The Census Bureau reported this week that the number of Americans considered to be poor has jumped to a record 46.2 million -- one in seven of us.
The figure is misleading because the government doesn't count means-tested welfare assistance in counting income. And today's poor don't fit the image of people living in shacks with little to eat.
In fact, only a small number fit that description. As the Heritage Foundation's Robert Rector notes, "A poor child in America is far more likely to have cable or satellite TV, a computer, a widescreen plasma TV, an Xbox or TiVo, than to be hungry or live in run-down overcrowded housing."
Welfare and other government programs have not lifted people out of poverty, but sustained them in it. There are as many poor today as there were when Lyndon Johnson began his war on poverty in 1964. That was 47 years and $17 trillion ago. It's not working. It's time to try something else. We can start with motivation to stay in school and not have babies outside of marriage.
I'm Cal Thomas in Washington.
Publication date: September 15, 2011