On The Prevalence Of "Extreme Poverty" In The United States

The World Bank has a definition of “extreme poverty,” which, in their formulation, means “living on less than $1.90 per day.” I have no idea how they picked the figure of $1.90 for the cutoff, but that certainly is a very low figure. Parsing the definition a little, notice that they use the term “living on” as the standard, rather than saying, for example, that a person has less than $1.90 per day in “income.” As you will see, the difference is significant. Anyway, the WB in its most recent (April 2019) report on this subject gives a figure of about 10% of the world’s population, or 736 million people, as “living on” resources below that very low $1.90 per day level per capita. That actually represents a large decline in the percent of people in this “extreme poverty” condition over the past couple of decades; but it still comes to a very large number of people. Whether that 10% figure is accurate or even substantially exaggerated, I have no doubt that there are still many, many people in the world who have less than $1.90 per day in resources to “live on,” and who therefore live in what could only be called deep, grinding poverty.

But the question for today is, is there any substantial number of people in the United States who live in conditions meeting this World Bank test of “extreme poverty”? And if so, how could that be, and how could such a thing be allowed to persist? Some call this the most important question out there in the field of poverty studies.

Driving this debate has been a pair of well-known researchers who have for many years been making a career pushing large numbers as being the supposed count of those in the U.S. in this “deep poverty” condition. The researchers are sociologist Kathryn Edin of Princeton and social policy guru Luke Shaefer of the University of Michigan. In 2015, Edin and Shaefer published a book titled “$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America.” The $2.00 per day was an arbitrary rounding up of the World Bank’s equally arbitrary $1.90 per day “extreme poverty” cutoff, although besides doing that rounding the authors also switched the definition of the measurement metric from “living on” that amount or less, to having “cash income” of that amount or less. The book famously came up with a figure of some 1.2 million households with children in the United States, and 3.6 million households total, supposedly meeting the test of having cash income less than the $2 per day per capita figure.

You will not be surprised that Edin and Shaefer’s 2015 book drew excited praise — and a notable dearth of skepticism — from the usual progressive suspects. (Example — William Junius Wilson in the New York Times: “This essential book is a call to action, and one hopes it will accomplish what Michael Harrington’s “The Other America” achieved in the 1960s — arousing both the nation’s consciousness and conscience about the plight of a growing number of invisible citizens.”) Less excited was the Manhattan Contrarian, who, in a post on May 26, 2016, had this to say:

This book is completely preposterous. . . .

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April Fools Day Hoax Roundup

Does it seem to you that there have been a lot of big-time hoaxes lately? In late February the most widely-publicized alleged “hate crime” in years — the Jussie Smollett caper — was revealed as a hoax; and then just a few weeks after that the Mueller Report was completed, and it turned out that the single most intensely covered news event of my entire lifetime — the “Trump/Russia collusion” story — was also a hoax.

These were not minor or insignificant hoaxes. Both were a huge focus of mainstream press and media coverage and commentary, in the first case for several weeks, and in the second for over two years. Both fed the dominant media narrative of opposition to President Trump and hatred of him and his supporters. Both hoaxes were accepted uncritically and without a hint of skepticism by essentially all of the progressive press and media, who repeated and amplified them at great extent right up until they suddenly unraveled.

But with the extreme focus on these two hoaxes, perhaps you are losing track of the fact that these are just two of some dozens of similar hoaxes perpetrated by the same press and media players in recent years. Today, in honor of April Fools Day, the Manhattan Contrarian performs the public service of reminding you of the extent to which you are subject to a constant barrage of hoaxes originating from the mainstream press, media (including social media), and often also the government; hoaxes that are then endlessly repeated and amplified, all in the service of increased political power for the left.

Hate Crime Hoaxes

If you search the recesses of your memory, you will likely be able to come up with at least a few prior hate crime hoaxes that got big media play before the truth came out. One of the biggest was the University of Virginia fraternity gang rape hoax of 2014, originally perpetrated upon the world by Rolling Stone magazine. Going back several more years, there was the Duke lacrosse team gang rape hoax of 2006. If you follow this issue, you may also remember some others, . . .

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We've Driven Amazon Out Of New York!

It’s official! Earlier today, Amazon announced that it was pulling out of the deal to build a “second headquarters” in Queens (part of New York City) and hire some 25,000 people there. The New York Times is on top of the story:

Amazon on Thursday canceled its plans to build an expansive corporate campus in New York City after facing an unexpectedly fierce backlash from some lawmakers and union leaders, . . . The company, as part of its extensive search for a new headquarters, had chosen Long Island City, Queens, as one of two winning sites, saying that it would create more than 25,000 jobs in the city.

Leading progressives immediately took a victory lap. For example, there was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (tweet quoted in the Times article):

Anything is possible: today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world.

(Note: the proposed Amazon HQ is not actually within AOC’s district, but about 1 mile or so away.) And Elizabeth Warren:

@amazon – one of the wealthiest companies on the planet – just walked away from billions in taxpayer bribes, all because some elected officials in New York aren't sucking up to them enough. How long will we allow giant corporations to hold our democracy hostage?

You’re probably wondering about the Manhattan Contrarian’s take on this situation. . . .

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Is New York's "Safety Net" A Success?

One of the many specialized publications here in New York is something called “Crain’s New York Business.” As its title suggests, Crain’s covers mostly the affairs of the business community, although from time to time it also dabbles in political and policy matters. Sometimes it even has some sensible things to say. And sometimes not.

This week’s issue of Crain’s is dominated by a cover story titled “The State of Inequality: A Program for Every Problem.” The article has the byline of Crain’s head editor Greg David (although I doubt he actually wrote it — it’s not his usual style at all). It purports to be a review of the state of the “safety net” and its many subsidiary programs here in New York, together with, to some degree, a comparison of same to similar programs in certain other states (Georgia, Texas, Washington).

This lengthy piece is a serious embarrassment to Crain’s. It could not be worse if they simply had published verbatim a pile of campaign propaganda fed to them by a Cuomo or a de Blasio — which may very well be what this actually is. I’ll first take you through what the article says, and then I’ll go over a few of the elephants standing around here that they have somehow missed.

The basic theme of the piece is that New York has the most extensive array of social safety net programs in the country, and THEY’RE WORKING !!!!!! And how do we know that THEY’RE WORKING !!!!! ? Because we have followed the basic journalistic technique of interviewing some of the beneficiaries of the programs, and some of the bureaucrats who run the programs. And, remarkably, those people are unanimous in declaring the great success of the programs that they benefit from and/or administer. QED! Now, has anyone thought to maybe go out and collect some data as to, for example, how New York compares to other jurisdictions in actually reducing poverty, or reducing income inequality, or (in the case of medical programs) extending life expectancy? Of course, you will not find any of that in this article. . . .

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Amazon HQ2 Decision Provides Yet More Insights Into The Progressive Brain

Amazon HQ2 Decision Provides Yet More Insights Into The Progressive Brain

Yesterday Amazon announced its decision on where to locate its new “second headquarters”; and as you no doubt already know, it chose to divide between two locations, one just outside Washington, DC, and the other in a part of Queens, NY, known as Long Island City. Each is to become the site for some 25,000 future jobs.

For those unfamiliar with New York geography, Long Island City is the neighborhood that you see over there on the opposite shore when you look across the East River from Midtown Manhattan. When I moved to New York in the 1970s, LIC was a very dreary and forgotten industrial area, known for small factories and a lot of truck traffic. But over the last 20 or so years it has gained traction as a location for residences and offices that are (somewhat) cheaper than Manhattan but very close and accessible. Four different subway tunnels connect LIC to Midtown. Most of the former industrial sites have by now been replaced with multiple dozen new large apartment towers.

Also in Long Island City, toward the northern end of it, is something called the Queensbridge Houses. According to the New York Times, Queensbridge Houses is “the country’s largest public housing project.” About 7000 people live there. Also according to the Times, most of the residents of Queensbridge Houses are either African American or Hispanic, and the median household income is “well below the federal poverty level.” This project is approximately one-half mile north — easy walking distance — from the spot where Amazon is proposing to build its new complex. Here is a picture of the housing project:

So, perhaps your first reaction is, the Queensbridge residents and other New York locals should view these new jobs are the best possible thing that could happen to the people of this enormous project. What better route could there be for them to improve their lives than to go out and get hired by Amazon? You’re not yet qualified? Get out and take some courses — you have a few years before the big hiring will take place. But if that’s what you are thinking, you just don’t understand the progressive brain. In fact, the progressive New Yorker views the residents of these projects as helpless children who have no agency of their own and no ability to do anything but sit around and wait for government handouts. To this way of thinking, tens of thousands of new high-paying jobs will not improve the Queensbridge residents’ lives at all, but will only serve to deepen the divide between the poor and the rich in New York.

Do you not believe that progressives really could think that way? Let me give you several quotes from the New York Times piece from yesterday . . .

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How The New York Times And Washington Post Do "Poverty"

My post this past Sunday took note of a prominent Wall Street Journal op-ed last week that drove home some points that I have been making here for a few years about the measurement and incidence of “poverty” in the U.S. Most important is the systematic exclusion of some $1.2 trillion of government redistributions, $500 million of private charity, and as much as $2 trillion of underground economy from the incomes of lower income people when “poverty” is measured and reported. Since these three categories, in the aggregate, come to a large multiple of the amount that ought to be sufficient to eliminate all poverty under the government’s definition, I have long asserted that the government “poverty” data are systematically fraudulent, misleading, and useless for their intended purpose. . . .

Into this mix on September 12 the Census Bureau dropped its newly-released data on poverty for the year 2017. Admittedly that release does not itself contain the definitions and lists of exclusions that you need to understand how useless and deceptive this is. For that you’ll have to go on a hunt through the Census website; or, alternatively, read the Manhattan Contrarian or the Wall Street Journal op-eds, or maybe this big study from John Early for the Cato Institute. But again, if you are going to report on this subject, there is no excuse for not knowing this basic information.

So shall we take a look at how the New York Times and Washington Post reported on the Census release? In the New York Times, the big story by Glen Thrush, headlined “U.S. Recovery Eludes Many Living Below Poverty Level, Census Suggests,” appeared on September 13. The Washington Post ran an op-ed by Jared Bernstein on September 12 headlined “New census data show gains to low- and middle-income families but stalled progress on health coverage.” . . . .

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