Re: Misleading Figures & Fake Facts

Restore Hope in America (
Tue, 16 Mar 1999 20:23:08 -0500 (EST)

On Tue, 16 Mar 1999, Mike Steindel wrote:

> U.S. POOR NOT REALLY POOR: Heritage Foundation poverty analyst Robert
> Rector has issued widely trumpeted reports arguing that the poor aren't
> so poor -- for instance, "The Myth of Widespread American Poverty"
> (1998).
> The reports contain false and misleading claims. Purporting to show that
> poor Americans rarely go hungry, Heritage relies on an outmoded 1991
> Health and Human Services nutrition survey that understates the problem,
> while ignoring the more recent and complete Census Bureau survey that
> replaced it.

Rector first published something on this in late 1993; in January, the
Washington Post did a front page article on Rectors recently published
findings, titling the article Have a Prosperous New Year, but Stay Below
the Poverty Line. I was so incensed by the title, much less the report,
that I wrote a letter to the editor claiming it was the worst attack on
the poor I've seen (the title), and that Rectors claims were misleading,
citing much to discredit the work. I sent a copy to Rector, since I didn't
think the Post would publish it, but I did want him to see my scorn for
him. He sent me back a few reports he had written, the said in a
handwritten note that he was going to do a study on the underground
economy, claiming as he does that it is largely the poor who do illegal
work, and that this is the bulk of the problem.

At the time, I was writing a weekly column on poverty issues and used
these two examples. If anyone is interested,  The Welfare Myth: Who's
Cheating Whom? was published on February 4, 1994 in response to Rectors
claims that the poor had it good. it can be found at

BTW, Rector wrote most of the welfare reform legislation himself, working
for nothing, so to speak, to help Congress out. Well, there's never been
any doubt about the Heritage Foundation in the past, and their stance
against the poor leaves no doubt in the future that people like this just
shouldn't be listened to by anyone who would call themselves Americans.

David R. Quammen
Restore Hope In America

The Sticky Wicket: Poverty's Home Page

 Rector claims that "poor Americans live in larger houses or
> apartments" than "the general population in Western Europe," but the
> supporting chart compares floor space per person in European cities like
> Paris and Athens to that of all poor U.S. households. Most of America's
> poor live in rural or suburban areas. Heritage's main point -- that
> "there is a huge gap between the `poor=B4 as defined by the Census
> Bureau and what most ordinary Americans consider to be poverty" -- is
> dubious. Polls consistently show that Americans would put the poverty
> line higher than its current level.
> * Contact: Seth Ackerman, "The Ever-Present Yet Nonexistent Poor,"
> Extra! (1-2/99),,
>; Katha Pollitt, "Poverty: Fudging the Numbers," The
> Nation (11/2/98),
> BOGUS SOCIAL SECURITY FIGURES: In its advocacy of privatization,
> Heritage published "research" last year claiming to show that Social
> Security is bad for blacks and Latinos and that many African-Americans
> pay more into the system than they receive in benefits. Citing
> methodological errors, Steve Goss, Deputy Chief Actuary of the Social
> Security Administration, rebutted Heritage in a memo (2/4/99) which
> concluded that "the non-white population actually enjoys the same or
> better expected rates of return from Social Security." The Center on
> Budget and Policy Priorities issued a report by senior analyst Kilolo
> Kijakazi on Heritage's incorrect methodology and assumptions, with the
> Goss memo appended.
> =A0=A0=A0=A0=A0 =A0 =A0 * Contact: Kilolo Kijakazi at CBPP,
> Her report is at
> See also Business Week,
> "Red-Faced Over Social Security: A Conservative Think Tank's Boo-Boo,"
> 12/14/98.
> MISLEADING "WELFARE" FIGURE: In January 1995, Heritage's Robert Rector
> claimed in congressional testimony that "the U.S. has spent over $5.3
> trillion on welfare...since the onset of the War on Poverty" without
> decreasing poverty. But Heritage's often-cited "welfare" figure --
> further inflated in recent years -- is highly misleading. As the Center
> on Budget and Policy Priorities has documented, 70 percent of the
> federal spending Heritage classified as "welfare" went to households
> that did not receive Aid to Families with Dependent Children, the core
> welfare program during the 30-year period. Most went to non-AFDC
> households with elderly, disabled or "medically needy" individuals, as
> well as low-income workers -- not the jobless poor typically associated
> with "welfare."
> =A0=A0=A0=A0=A0 =A0 =A0 * See "How Much Do We Spend on Welfare?" by
> Sharon Parrott (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, publication
> #95-032). To acquire the report, contact CBPP, (202) 408-1080.
> For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam
> Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167