Friday, November 24, 2006

Syntactical Sugar

Today's post is a bit of whimsy inspired by a recent item in The Washington Post, which describes how the US administration has redefined the word "hunger." (For a more serious look at this article, please see JP's far more articulate and relevant analysis.)

"The Republican National Committee (RNC) has vowed that they will never experience poverty again. However, some Americans may experience "very low financial security" and may not be able to contribute to Republican election campaigns.

Every year, the RNC issues a report that measures Americans' access to money, and it has consistently used the word "poverty" to describe those who can least afford to contribute to Republican election efforts. But not this year.

Scrooge McDuck, the lead author of the report, said "poverty" is "not a scientifically accurate term for the specific phenomenon being measured in the financial security survey." McDuck, a RNC accountant, said, "We don't have a measure of that condition."

The report claimed that only 2% percent of Americans, or roughly six million people, could realistically be be expected to put food on the President's table at least part of last year. Many of the remaining Americans are reported as being poor at all times. Beginning this year, the RNC has determined "very low financial security" to be a more politically palatable description for that group.

Three years ago, the White House asked the RNC "to ensure that the measurement methods our fundraisers use to assess households' access--or lack of access--to adequate election campaign funding and the language used to describe those conditions are conceptually and operationally sound."

Among several recommendations, the panel suggested that the RNC scrap the word poverty, which "should refer to a potential consequence of financial insecurity that, because of prolonged, involuntary lack of money, results in discomfort, illness, weakness, or pain that goes beyond the usual uneasy sensation."

To measure poverty, the RNC determined, pollsters would have to ask individual people whether "lack of money led to these more severe conditions," as opposed to asking who can afford to keep cash in the house, McDuck said.

It is not likely that RNC pollsters will tackle measuring individual poverty."Poverty is clearly an important issue," McDuck said. "But lacking a widespread consensus on what the word 'poverty' should refer to, it's difficult for research to shed meaningful light on it."

In assembling its report, the RNC divides Americans into groups with "financial security" and those with "financial insecurity," who cannot always afford to pass cash under the table. Under the old lexicon, the latter group was further categorized as "financial insecurity without prejudice," meaning people who donated, though sometimes very little, and "financial insecurity with prejudice," for those who sometimes had no cash and made no donations to RNC coffers.

That last group now forms the category "very low financial security," described as experiencing "multiple indications of disrupted spending patterns and reduced donation pledging." Slightly better-off people who aren't always sure where their next paycheck is coming from are labeled "low financial security," but only if they donate during the RNC's bi-annual pledge drives, typically broadcast on affiliates of the Fox network.

That any number of people in this wealthy nation feel insecure about their next paycheck can be hard to believe, even in the highest circles. In 1999, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, then running for president, said he thought the the best way to stimulate the personal economies of those who could not afford to contribute to RNC election efforts was to cut taxes for those that can.

"I'm sure there are some people in my state who are poverty-stricken," Bush said. "I just don't believe people stricken with poverty are truly poor."


Blogger The Michael said...

As much as I hate to admit this, there ARE "poor" people in this country, who, when measured against those in the third world would be considered damn lucky. Many people who truly don't know if they can pay their bills from paycheck to stipend still own a color TV, probably a video game, have a car that hasn't broken down in at least three months, and spend a considerable amount of what little income they have on such necessities as cigarretes, lottery tickets, and bribe money to their local pastors. As poor as I consider myself, I still consider myself "damn lucky", at least so far. And I don't contribute to ANY campaign. I leave that to the rich bastards buying the politicians, who would never even know, or care, if I contributed $10 to their campaign.

Great and funny post, foot!

5:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This sugar left a bitter taste in my mouth. Bleah. --Pet

5:31 PM  
Blogger Jane Poe (aka Deborah) said...

Wonderful take on this subject, love. I love the Stewart/Colbert-esque spoof. xo, JP

8:49 PM  
Blogger paris parfait said...

Very clever spin for a serious subject. Well done! And thanks for your very kind recent comments on my blog. Yes of course you can use that quote you asked about. Thanks for your interest! I meant to respond by e-mail, but yours has become lost in the shuffle. Sorry!

9:59 AM  

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