Mission accomplished in the “War on Poverty.” So declares the White House, which in a white paper released last week from the president’s Council of Economic Advisers claims that the war is “largely over and a success” and that it is time for more stringent work requirements for public assistance.
Never mind all the decades President Trump’s party has spent trashing anti-poverty programs to justify shredding them: The new narrative states that these programs have worked so well that U.S. poverty has been all but eradicated.
The programs stemming from President Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1964 initiative have indeed improved the lives of millions of Americans. A Columbia University study found that poverty would be much worse today had it not been for food assistance, the earned income tax credit, Medicaid and the expansion of Social Security benefits.
But the scourge of poverty isn’t over in the world’s wealthiest nation. The Census Bureau’s supplemental poverty measure shows that more than 45 million people (14 percent of us) were impoverished in 2016. The rates are even higher for children under age 18 and seniors.
But that’s only the beginning. Almost 100 million more live at 200 percent of the poverty line, a more accurate indicator of a family’s ability to make ends meet.
All told, around 43 percent of us are poor or low-income, a report by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and the Poor People’s Campaign found. And nearly half of all U.S. citizens would be unable to afford a $400 emergency, as per a 2016 Federal Reserve study. Disproportionately affected are people of color, Native Americans, people with disabilities, single mothers, children and transgender people. [Continue reading…]