CHN’s New Report: The Take-Away from the New Poverty Trends
I hope you’ll check out this new report by CHN’s Lecia Imbery: New Census Data Confirm Millions Are Still Being Left Behind. You may have seen some press coverage about the reduction in poverty that occurred between 2012 and 2013. For the U.S. as a whole, the poverty rate declined from 15 percent to 14.5 percent. Poverty declines are always good news. But perspective is important. There are still 45 million poor people nationwide – and both the number and proportion is up from 2009, the year the Great Recession was supposed to have ended. There has been a recovery, but, as the report shows, it has not reached many millions of people.
A key point of the report is to note what does work to reduce poverty. SNAP/food stamps lifted 3.7 million out of poverty in 2013, according to the Census Bureau; unemployment insurance got 1.2 million over the poverty line. Those programs, which research shows both reduce poverty and create jobs (because monthly benefits are spent right away, boosting the economy). But Congress, and most especially the House of Representatives, has cut these programs. Poverty could have been reduced further if they had protected and improved them instead. The House could not do everything it proposed because the Senate would not agree. But if the House had gotten its way, cuts to SNAP would have been vastly bigger, Medicaid would have been slashed, and the Affordable Care Act would have been repealed. The report shows that cuts since 2010 have hurt housing, education, Head Start, and many other programs that help both children and adults rise out of poverty.
No one can think that the poverty numbers reported on are satisfactory. But it’s important to recognize what actually works to reduce poverty (basic assistance, education, job preparation and creation), and what doesn’t (slashing those programs and shoveling hundreds of billions into tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations). Lecia does a nice job of connecting the poverty numbers with the policy choices – I hope you’ll check it out and forward it around.