Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has never shown much of a knack for economics, but this is absurd even by her standards. In a recent television interview, she claimed that Americans who make almost $40,000 a year are below the “real” poverty line. Indeed, these people — millions upon millions of them — are living in “destitution.”
Here’s how she put it:
“40 million Americans are living in poverty right now. And if the poverty line was real, if it was at around what some people think it should be, about $38,000 a year, we would be shocked at how much the richest society on the planet is allowing so much of its people to live in destitution.”
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the current poverty line is $39,010 — for a family of seven. For a single individual, you need to make less than $13,000 a year to be considered impoverished. I was a single individual earning around $20,000 for several years in my early 20’s. According to the official standards, I was almost but not quite poor. According to AOC’s standards, I was basically dead. At my income level, by her telling, I hadn’t even graduated to destitute. And yet, even on that measly sum, I was able to pay my rent, pay my electric bill, eat, and do everything else necessary for survival. I even had money left over for beer (which I should have been saving, I guess, but we all have our priorities).
To put the congresswoman’s claim in context, keep in mind that the $38,000 equates to about $18 an hour. Forget a $15 minimum wage. That won’t get you out of destitution, apparently. Assuming AOC considers a “livable wage” to be something significantly above the poverty line (or her version of it), she must think that the real minimum should be somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 or $40 an hour. And that still would only put about $40,000 or so between you and dirt poverty.
If AOC is right about the poverty line then the median household income in most states is at, below, or only a little bit above poverty. And when you consider that a $32,400 salary puts you squarely in the top 1 percent of all income earners on Earth, AOC has just consigned almost everyone on the planet — all of the 99 percent and a considerable portion of the 1 percent — to indigence.
This is all absurd, obviously. Unless you live in a wealthy suburb of DC or New York, or someplace similar, $38,000 will be more than enough to be fed and comfortable. It’s not a lot of money, but it’s enough for a single person to afford all of the necessities of life and many of its luxuries as well — enough to live comfortably by American standards and opulently by the standards of many other countries on the globe. So why is AOC making this claim in the first place? What does she gain from telling people that they are poor when they clearly are not?
This seems to be part of an overall strategy by the Left. Only 12 years ago they were marching under a banner of hope, but that message has been crossed out and in its place are the words fear, panic, and misery. They want us to believe we are poor and helpless and destitute. They want us to believe life is good for some people but terrible for us personally. They want us to believe that civilization itself is hovering on the edge of destruction. In our fear and envy they hope we will come to them for the answers, and the answers always involve giving up more of our money (ironically), and our liberties, and putting more power and control into their hands.