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Are you poor if you have a flat-screen TV?

The ability to own TVs and cellphones is not an accurate measure of how much economic security a family has.

By MSN Money Partner May 5, 2014 12:37PM

This post comes from Krystal Steinmetz at partner site Money Talks News.

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyAt first glance, it may seem like a family with a computer, smartphones and a flat-screen TV is doing fairly well for itself.

But don't be so quick to judge. According to Annie Lowrey with The New York Times, it's not that easy to recognize the face of the poor in America.

A senior man watching TV © Image Source, Getty ImagesYes, the material well-being that some of the poor enjoy today was unimaginable to even the wealthy in years past. But the prices of consumer goods like TVs, phones, clothing, and small appliances have plummeted in the last 10 years, so it's hardly a basis for defining the modern poor, Lowrey writes.

"If you handpick services and goods where there has been dramatic technological progress, then the fact that poor people can consume these items in 2014 and even rich people couldn't consume them in 1954 is hardly a meaningful distinction," said Gary Burtless, an economist at the Brookings Institution.
"That's not telling you who is rich and who is poor."

Although consumer goods are relatively cheap these days, some essential services that could make strides in lifting families out of poverty -- like health care, child care and college tuition and fees -- are out of reach for America's poor.

So, the plight of the poor still looks pretty bleak, regardless of any perceived material wealth. The Times said:

"Without a doubt, the poor are far better off than they were at the dawn of the War on Poverty," said James Ziliak, director of the University of Kentucky's Center for Poverty Research. "But they have also drifted further away."

Slate columnist Jordan Weissman wrote that if you want to get a broad picture of the troubles facing the poor, forget about the "stuff."

Nobody is suggesting that the main problem the poor face today is a lack of stuff. It's a lack of security, an inability to cover basic recurring expenses, like utilities and rent, as well as major unexpected costs like medical care.

An effort to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour has stalled in the Senate. Democrats failed last week to rally the super-majority of 60 votes needed to defeat a Republican filibuster of the wage raise proposal.

More from Money Talks News

May 5, 2014 12:55PM
But how less poor would they be if they were not wasting (my) money on technology?
May 5, 2014 3:07PM
How many people today have flatscreens, but no healthcare and collect food stamps?  Priorities are so messed up today.
May 5, 2014 2:03PM
Are they receiving government benefits without working?  If so they can't afford these luxuries.  You should only have choice on what you are allowed to purchase, when you are doing it with the money you have earned.
May 6, 2014 7:51AM
You are not entitled to Welfare; you are not entitled to Medicaid. You are not entitled to free legal care, an education, or a cell phone. Anything you get is a gift to you from those who pay your way through life and you should get down on your knees and be thankful. No one is entitled to something they did not earn. Welfare is to be a hand up, not a hand out. It is not meant to be forever, it is not meant to be a way of life. It is not a gift for, or to, your next generation. The world owes you nothing. I owe you nothing. This country owes you nothing except a return of what you have given; Nothing more. WHAT HAVE YOU GIVEN?
May 5, 2014 3:02PM
You know, to me, having a flat screen is not "perceived" material wealth, it is material wealth, a luxury! maybe if the poor didn't purchase their flat screens, I phones, smart phone, manicures, weaves (generally with welfare checks) they would have their emergency fund and feel less insecurities. Also, "overextended " and "poor "are two different things as well, just sayin'........
May 5, 2014 3:33PM
May 6, 2014 8:25AM
If you are REALLY poor, why would you ever have a TV or cell phone?
May 6, 2014 11:43AM
if they raise the minimum wage, they will probably upgrade their flat screens instead of buy healthcare.
May 5, 2014 5:42PM
"Although consumer goods are relatively cheap these days, some essential services that could make strides in lifting families out of poverty -- like health care, child care and college tuition and fees -- are out of reach for America's poor."

Dumb and Dumber will never exhibits the intellectually ability to understand what that actually means. As we get closer to the Nov 2014 election, Dumb and Dumber will take lying, misinformation, and communist type propaganda to a new Level.
May 6, 2014 9:52AM
The author evades the most important aspect of being poor and owning technology.  The expansion of welfare and loss of stigma associated with being on the dole makes it easier to spend money on technology rather than heathcare, rent or mortgage, and other essentials.  The cost of a TV and internet package and a voice/data plan is a luxury foolishly acquired when a family lives from paycheck-to-paycheck.  No surprise the amount of credit card debt, foreclosues and bancruptcy in recent years.  Their "lack of security, an inability to cover basic recurring expenses, like utilities and rent, as well as major unexpected costs like medical care"  results from a lack of a budget and financial irresponsibility in most cases.  People have to live within their means and neither they nor the Administration should blame their financial situation on those better off. 

May 6, 2014 10:50AM
Mark 12:41-44
"He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had"
May 6, 2014 6:17PM
Are you poor if you have a flat-screen TV?
The ability to own TVs and cellphones is not an accurate measure of how much economic security a family has.

If you are poor AND you have all the technology, you are just financially immature.
May 6, 2014 12:52PM

When liberals are not busy trying to drive all religion out of this country, and when it fits their purpose, they love to bring up the name of Jesus. According to liberals (dave1230), conservatives are evil because they don’t follow Jesus teaching about giving to the poor. Well here is a lesson for the liberal morons.

Jesus would never support the idea of stealing from one person to give to another. A true Christian gives willingly of themselves and their money. Government steals money from one to give to another. There is nothing good or right about stealing, for any reason. How many of you big mouth liberals can or could call yourselves real Christians? How much have you given willingly?

May 6, 2014 9:59AM
Proverbs 18:17
The first to state his case seems right,
till the other one comes and cross-examines.
May 5, 2014 6:47PM
PMSL, the poor have flat screens; Perhaps it has something to do with-   Only Flat screens have been sold for the past fifteen years.   What gets me is how they can afford those cellphones with gps trackers that are always on (even when toggled off).  THey've been the only thing available for twenty years now.   HOW do the poor do it?
May 6, 2014 10:48AM
The Wall Street Journal
Nov 9, 2009 - ... comes in Goldman Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein's exchange with a ... Blankfein's wry comment that he's “doing god's work” seems almost ..‎
Nov 8, 2009 - Lloyd Blankfein, Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs, speaks during a ... believes banks serve a social purpose and are doing "God's work.".

Mark 10:21-22
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
May 5, 2014 11:47PM
Quick answer yes. I sold off a half dozen old CRT's 5-6 years ago. But the upside for the less than first to have the latest technology,  Flat Screens today are bigger and cheaper than before.
May 6, 2014 10:39AM
Luke 16:19-25
"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.

In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.' But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony."

May 6, 2014 9:12AM
If you want to keep a Job or Get a Job, you darn better well have a Phone. In today's Modern Society, that most times is a Cell Phone. If you want to keep a Job or Get a Job, you darn better have internet access. Again, most times that a Cell phone. How in the world that this modern day parasite Class of the 1% and or their Pawns don't get that is beyond Commonsense.

So you can literally get a 32inch Flat Screen for way less then $200 dollars. You can also get things like NetFlix, Hula, etc at far reduce price as compared to Cable. I know the parasites off the Working Poor don't think the Working Poor deserve any better then Bread and Water but the Reality is quite Different. After they Work hard all day producing the Actually Income that the parasite steal from, A Flat Screen TV and a Phone is the very least anyone should be whining about.

You hear Zero Complaints from these same Frauds about Record purchases of Mega Mansions, Luxury Cars and yachts, or any of the other countless things literally stolen off the Back of the Hard Work and ever increasing Productivity  of our Working Poor. There will be a Major Price to pay for such Evil Behavior. That you can be certain of.

May 6, 2014 8:59AM
What a shocker, another clone for the millionth plus times lies about paying for someone's way in life. Fact of the matter is that the Working Poor have been Paying his Way and have for quite some time. This sense of entitlement that some folks have while literally stealing from the poor is basically proof of how Far this Nation has fallen. Evil has done nothing to better our Society and is  continually producing Parasites off our Working Poor. Their evil ways will eventually come back to bit them.

By far, most Welfare has gone to the Top 1% Elite class. These type of posters stating otherwise are just their Pawns.
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