Here’s What Po’ Folks Need!

In all the discussions about poverty this week, gabbers generally assume they know what poverty is. But that assumption is based on an official Federal Poverty Line that didn’t exactly come down from Mount Sinai. The Atlantic‘s Jordan Weismann has a rather jarring example of its outdated provenance:

[Consider] this passage, which I found in a 1992 report by the Social Security Administration on how the poverty threshold came to be:

“When the hypothetical family cut back its food expenditures to the point where they equaled the cost of the economy food plan (or the low cost food plan) for a family of that size, the family would have reached the point at which its food expenditures were minimal but adequate, assuming that ‘the housewife will be a careful shopper, a skillful cook, and a good manager who will prepare all the family’s meals at home.’

With this quote kicking around, you have to figure some cultural conservative will eventually cite it as evidence the poor could get by just fine at the poverty line if the wimmin-folk would just stay home and do all that shopping, cooking and managing (in addition to all the child-raising, of course).

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.