Why do all the poor kids have HBO?

That plaintive question was put to me by my second-grade son some years ago (he’s 22 now). He was attending an inner-city school in Durham and found that he was the only kid who didn’t have HBO at home. With three kids and a newspaper job, premium channels were not one of my priorities, which is what I told my son. I also told him that people whose rent we help pay for and whose food we subsidize have extra money not only for basic cable but for premium cable.

This little episode came to mind when I read the latest “poverty” reports, which claim that 36 million Americans are “poor.” But what about that?

Government data show that 43 percent of all “poor” Americans actually own their own homes – typically, a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage and a porch or patio.

Only 6 percent of “poor” families are overcrowded. In fact, poor Americans living in houses or apartments, on average, have more living space per person that does the average citizen living in European countries such as England, France and Germany. (Note: this comparison is to the average European, not poor Europeans.)

So, the next time John Edwards starts spouting his “two Americas” spiel, keep that in mind.

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