“The 2009 poverty level was set at $21,954 for a family of four, based on an official government calculation that includes only cash income, before tax deductions. It excludes capital gains or accumulated wealth, such as home ownership, as well as noncash aid such as food stamps.” (NYSE:AP)
Well let’s look into that number. Most of the “family of four” households are not a married households – it is three children and one parent. Let’s round that number down to $19,000. That taxpayer pays no income taxes ($12,000 Head of Household standard deduction and four exemptions of $3650 each). How this taxpayer gets an Earned Income Credit (EIC) of $5108 and since the children are most likely under 16; they would get three $1000 refundable child tax credits. In Washington State the parent and child get free health care (yes free and that was before Obama-care).
I worked for a national tax firm that marketed to this class giving loans to get the $8108 in 24 hours. People actively game the system by limiting their total income to obtain the greatest EIC and “trade” taking children as dependents to secure refundable credits.
Poor is a relative term. It also enslaves a person to avoid working harder. Why should they – they get free health care and $8000 to be less than they could be.
Disclosure: I am short US equities via ETF's and long NJ muni and corporate bonds via ETF's.