When does “poverty” become “middle class”?

Paul Buchheit broke out his TI-81 to riff on the Census’s assertion that 15% of people in our country live in poverty.

Turns out, depending on how you calculate it, 50% of our residents are pretty dang close.

The IRS reports that the highest wage in the bottom half of earners is about $34,000. To be eligible for food assistance, a family can earn … about $30,000 for a family of four.

$4000 isn’t much for a family of four. It wouldn’t take more than, say, a brief hospitalization. A job reduction or furlough. A serious car repair? Or a year of additional expenses that comfortable families take for granted: mandatory fees for student clubs, textbooks, winter coats, plane tickets.

$4000 a year is just $333 a month.

And the reason we talk about it as inequality rather than the normalization of poverty?

While food support was being targeted for  cuts, just  20 rich Americans made as much from their 2012 investments as the entire  2012 SNAP (food assistance) budget, which serves 47 million people.

And as Congress continues to cut life-sustaining programs, its members should note that their 400 friends on the  Forbes list made more from their stock market gains last year than the total amount of the  foodhousing, and education budgets combined.

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