Glenn Beck claimed that President Obama was drastically changing the poverty scale in a way that would effectively classify Beck as "in poverty" because other people in his community are wealthier than he is. In fact, the measurement would supplement, not replace, the poverty measurement currently in use, and it would not count Beck as poor.
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From the March 10 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Program:
BECK: Barack Obama has announced he's changing that scale. It's no longer how many potatoes -- how many potatoes you can buy. Can you buy a roof over your head, potatoes, gasoline, the basic necessities to stay afloat? No, no, no. It's now a comparative scale. So how much money do you have compared to others in your area?
PAT GRAY (co-host): Again, that's Marxist.
BECK: I would be -- I'd be in poverty. I'm probably the poorest guy that lives in my town. I live in -- I mean, New York has great concentrations of wealth.
BECK: I'm the poorest guy. I'd be on the poverty scale because I don't have as much as they have. You see what they're doing? What he's doing is constantly compare yourself to someone else. We don't do that in America. That's what got us here. What got us into this trouble is, well, they've got one. I want a flat screen. I want that. They have one. How come I don't have one? It's keeping up with the Joneses, period.
And look what they're creating. They are creating a cage that you'll never be able to get out of. And I'm not talking about -- you know, I'm not talking about a literal cage, I'm talking about a cage, a prison of laws and concepts. We're already -- we've already built a cage for our kids. We've already told them, ah, don't worry, everybody gets a trophy. No, they don't. Now, how are our kids going to get out of that cage that we all built for them? The cage that says you don't have to compete, you don't have to worry about it -- you'll get it, you're owed it, you deserve it. Well, they're not going to get what we've promised them. They're going to get what they deserve and what we deserve.
BECK: We are not living our personal lives in a way that we deserve anything better than what we're getting or are about to get. That's what must change. Not a new scale on how to measure poverty. And a poverty scale that has you compare yourself to your neighbors. Oh, my gosh. I mean, what are we doing? How do people with eyes not see it? How do people with ears not hear it? How many -- how many people got out of Cuba, got out of the Soviet Union, Poland, that are now looking at it and going, "America, wake up"?
Alternative measurement not replacing poverty measure in effect since 1960s
Commerce Dept.: Current poverty measure will "remain the definitive statistical measure." A March 2 press release by the U.S. Department of Commerce about the "Supplemental Poverty Measure" stated that the official poverty measure used since the 1960s "will remain the definitive statistical measure." It added that the alternative measure "will not be the measure used to estimate eligibility for government programs. Instead, it will be an additional macroeconomic statistic, providing further understanding of economic conditions and trends."
Alternative measurement would not classify Beck as poor
Wash. Post: Alternative measure would "consider expenses such as housing, utilities, child care and medical treatment." From a March 3 Washington Post article about the Supplemental Poverty Measure:
The old definition, developed in the mid-1960s using data from a decade earlier, was based on the cost of food and a family's cash income. The new one, acknowledging that food has become a smaller share of poor families' costs, will also consider expenses such as housing, utilities, child care and medical treatment. In gauging people's resources, the new method will include financial help from housing and food subsidies, in addition to money from jobs and cash assistance programs.
CAP: Alternative measure's "geographic adjustments" would "present a more realistic relationship between cost of living and what it takes to meet basic needs." A March 2 report by the Center for American Progress states that a flaw of the current poverty measurement is that it "includes no adjustment for geographic disparities in cost of living. This means that two families with the same income -- one in Tate County, Mississippi and the other in Seattle, Washington -- are considered equally as well off despite the fact that fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $574 per month in the former and $987 per month in the latter." The report notes that the alternative measurement would address this by including "some form of geographic adjustments that present a more realistic relationship between cost of living and what it takes to meet basic needs."