies to reduce our toil, heat and light our homes, build modern cities for growing populations and provide accessible transport for greater mobility and freedom. And because the stuff seemed so plentiful and easy to obtain, we could build vehicles and roads for everyone — big cars that used lots of gas — so that enormous profits would fuel prosperous, consumer-driven societies.

We knew fairly early that pollution affected human health, but that didn’t seem insurmountable. We just needed to improve fuel efficiency and create better pollution-control standards. That reduced rather than eliminated the problem and only partly addressed an issue that appears to have caught us off-guard: the limited availability of these fuels. But the trade-offs seemed worthwhile.

Then, for the past few decades, a catastrophic consequence of our profligate use of fossil fuels has loomed. Burning them has released excessive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, creating a thick, heat-trapping blanket. Along with our destruction of natural carbon-storing environments, such as forests and wetlands, this has steadily increased global average temperatures, causing climate change.

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Neil deGrasse Tyson Shows Why Small-Minded Religious Fundamentalists Are Threatened by Wonders of Universe

From Alternet:

Religious belief systems prefer a small cosmos with humans firmly at the center.

By Adam Lee
March 20, 2014

The new Cosmos TV series airing on Fox is a worthy reboot of Carl Sagan’s original. Following in Sagan’s footsteps, host Neil deGrasse Tyson takes viewers on a voyage through the outer reaches of the solar system and beyond, showing how our sun is just one star out of a hundred billion in the majestic spiral of the Milky Way galaxy, and even the Milky Way itself is a speck in the observable universe. As in the original series, he compresses the history of the universe into a single year, showing that on that scale, the human species emerges only in the last few seconds before midnight on December 31.

Sagan’s Cosmos was due for an update, and not just because our computer graphics are better. Since the original series aired, we’ve sent robotic rovers to Mars, sampling its rocks and exploring its history. We’ve detected hundreds of alien planets outside the solar system, finding them by the slight gravitational wobble they cause in their home stars, or by the brief dips in light as they pass across the star’s face as seen from Earth. We’ve found the Higgs boson, the elusive and long-theorized particle that endows everything else with mass. We’ve discovered that the expansion of the Universe which began with the Big Bang is accelerating, driven by a mysterious force called dark energy. All these scientific advances deserve to be recognized and celebrated.

The story of Cosmos is also the story of human beings. For the vast majority of our history as a species, we were wanderers, small hunter-gatherer bands. Civilization is a recent innovation, arising within the last few thousand years, and science is more recent still, appearing only in the last few hundred. But in just those few short centuries, we’ve made dramatic strides, from wooden sailing ships to space shuttles, bloodletting to bionic limbs, quill pens to the Internet. We’ve drawn back the curtain on ancient mythologies and glimpsed the true immensity of time and space. Compared to that vastness, we’re unimaginably small and insignificant; yet we possess an intelligence and a power of understanding that, as far as we still know, is unique among all the countless worlds. As Carl Sagan said, “We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”

However, not everyone accepts this as a positive development. There have always been those who prefer a small, comprehensible cosmos, with human beings placed firmly at the center. The religious belief systems that posit such a universe were our first, fumbling attempts to explain the origin of the world, and they rarely share power gladly. Those who clash against conventional wisdom, who dare to suggest that the cosmos holds wonders undreamed of in conventional mythology, have always found themselves in grave peril from the gatekeepers of dogma who presume to dictate the thoughts human beings should be permitted to think.

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America’s Extreme Right Has A Patriot Problem / After May 9, it will be punishable by 5 years in Russian prison to talk about ‘Ukrainian Crimea’

From Truth wins Out:

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Overwhelming Evidence that Half of America is In or Near Poverty

From Alternet:

And it’s much worse for minority families.

By Paul Buchheit
March 23, 2014

The Charles Koch Foundation recently released a  commercial that ranked a near-poverty-level $34,000 family among the Top 1% of poor people in the world. Bud Konheim, CEO and co-founder of fashion company Nicole Miller,  concurred: “The guy that’s making, oh my God, he’s making $35,000 a year, why don’t we try that out in India or some countries we can’t even name. China, anyplace, the guy is wealthy.”

Comments like these are condescending and self-righteous. They display an ignorance of the needs of lower-income and middle-income families in America. The costs of food and housing and education and health care and transportation and child care and taxes have been well-defined by organizations such as the  Economic Policy Institute, which calculated that a U.S. family of three would require an average of about $48,000 a year to meet basic needs; and by the  Working Poor Families Project, which estimates the income required for basic needs for a family of four at about $45,000. The  median household income is $51,000.

The following discussion pertains to the half of America that is in or near poverty, the people rarely seen by Congress.

1. The Official Poverty Threshold Should Be Much Higher

According to the  Congressional Research Service (CRS), “The poverty line reflects a measure of economic need based on living standards that prevailed in the mid-1950s…It is not adjusted to reflect changes in needs associated with improved standards of living that have occurred over the decades since the measure was first developed. If the same basic methodology developed in the early 1960s was applied today, the poverty thresholds would be over three times higher than the current thresholds.”

The original poverty measures were (and still are) based largely on the food costs of the 1950s. But while food costs have doubled  since 1978, housing has more than  tripled, medical expenses are  six times higher, and college tuition is  eleven times higher. The  Bureau of Labor Statistics and the  Census Bureau have calculated that food, housing, health care, child care, transportation, taxes, and other household expenditures consume nearly the  entire median household income.

CRS provides some balance, noting that the threshold should also be impacted by safety net programs:  “For purposes of officially counting the poor, noncash benefits (such as the value of Medicare and Medicaid, public housing, or employer provided health care) and ‘near cash’ benefits (e.g., food stamps..) are not counted as income.”

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