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Letters: History of the poverty line

October 27, 2013

Re "A false poverty line," Opinion, Oct. 24

John E. Schwarz's Op-Ed article is a welcome focus on the issue of poverty, but his discussion of Mollie Orshansky's poverty line measure is insufficient. (Orshanksy reasoned that because one-third of a family budget is devoted to food, one could use an emergency food budget multiplied by a factor of three to calculate a roughly adequate estimate of poverty.)

Schwarz does not sufficiently emphasize that this measure is based on a temporary, emergency budget for food. Even worse, Orshanksy made the budget nutritionally "healthy" by using such items as lima beans, cabbage and wheat germ. By doing so, she assumes that such food sources are available and culturally palatable on a daily basis.

Perhaps our political leaders might all agree to try subsisting on the current food stamp budget and report back to us on how this worked for them.

Gene Rothman

Culver City

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