Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Weekend Reading

I'm a little behind here, but wanted to mention a few items of note from this past Sunday's NY Times:

M.P. Dunleavy's "Basic Instincts" column mentions the book Money, A Memoir, and takes issue with the idea that women might have more money problems than men. Yes, women spend a lot of money on clothes, shoes, and face creams, but:
"The ability of men to waste wads of cash on gadgets, cars, power tools and basketball tickets is well established, yet somehow women are tagged as particularly pathetic about money matters."
Very true, we all have our weaknesses. Of course, I've known women who splurged on clothes, shoes AND power tools and basketball tickets! And I suppose today's metrosexual males have to budget more and more for face creams...

There was also an interesting article about how we define the poverty level, and its political ramifications. The definition of poverty level that we currently use was devised in 1963, by taking the amount of money needed to buy a nutritionally adequate diet, and multiplying it by 3, as most families at the time spent about 1/3 of their income on food. That number has then been adjusted for inflation every year since. The poverty level for a single person under the age of 65 is now $10,160 in annual pre-tax income. For a family of 4, it is $19,806. But as the article points out,
"Today, families spend something close to 12 percent of income on food, for example, not one-third. And while some of the remaining 88 percent may go to nonessentials, items such as housing, transportation and health care are significant, and expensive, factors."
The National Academy of Sciences has proposed a new method of calculating poverty that would raise the number of Americans living at poverty level from 12.5% to about 14.5%, adding 5 million people to the current poverty count, but this is controversial:
"The poverty line is widely viewed as an indicator of social progress. A decline in poverty is seen as a national achievement, and an increase in poverty is a sign of problems."
More people in poverty means more government benefits paid out, and it reflects badly on the current administration's economic policies. I don't think we'll be seeing any changes in the definition of poverty any time soon.

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