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O'REILLY: The Census Bureau reports that 43 million Americans are currently living in poverty. The bureau defines poverty as a family of four earning less than $22,000 a year. But the conservative Heritage Foundation says that many poor American families have lots of stuff. Here now to analyze, Fox Business anchor Lou Dobbs.
O'REILLY: Eight-two percent have a microwave. This is 82 percent of American poor families. Seventy-eight percent have air conditioning. More than one television, 65 percent. Cable or satellite TV, 64 percent -- thank God.
DOBBS: Amen, brother.
O'REILLY: Cell phones, 55 percent. Personal computer, 39 percent. And as we said, that's a 6-year-old consumption survey, so these numbers are way up. So how can you be so poor and have all this stuff?
STUART VARNEY (guest host): A new report showing poor families in the United States are not what they used to be. Now, many poor families have homes with cable TV, cell phones, computers, you name it -- much, much, more. My next guest is digging up all of this stuff. Robert Rector is with the Heritage Foundation.
Robert, I'm just going to give our viewers a quick run-through of what items poor families in America have. Ninety-nine percent of them have a refrigerator. Eighty-one percent have a microwave. Seventy-eight percent have air conditioning. Sixty-three percent have cable TV. Fifty-four percent have cell phones. Forty-eight percent have a coffee maker -- I'm not surprised, they're only about 10 bucks. Thirty-eight percent have a computer. Thirty-two percent have more than two TVs. Twenty-five percent have a dishwasher.
This, Sir, Mr. Rector, is very different what it was just a few years ago, isn't it?
ROBERT RECTOR (Heritage Foundation senior research fellow): No, actually what you see is that the living standards of the poor have increased rather steadily for the last 30 years. And in fact, the poverty report has not accurately reflected their living conditions really for several decades.
VARNEY: Now, I understand that today, the federal government says 14 percent of the population lives in poverty, and that's roughly the same as it was back in 1966, before all the Great Society programs. But doesn't that look poverty as a financial, a monetary thing?
RECTOR: Yes, part of the reason that when you look at the actual living conditions of the 43 million people that the Census says are poor, you see that in fact, they have all these modern conveniences. If you ask them, did your family have enough food to eat at all times during the last year, the overwhelming majority will say yes. If you ask them were you able to meet any medical needs you may have had, they will say yes.
The typical poor family in the United States lives in a house or an apartment and actually has more living space than the average European. Not a poor European, but the average Frenchman or the average German.
So, in fact, there really isn't any connection between the government's identification of poor people and the actual living standards and the typical American -- when an American hears the word "poverty," he's thinking about somebody that doesn't have enough food to eat, someone that's possibly homeless. It's not true.
It's amazing the crazy amount of doublespeak that can live in a Republicans' head. Nobody can push for things like fair wages or workers' rights or a security net legitimately unless they're running around with pickle jars for shoes and dirt for shampoo while wearing shopping bags for clothes...but if you're an ACTUAL poor person making a long and dangerous journey to America out of the hopes of just being LESS POOR, well, you're some kind of terrifying monster.