Like Stalin and ‘The Grapes of Wrath’

The Soviet Union, the story goes, brought the film ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ over from America as propaganda, trying to pass it off as an example of capitalism gone amuck. The long struggle of the Joads on their trek to California and the bitterness they found when they got there were to show how bad things were in the so-called “free world”. The film had to be banned, though, after Soviet citizens became jealous that even homeless peasants in America owned cars.

True? I don’t know. But I was reminded of it when I saw this:

The following are facts about persons defined as “poor” by the Census Bureau, taken from various government reports:

  • Forty-three percent of all poor households actually own their own homes. The average home owned by persons classified as poor by the Census Bureau is a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.
  • Eighty percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, in 1970, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.
  • Only 6 percent of poor households are overcrowded. More than two-thirds have more than two rooms per person.
  • The average poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens, and other cities throughout Europe. (These comparisons are to the average citizens in foreign countries, not to those classified as poor.)
  • Nearly three-quarters of poor households own a car; 31 percent own two or more cars.
  • Ninety-seven percent of poor households have a color television; over half own two or more color televisions.
  • Seventy-eight percent have a VCR or DVD player; 62 percent have cable or satellite TV reception.
  • Eighty-nine percent own microwave ovens, more than half have a stereo, and more than a third have an automatic dishwasher.
  • A while back, the Grand Rapids Press ran a story on local families who were living in poor conditions, due to either overcrowding or dilapidated homes. A photo accompanying the story showed one living room with bare wall studs and a few wisps of insulation. The kids sat on the floor. Playing XBox. On a very large (50″+) rear projection widescreen television.

    Poverty, in many cases, is all relative. It’s not a description, it’s an arbitrary line.

    (via Wizbang)


    1. MO, I read an article moons ago about that phenomenon. In a nutshell, ‘poor’ families can’t afford a gonzo flat screen HD ultramega tv with superior console game. Can’t buy them outright, can’t even finance them due to poor or non-existent credit. Although with an 18%+ interest rate through the store they ought to count their blessings. But what they CAN swing is $50 a week at Rent-a-Center.

    2. GL is right. I obviously can’t address conditions for all poor Americans, but in my own experience it’s frequently a case of poor choices = poor. Do I feel sorry for them, or feel like picking up their slack by digging out my wallet and giving freely. Not on your life. I think if they’re mature and free enough to make the choice, then they’re mature and free enough to live with the consequences. At least until some liberal socialist can get others to feel sorry for them and shell out some cash, or get some tax dollars directed their way. LOL!

    3. GeekLethal, Interestingly enough, we ended up purchasing a new washer from Rent-A-Center. Our washer and dryer both died within a couple days of eachother. Having three kids means you cannot afford to NOT have a washer and dryer. You’d go broke at the laundromat, and the back yard isn’t big enough for all the lines needed to airdry stuff. Sigh. So, we headed over to Sears and found a model we liked for the Washer. However, because it was under $500.00, they would tack on a $55.00 delivery fee, plus another &25.00 to take away the old washer. When added to the costs of either paying for it on their credit card, or ours, it was REALLY pricey. Just to pique my interest, we stopped at the local Rent-A-Center and they had the exact same model, brand new, for less than Sears wanted, with FREE delivery and installation. Now, if we had rented-to-own over the full course of time, it would have been double the retail price, but by using their ‘3 month’s same as cash’ plan, we could pay it off over three months with no interest charges and got it for what they wanted retail, which, as I said, was less than Sears wanted. Since then, I’ve purchased a couple other items from them, because I could split the payments over three months without interest, and without using the credit card, etc. Renting-to-own through them is hellaciously expensive, and I understand why some folks end up going that way, but if you know what you want, and can swing the payments, that 3-month program can actually SAVE you money. Respects,

    4. AW1 Tim, I didn’t even know RAC would do that 3 month thing. That’s not a bad idea a’tall. I have had good experiences with the local scratch-n-dent outlet of a well known regional appliance retailer. Got my last stove from them for about 1/2 off retail price (side was scraped). Dunno about their delivery scheme; I was able to borrow a truck and load it myself. But they had tons of stuff that was in pretty good shape, really, but for cosemtic reasons just couldn’t be put on the sales floor. Anyway, if you have an analogue in your area it’s worth a look when you need a new widget.

    5. Until rather recently in our history, chubbiness was a sign of being well off, and being skinny meant you were poor. Check out some classical paintings if you doubt me. I note that these days obesity is identified (however unfairly) with the lower classes. That alone, in my opinion, is a fascinating illustration of the progress we’ve made in the last two centuries. Even our poor can be fat. Mind you, I don’t claim to be making a scientific point here- just observing a cultural trend which suggests, just maybe, that mass society isn’t as bad as it’s cracked up to be.

    6. GL, yeah, there’s a fellow up by us who also has an appliance restoration business. He purchases the slightly damaged goods from the big stores, plus buys up stuff from locals at yard sales, estate sales, etc. He has a full shop and a painting booth, and he goes over everything very well, replacing belts, filters, etc as required. He’ll also repaint when needs be. You can usually get a washer for around $150.00 and a dryer for a little less, but you have to get it yourself, install it, etc. There’s only a 90-day warranty on parts, but what the heck. I would’ve bought from him if I’d known about him when we needed the stuff 🙂

    7. MO, thanks for the link to the article. In reading it I came across this quote ‘Each year, the U.S. imports, through both legal and illegal immigration, hundreds of thousands of additional poor persons from abroad. As a result, one-quarter of all poor persons in the U.S. are now first-genera-

    8. re: immigrants I’m curious, are these immigrant poor ACTUALLY ‘poor’ when put in the contextof where they just moved from? (Maybe, I’m just askin’…)

    9. KTLA, these illegal immigrant poor are probably rich in comparison to where they came. Here they have a good shot at owning a home and getting access to world-class medical care and educational opportunities, all on the taxpayers’ dime, delivered in their native language no less. In Denver alone it is estimated 20,000 FHA-insured mortgages have been issued to illegal aliens. That’s just Denver. The examples are easy to find. One that blew me away was a story in the SF Chronicle about a strawberry picker who makes $300 per week and does not speak English. Yet, he was able to get a loan for a $720,000 home. How much of the current subprime mortgage crisis is the result of similar stories? So yes, KTLA, I don’t think these poor are actually poor when put into context of where they just moved from.

    10. While we are touching on illegals, I thought this passage from Elvira Arellano, the recently deported Mexican illegal alien, was telling. We have shown that we are not only for protecting the rights of the undocumented but we are struggling for Latinos to become a voice for justice for all of Latin America. We have supported self-determination and opposed assimilation into this nation’s individualistic, imperialistic values. We have taught that our people did not come here because of the American Dream but because of what the American nightmare did to our countries of origin. We have asserted that our demand to be here and to be fully enfranchised here is a right not a privilige and a destiny of our people to transform this nation.