Debt ceiling.  Credit rating downgrade for the USA.  A frenzy on the market.

All of those are important (and troubling) economic headlines to be sure.  But I wonder and worry if all the talk of the past month around macro-economics, the complexities of structural debt, and Standard & Poors obscures the realities of the day to day poverty that Kentuckians experience.

The federal poverty level is $21,756 for a family of four.  And we know that more than one in four Kentucky children lives below the poverty level. The feds define extreme poverty as having an annual income of less than 50 percent of the poverty level ($10,878 or less for a family of four), and we know that one in eight Kentucky children live within that context.

I would be presumptuous to suggest what those realities mean because I have not walked in those shoes.  But here is what I know – the growing crescendo that suggests that poor families simply have it too good for the government to worry about anymore is bunkum pure and simple.  You may have heard the noise coming from the Heritage Foundation that assailed the poor in America as actually having refrigerators and microwaves.  (For a wry analysis of the Heritage Report, check out Stephen Colbert’s comments below.)

The Center for American Progress rightly labels that kind of thinking as “heartless and foolish.  Heartless because they ignore the fact that it takes much more than a few appliances to support a family.  And foolish because they lend credence to the calls for cutting the supports that research has shown are necessary for every child to become a healthy and productive adult.”

It is easy to get lost in all that high-level policy debate coming from DC and Wall Street this week to be sure.  To stay grounded as to the realities of poverty for Kentucky, maybe we should all hold onto the American Center for Progress’ tagline that “Basic appliances do not a middle class family make!”