Sorry Heritage Foundation, but basic appliances do not a middle-class family make

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Via Matt Yglesias: Melissa Boteach and Donna Cooper have a great piece on the Heritage Foundation’s “poor people aren’t actually poor because they own cheap electronics” theory of poverty. This infographic nicely highlights the silliness of looking to basic appliance ownership as a standard of material welfare in an advanced capitalist country:

the Heritage Foundation released its latest distorted picture of poverty in America. And, as usual, Rush Limbaugh could be counted on to perpetuate these distortions through the airwaves. The purpose: To suggest poor families have it too good for the government to worry about them anymore. The report relies on old data from before the Great Recession of 2007-2009 to pitch the argument that the poor are doing just fine because they have it all—refrigerators, microwave ovens, window unit air conditioners, televisions, and cell phones.

These arguments are mean and misleading on several accounts. First, the electronic devices that Heritage cites are everyday necessities today. Who has iceboxes anymore? Who doesn’t need a cell phone to find a job or keep one? Fortunately, these appliances are all significantly cheaper these days, but not so the real everyday basics such as quality child care and out-of-pocket medical costs, both of which have risen much faster than inflation, squeezing the budgets of the poor and middle-class alike. In fact, if anything, those who we consider poor today are far more out of the social mainstream in terms of their basic income than when our poverty measure was first set in the 1960s.

There’s more analysis from Yglesis here.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.