To Fox News Having Necessities Like Air Conditioning Means You Aren't Really Poor


On-air graphics displayed during Fox News hyped the number of poor Americans that have access to basic necessities like internet access and air conditioning in order to downplay the seriousness of poverty and attack efforts to address it through government programs.

A September 16 segment on Fox's The Five criticized the war on poverty claiming that 50 years later, more Americans are in poverty today than when President Lyndon B. Johnson first began implementing social programs to lift Americans out of poverty. During the segment, the show displayed chyrons that said “The Typical Family That The Census Identifies As 'Poor' Has AC, Cable TV, And A Computer,” while another reported that “40% Of Poor Have A Wide-Screen HDTV And Internet Access.” From the show:

Fox News' chyrons parrot a report by the Heritage Foundation claiming “that the actual living conditions of the more than 45 million people deemed 'poor' by the Census Bureau differ greatly from popular conceptions of poverty” because many of the poor have “consumer items that were luxuries or significant purchases for the middle class a few decades ago.”

The amenities Fox News bemoans are necessary for survival. In 2011 access to internet was deemed a “human right” by the United Nations. And the Center for American Progress further explained that the services and appliances the Heritage Foundation cites are “everyday necessities” and that using them to measure poverty is “misleading”:

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.


To avoid a real discussion of these issues, the Heritage Foundation craftily creates indexes that rank households on skewed measures of “amenities” that suggest that no further federal action is needed to buoy the standard of living of poor and working-class families. Such indexes are heartless and foolish. Heartless because they ignore the fact that it takes much more than a few appliances to support a family. And foolish because they lend credence to the calls for cutting the supports that research has shown are necessary for every child to become a healthy and productive adult.

In fact, poverty is a serious problem for those Americans without access to medical care, education, stable housing, access to legal services and healthy food.

Experts find that government programs actually help to alleviate “vast amounts of poverty” in the US. Forbes found that “When we measure all those goods and things the child poverty rate is 1 or 2%.” The Washington Post reported that “when you take government intervention into account, poverty is down considerably from 1967 to 2012, from 26 percent to 16 percent.”