Senator Jeff Sessions speaks at the Values Voter Summit, October 7, 2011. (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
An excellent new report from Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama proves that we spend more than $60,000 on every poor household in the United States every year, thereby raising the typical poor household’s standard of living above that of the typical middle-income household.
That’s right, I said “excellent” and “proves.” Why? Well, just take a look at this analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP)—an economic think tank that a bunch of muckety-mucks in Washington, DC, think is so “renowned” at knowing numbers.
According to this CBPP outfit, the senator arrives at the $68,000 figure by simply “adding up the cost of a large number of programs that are targeted on low- and moderate-income households—or on schools and communities with large numbers of low- and moderate-income students or residents—and dividing the total cost of these programs by the number of households below the official poverty line…. It treats all the benefits that go to households with annual incomes above the poverty line as though they were expenditures made on behalf of households with incomes below the poverty line.”
So what’s the problem? If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a DC native, it’s this: My town has got to leave more room for creativity and imagination, because sticking to so-called “facts” and “logic” is both “limiting” and “boring.”
In his report, Senator Sessions has counted things like payments to hospitals, doctors and nursing homes—including for elderly end-of-life care and people with serious disabilities who are institutionalized—“as though these payments are akin to cash income that is going to poor families to live on,” says the CBPP. In fact, close to half of all the spending that Sessions counts as income to poor households “consists of payments to hospitals, doctors and other providers”; and the majority of that spending is for “the elderly or people with disabilities.” The people living in nursing homes and other long-care facilities aren’t actually counted by the US Census Bureau as members of poor households—and many of them were middle-income until their health expenses exhausted their savings—but for the purposes of the Sessions report, these expenditures are counted as tens of billions of dollars going to households below the poverty line.
It’s a burst of creativity that is downright inspiring—I like to close my eyes and imagine Sessions and his staff achieving it while blasting “The Ride of the Valkyries.”
You can also see Dumbledore-like wizardry with the senator’s assessment of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). In 2011, 65 percent of the households receiving the EITC were above the poverty line. But Sessions “takes all means-tested assistance that goes to households above the poverty line and includes it in the spending total that it divides by the number of people below the poverty line,” according to the CBPP.