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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Jan. 9 (Bloomberg) — The War on Poverty is now 50 years old. Has it failed? The answer varies, depending on whether we use the government’s official poverty measure or its much newer, and far more informative, one.

The new measure demonstrates that government programs are doing a lot of good, especially for children. Nonetheless, the overall picture is more than sobering, and offers a fresh perspective on the mounting national debate over poverty and inequality.

The official poverty measure, developed in the 1960s, has drawn withering criticism for a long time. It doesn’t include a number of government transfer programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — food stamps — or the earned income tax credit. Under the official measure, people might be counted as poor even though they get a significant amount of money from the government.

Another problem is that the official measure doesn’t adequately take into account the varying needs of different types of families and individuals. For example, adults with children need more money than adults without children, and a sensible measure of poverty must make sufficient adjustments for that fact.

In 1995, the National Academy of Sciences issued a report cataloging serious flaws in the official poverty measure and recommending alternatives. But it wasn’t until 2011 that the Census Bureau settled on an alternative, which it called the Supplemental Poverty Measure. Though some people see shortcomings in the new standard, it is generally agreed that it is a lot better than the old one.

Important new research, by Liana Fox of the Swedish Institute for Social Research and her colleagues at Columbia University, demonstrates that with the Supplemental Poverty Measure, some historical trends look a lot better than they do with the official measure. Using data from 1967 to the present, the researchers offer four major findings.

First, government programs have had a big impact in reducing poverty among children. In 1967, they reduced child poverty by merely 3 percentage points (from 25 percent to 22 percent). In 2012, they reduced it by 12 percentage points (from about 31 percent to about 19 percent). The beneficial impact of government programs is especially large for children in “deep poverty” — those whose families are below one-half of the poverty line.

Second, the beneficial effects of government programs are largest when the economy goes sour. Without them, the deep poverty rate for children would be about 20 percent during economic downturns. With such programs, it ranges from 4 percent to 5 percent.

Third, the beneficial effects have grown substantially over time. If we use the Supplemental Poverty Measure, we can see that government programs reduced poverty in 2012 by an impressive 15 percentage points. In 1967, the decrease was a lot smaller.

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  • charleo1

    To fully appreciate the the full impact of the anti-poverty programs of transformational visionaries as FDR, and LBJ, one needs imagination.
    Imagine what the condition of the poor would be today, without them.
    Now imagine the Country in 50 years, if Republicans are successful
    in turning back the legacy of just these two Democratic Presidents.

    • daniel bostdorf

      exactly…. GOP is waging war on those IN poverty….

      • daniel bostdorf

        Victimizing the victims…

        • daniel bostdorf

          “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.” ……Nelson Mandela

  • docb

    And this is how the repub baggers fought it for decades:

    Note it was announced in the Appalachia Mts! Where poverty is still high!

  • lbhajdu1 .

    Mr. Obama is a very skilled and clever political strategist. There are several very effective disorienting tactics he is using, very effectively I may add.

    Firstly our bill of rights exist to protect us from uncheck government power. Mr. Obama controls single handedly one of three branches of that government making him the most powerful person in that government. The illusion that it is up to him to check his own power is ridiculous, the bill of right checks his power against us. The idea that he is going to mull it over and decide which amendments of the bill of rights he is going to honor is crazy, none the less he seems to be able to make all of you believe that and perhaps he can then make it true.

    There is the analogy of the swan floating gracefully across the water, while underneath the legs are furiously kicking. He gives off the image off the graceful swan in front of the teleprompter. But behind the scenes he is filing felony convictions, filing injunctions and appeals against court rulings, trying to get cases thrown out of court, lobbying members of congress, pressuring foreign powers, trying to find likeminded judges to make beneficial rulings, protecting the telecoms and ISPs helping him. It’s messy, aimed at keeping the power he has and anything but a graceful swan.

  • Dominick Vila

    There will always be rich and poor people, but the income inequality that exists in the USA is so pervasive that unless something is done, civil unrest in the not too distant future is not out of the question. As a minimum, every American should be able to put food on the table, pay rent and utilities, be covered by a healthcare plan, and have access to education to get the skills needed to get out of poverty.
    Denying unemployment benefits, cutting education grants, rejecting investment in infrastructure, rejecting the Veterans Jobs Act and other GOP approaches is not a solution, it is the problem and the reason for our fairly high unemployment rate. Where was the GOP when Bush invaded Iraq and Afghanistan without the appropriations needed to pay for those crusades? How come we suddenly have to find ways to pay $6B in extended unemployment benefits, and we didn’t have a problem blowing $1T and charging it to unfunded liabilities? Should we assume rebuilding Iraq, after we destroyed it, was more important than helping fellow Americans?

  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    The right has never allowed Facts to interfere with their well-wrought opinions.

  • charles king

    I was born (4-8-1930) in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. My father worked for the Conemaugh Black-Lick railroad Co. President FDR start a WPA (work project assocation), and the CC-Camps for the young men in America. John L. Lewis came to Johnstown, Pennsylvania with the CIO Union and this is what change America into an Democracy for the People, of the People, and By the People, now we Have MONEY in our Democracy, and foul play from our legalators who are not doing their JOBS.The money-players are buying up the People’s assets and privatizing the Public Housings, Public-Arenas, Public-Senoir-Citzens, and other public property this is what Plutocracy is all about. Thank You are the magic words in my book. I Love Ya All. C. E. KING. check out Webster’s Plutocracy and the risk it is to your DEMOCRACY