BS buster – “Asset poor”

Okay all you 99 percenters, which of the following describes you: “Income poor,” “asset poor,” “liquid asset poor?” All of the above?

The Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), a seemingly well-meaning think tank in Washington,  just released a report classifying the population of all 50 states according to the sliced-and-diced categories listed above. The meanings of these terms are apparent. Less obvious is whether sorting people into such categories is useful.

I assume the goal is to help craft policy solutions appropriate for each category, and will contact the CFED for an explanation.

In the meantime, does anyone else worry that this focus on the trees might obscure what’s going on with the forest? Could it possibly reveal that factors other than joblessness, tax policies, unregulated financial shenanigans, union busting, inadequate wages, medical expenses and a broken housing market are to blame?

Finally, “asset poor” has the same kind of ring to it as that other, older euphemism for the poverty-stricken: “underprivileged.” Barbara Bush, in a fine example of 1-percenter cluelessness, used the term in 2005 to explain why homeless Hurricane Katrina refugees should be happy to shelter on cots in the Houston Astrodome: They “were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them.”

It’s all too easy to imagine pundits, politicians and policy wonks using these latest terms in ways that obscure problems, rather than reveal solutions. You aren’t jobless or paid less than a living wage, you’re income poor! You aren’t homeless, you’re asset poor! You aren’t broke, you’re liquid asset poor! 

Try using those terms when bill collectors call.