BY BETTE MARSH AUSTIN

Let's invite Robert Rector, a conservative writer, shocked that the poor have air-conditioners, microwaves, refrigerators, etc., to take part in a year-long experiment in which he and his wife live on $22,050 for one year, the poverty level. ( "Activist's harsh words make waves: Are the poor desperate? A media myth, he says.")

We'll let him keep his air-conditioner-heater, the wall-filling TV that he probably has, cellphone and computer.

That yearly amount will provide him with $1,837.50 per month. Deduct from that a bargain rent at $900 and that leaves him $937. We shall remove from his use all cars (two? three?) and let him travel by public transportation, or, we can give him a 14-year-old, gas-guzzling clunker with 350,000 miles.

If he rejects the clunker and uses public transportation, he will pay in Philadelphia $4 per day for two rides, six days a week. That reduces his monthly allowance to $841 to cover heat, light, water, cellphone, cable and food.

We'll remove all food from his refrigerator, but allow him a few cans of beans, corn, tomatoes, peanut butter. He'll need food stamps and a list of nearby food banks, some of which provide fresh vegetables and fruit.

He can't afford health insurance, so if illness strikes, he can seek help at an area hospital's emergency room.

And, for three months he will be unemployed, with his unemployment benefits having run out, so he must make the rounds, send resumes, but be prohibited from using well-connected friends.

Removed from his dubious statistics and research, let's see how Rector reacts to reality – what it's truly like to be poor in America today, as the Republicans look for ways to cut funding for the poor, while ensuring that the rich pay the lowest income taxes in a decade.

Bette Marsh Austin lives in Springfield, Pa.