L.A. Times Writer Argues Poor People Can't Own a VCR

A journalist believes poor people shouldn't be able to afford VCRs, so we went shopping to find out if he's right.

An op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times today claims that America's poor, of whom there are now record numbers, are not as destitute as people think ("poor" is even in scare quotes in the title, "The Upside to Being 'Poor'"). Heralding new data from conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation, columnist Andrew Malcolm writes, "[The Heritage study] paints a dramatically different portrait of poverty in America than the popular conception of stark deprivation." Malcolm then goes on to list the so-called amenities enjoyed by people living below the poverty line in the United States, including VCRs and DVD players, TVs, and air conditioners.

I was interested in how much money someone would need in order to buy a lot of the goods Malcolm and the Heritage Foundation think a poor person shouldn't be able to afford, so I searched Best Buy and Craigslist to get an idea. (I didn't look up the cost of living in an apartment or monthly cable bills, as those fluctuate from city to city.) Below, my calculations:

Flat screen TV: $80

Microwave: $30

Air conditioner: $50

Computer: $100

Xbox 360: $100

DVD player: $15

Total: $375

And there you have it: $375 to buy the whole laundry list of goods Malcolm and the researchers at Heritage are attempting to portray as being well out of the reach of authentically poor people. If you bought them all in one year, that's about $30 a month in entertainment spending, less than many New Yorkers and Angelenos spend on a single bar tab on a Saturday night.

Nobody is arguing that America's poor have it as rough as people in developing countries—I'd much rather be poor in America than poor in the Congo. But to hold up the poor population's very modest toys as evidence they're not in need isn't just inaccurate—15 percent of Americans are now on food stamps—it's also a roundabout way of suggesting that poor people shouldn't be allowed to have the same electronics that come standard in college dorms.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Elsie esq.

via Jim Browing / YouTube

Jim Browning is a YouTuber from the UK who has an amazing ability to catch scammers in the act.

In this video, he responds to a scam email claiming he bought a laptop by breaking into the scammer's computer. In the process he uncovers where the scammers work, their banking information, and even their personal identities.

"I got an 'invoice' email telling me that I had paid for a $3800 laptop," Browning writes on his YouTube page. "No links... just a phone number. It's a real shame that these scammers emailed me because I was able to find out exactly who they were and where the were."

Keep Reading
HG B / YouTube

Danielle Reno of Missouri left her car running and it was stolen by thieves. But she wasn't going to let her car go so easily.

For 48 hours this owner of a pet rescue tracked the charges being made on her credit card. Ultimately, she found her car at a local Applebee's, and then went after the thieves.

Keep Reading
via Bossip / Twitter

Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders took aim at former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg onstage at Wednesday's Las Vegas Democratic debate, likening the billionaire businessman to President Donald Trump and questioning his ability to turn out voters.

Sanders began by calling out Bloomberg for his stewardship of New York's stop and frisk policy that targeted young black men.

Keep Reading