In addition, we fuel the anti-American propaganda spread by countries such as Russia and China, who accuse the United States of human-rights violations. Why? Because they claim that the millions of Americans classified as poor are enduring a life of desperate poverty -- “like a third world nightmare,” as the Russia Today TV network once put it.
The average poor household in the U.S. isn’t living the high life. But it’s also not the dust-bowl existence pictured in John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” or the dramatic “Two Americas” picture painted by John Edwards. As scholar James Q. Wilson notes, “The poorest Americans today live a better life than all but the richest persons a hundred years ago.”
We do those who experience substantial hardship a real disservice when we spread misinformation that inflates their true numbers, especially in a time of tight budgets. We need to base anti-poverty policy on facts, not on lurid anecdotes and exaggerated rhetoric.