In the Wall Street Journal yesterday one of Mitt Romney's economic advisers opined that America isn't really as unequal as it is seems because more people now have air conditioning, dishwashers, and microwaves. Because having access to a microwave means you're living the "good life."
Yet the access of low-income Americans—those earning less than $20,000 in real 2009 dollars—to devices that are part of the “good life” has increased. [...]
Appliances? The percentage of low-income homes with air-conditioning equipment rose to 83.5% from 65.8%, with dishwashers to 30.8% from 17.6%, with a washing machine to 62.4% from 57.2%, and with a clothes dryer to 56.5% from 44.9%.
The percentage of low-income households with microwave ovens grew to 92.4% from 74.9% between 2001 and 2009. Fully 75.5% of low-income Americans now have a cell phone, and over a quarter of those have access to the Internet through their phones.
This is a favorite talking point on the right.
Here's Hannity from earlier this year
Hannity: 47 million Americans are in poverty.
Caller: There you go. There's 47 [million Americans] that are going to bed hungry.
Hannity: No that does not mean they're going to bed hungry. If you look at some of the poorest people in the country. I went through these stats last week. Most people have refrigerators, and freezers, and air conditioners, and televisions, and DVRs or DvDs, or something, and stereos and cars. They just don't have the best and the latest and they don't live in the nicest neighborhood.
Most Americans even in poverty have a basic level of living, a standard of living, that is decent. It's not great. It's not ideal. It's not where we want people to be. I believe that people can work their way out of it.
But this idea that Americans are going to bed hungry, do know how much for example, do you ever go shopping? I go shopping sometimes. I hate it but I do it. Do you ever go?
Hannity: You can get things, for example, I have friends of mine that eat rice and beans all the time. Beans protein. Rice inexpensive. You can make a big pot of this for a week for relatively negligible amounts of money.
Americans should stop complaining about economic inequality because they have rice and beans, microwaves, and stereos! It's the good life!
I suppose if more people were forced to dry their clothes on a clothes line and heat their cheap, processed food on a wood-burning stove, then they would be justified in pointing out that the top 400 Americans own more wealth than the bottom 40 million Americans.
If having a microwave and a diswasher means you're living the good life, what does having a car elevator mean?