The presidential election is still four months away, but I’ve already heard more than I can take about poverty in America. Now, please don’t get me wrong – I know there are poor in our country and we should be sensitive to that. But if we continue to listen to the constant exaggerations by candidates, it will do a negative head trip on us!

Poverty? What exactly are they talking about? After all, we’re the richest country in the world with the highest standard of living. Yes, the U.S. Census Bureau catalogues 37 million people as “poor.” But, a reasonable definition of poverty would be the inability to obtain food, clothing and shelter, according to the Heritage Foundation, and only a fraction of those catalogued as “poor” actually face such difficulties.

Contrary to some candidates’ claims, “poor” in America is not some national injustice. By most definitions, the poorest people in America actually have more material possessions than the middle classes of most other nations. Interestingly, of the households designated “poor” by the Census Bureau, a third has both cellular and land-line telephones and answering machines. Most of them have more living space than the average European. They also have homes with air conditioning, cars, cable or satellite television, a VCR or DVD, a microwave oven, a refrigerator, a stove, washer and dryer, an audio system, and a dishwasher. Interestingly, even those listed in the lowest quintile of income reportedly spend as much in constant dollars as the median American household did in 1970.

The nation’s “poor” aren’t going hungry, either. Their average diet is well above recommended caloric intake. They grow up on average to be one inch taller and 10 pounds heavier than people of similar age in the 1940s. While some of the people designated as poor suffer from temporary hunger due to mismanagement of resources, only 2 percent report that they don’t usually have enough to eat.

What are my points?

First, there are “poor” and concern for them is in order. But overstatements for political gain can lead us to think things are worse than they are. We must recognize the difference.

Second, negative statements about inflated millions of “poor,” coupled with speeches assailing high fuel prices, war costs and rising unemployment can easily take our eyes off the truth if we, as dealers and sales people, let them. It’s important, then, that we maintain focus on the fact that we’re aiming our products at the 22 million families already identified, by all measures, as being more than able to afford our boats as well as the costs of fully enjoying them. No speeches should change that focus. Perhaps the best thing we can do when we’re being told the sky is falling is turn off the tube. Then, get back to making sales!


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