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Is the Obama Administration Politically Manipulating the Poverty Data?

Now let's look at the bureau's graph comparing where Americans fall under the official and SPM definitions:

CensusPovertyCompOfficialand SPM2010

Since "low income" is defined as anyone whose "resource measure" is above but less than twice the defined poverty level, the SPM portion of the chart provides the support for AP's assertion that 48% of Americans (rounded to "1 in 2" for dramatic headline purposes) are either poor or low income.

SPM's consideration of taxes will help Obama's reelection campaign if (and I believe it's more like when) the Census Bureau surprises everyone and releases its related report in October of next year instead of November, as it did this year, and attempts with media help to give it greater credibility than the official measurement. By far the largest tax low-income families pay is the payroll tax. In 2011, that tax was reduced by two percentage points. As a result, when next year's SPM report comes out, millions of Americans will no longer be "low income" under its framework. I can imagine the campaign verbiage already: "Who first broached the idea of eliminating part of the payroll tax? Why, it was Barack Obama, who singlehandedly moved millions into the middle class in one bold move, undoing much of the damage of the past decade's misguided policies."

As to the ObamaCare gambit: State-run health care will very visibly and quickly remove most medical out-of-pocket expenses from millions of Americans. In return, of course, we know from experience in other countries that they'll have longer waits for care, be subject to rationing, receive lower quality care, and see a virtual end to medical innovation. But those things won't be as immediately visible. Thus, ObamaCare will in its early years appear to almost painlessly move millions more from SPM's "low income" category into the middle class. Again, thanks to artifice, Obama will look like a hero.

It must be nice to be able to create your own customized measurement to arrive at the conclusions you want. Don't be deceived, and don't let your friends be fooled.

(Thumbnail on PJM homepage by Shutterstock.com.)