Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Anxiety About New Poverty Guidelines

Steve Liss's photo reveals the abject poverty of the most vulnerable Americans. 

Though difficult to measure, poverty debilitates and robs people of a sense of value. How will the poor fare under new policies that are coming?

The Trump administration has been exploring alternative inflation measures to deal with the problem of poverty. Under a better measure of inflation, the poverty level would grow slightly less each year.

Writing here, Senator. Bob Casey and Indivar Dutta-Gupta point out:

The National Center on Children in Poverty created the Family Resource Simulator to illustrate the impact of work supports, including income tax credits and child care assistance, offering a more complete picture of how family resources change as earnings increase. NCCP suggests families typically need nearly twice as much as the official poverty level to make ends meet thanks to factors like rent and utilities, child care, health insurance premiums, out-of-pocket medical expenses, transportation, debt and payroll taxes. The Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budgets, MIT’s Living Wage Calculator and the University of Washington’s Self-Sufficiency Standards all came to similar conclusions.
Simply put, the common, necessary expense categories not fully accounted for in the official poverty measure means the costs we all face are substantially higher than what it implies.

The US Census Bureau dropped its annual load of statistics on American poverty and the data shows Americans were no better off in 2018 than they were in 2017. 2.3 million more people snagged full-time jobs and the official poverty rate fell half a percentage point. However, fewer people have health insurance, there is still not parity between men and women's earnings, and middle-class incomes hardly budged.

During President Donald Trump’s second year in office, income from safety net programs such as food stamps and housing subsidies kept 47.7 million people out of poverty. That’s 2.8 million more people compared to 2017.

Whatever policy and guideline changes come, poverty will continue to haunt many Americans, especially the most vulnerable. Relying on the government does not dispel anxiety. More service organizations, churches, synagogues and mosques should consider should identify the poor in their communities and befriend them in a way that restores dignity. As Mother Teresa advised, "Do not wait for leaders; Do it alone, person to person."

Related reading: Paid Parental Leave for Federal Workers; A Cynical Way To Make People Poor; A Cynical Way to Make People Disappear; US Government 2019 Poverty Guidelines

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