The Common Good

Jon Stewart on 'the Poors': Fridges & Microwaves & TVs, Oh My!

WARNING: Sarcasm ahead.

Scandalous statistics reveal that nearly every household (99.9 percent according to the Heritage Foundation) classified as "poor" by the U.S. Census Bureau OWNS A REFRIGERATOR!

Did you know 98 percent of poor households in the U.S. (those with an income of about $22,000 for a family of four) own a STOVE or OVEN? Or that 84 percent of poor households have AIR CONDITIONING?

Shocking! Outrageous! A true miscarriage of justice if we ever saw one!!

At least that's what some of our colleagues in the media appear to believe, as Jon Stewart documents in the following "Daily Show" report:

So, let us get this straight: Owning amenities such as kitchen appliances -- luxuries, or so their argument goes -- means the folks the Census Bureau calls 'poor' aren't really poor at all?

If a poor family owns a coffee maker (as 60.5 percent do, apparently) or a dishwasher or a washing machine or a cell phone or, say, inside plumbing, they should quit mooching off the government and start paying income tax like true American patriots, right?

According to these poverty pundits, we're supposed to tell the 39.8 percent of impoverished U.S. households that have no internet connection at home (and could, we guess, go to the public library to read this post if they really wanted to), "Your life isn't so bad. Quit whining, sell your percolator on eBay and dig a little deeper for Uncle Sam, 'mkay?

Sorry, but that just won't fly.

The "television as luxury" statistics don't tell us anything truly helpful about poor Americans.

Sure, they tell us what many poor folks have, but they don't account for what many more don't have.

"Luxuries" like a college fund or a retirement plan.

Gross displays of wealth, such as job security, health insurance or a savings account.

In today's world, it's pretty tough to find a decent job without a college education.

But it's even harder to feed your family if you don't have a refrigerator. Or a stove.

Those of us inclined to rebuke our poorer brothers and sisters for splashing out on the few 'luxuries' they can afford, should redirect our misdirected energies towards creating an economy (and society) that values the least of those among us.

The poor need our help and hope much more than our self-righteous and petty criticism.

Jack Palmer is communications assistant and Cathleen Falsani is web editor and director of new media at Sojourners.

A new report from The Heritage Foundation has highlighted some worrying statistics. Did you know that 99.6% of poor US households own a refrigerator and almost 80% have air conditioning? I'm shocked.

And so too, it appears are many in the media. While many Christians are concerned at the rise in poverty across the country, some in the media are just renewing their attacks on the poor (at the same time as U.S. poverty rates hit an 18-year high).

Owning appliances, the argument goes, means that those who are defined as 'poor' aren't poor at all. 97.7% of poor households own a television

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