Trump declares victory in War on Poverty
Last week the Council of Economic Advisers in the Trump Administration made a rather dramatic claim.
Between 1961 and 2016, consumption-based poverty fell from 30 percent to 3 percent, amounting to a 90 percent decline (and it fell by 77 percent since 1980). This likely even understates the reduction in material hardship as it omits the consumption-value of increased public expenditure on healthcare and education for the poor. Based on historical standards of material wellbeing and the terms of engagement, our War on Poverty is largely over and a success.
Of course, the trends in Figure 5 do not necessarily imply that the expansion of welfare programs caused the reduction in poverty, although they have likely played an important role.
This is surprising for all sorts of reasons.
First of all, it's shocking for conservatives to give welfare programs credit for anything good.
Secondly, conservatives have spent decades declaring the War on Poverty a failure. So this is a dramatic reversal.
Why the reversal? A quick look at the title of the report tells us why:
Expanding Work Requirements in Non-Cash Welfare Programs
Basically this report serves as both a declaration of victory in the War on Poverty and is an official declaration of War Against The Poor.
One of the programs that the GOP is declaring war on is one of the most successful and least fraud-prone - food stamps.
While robust growth is a bragging point for President Donald Trump and a campaign theme for Republicans trying to break a historical pattern by keeping control of the House and Senate in midterm elections, the rising tide isn’t lifting all boats. Elevated SNAP use displeases congressional Republicans, who want a shift toward more job training in the five-year farm bill that’s taking shape...
Another reason SNAP use is falling is because eligibility is tightening for able-bodied adults ages 18 to 49 who don’t have dependents and have been jobless for more than three months. Many states that asked for expanded access to food stamps because of high unemployment are no longer asking for waivers for able-bodied adults without dependents who aren’t working.
Republicans are relying on an increasingly out-of-date stereotype, that was always misleading anyway.
They attribute any poverty assistance gets lumped in with "welfare", which they think means people that don't work. This is increasingly a bigger and bigger lie.
Nearly 32 percent of SNAP households are home to at least one wage-earner, according to the most recent data on the program, compared to only 19.6 percent in 1989, as far back as USDA data is availabe.
At the same time, a decreasing share of SNAP recipients are concurrently receiving welfare benefits from other safety net programs like the Aid to Families with Dependent Children and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs. As of the most recent data, about 6 percent of SNAP recipients are also receiving support through these programs, compared to about 42 percent of recipients in 1989.
Republicans have never let facts get in the way of blaming victims and creating strawmen.
They would much rather see many children, elderly and disabled people go hungry than a few able-bodied people commit "the crime" of getting a free meal.
You would think no Republican voters had ever been given free food in their lives.
While this is an official declaration of the War on the Poor, this latest offensive by Republicans has been going on for a while.
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson recently proposed tripling rents on those receiving housing benefits and imposing work requirements. The GOP-controlled House passed a farm bill that would add onerous work requirements to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as food stamps.
And this spring, Trump signed an executive order declaring his intention to force people who receive food assistance, Medicaid and low-income housing subsidies to adhere to strict work requirements or lose their critical subsistence benefits. Perversely titled “Reducing Poverty in America,” this directive aims to remove access to the same assistance programs that have alleviated the effects of poverty.
It's all a cynical ploy to make the most needy and helpless pay through immense suffering so that the wealthy can have more of what they don't actually need.
Specifically, I'm referring to the GOP tax cut, which was supposed to spur the economy and trickle-down to the workers. That trickling-down has not happened.
First, the tax reform hasn’t yet resulted in appreciably higher wages for American workers. Real average hourly compensation actually fell in the first quarter after the tax reform was passed...
Official data for the second quarter isn’t available yet, but private data isn’t looking encouraging. PayScale’s index of real wages shows a dramatic deterioration in the period
Believing that huge corporate tax cuts would translate into rising wages was always a case of collective ignorance by Republicans about how capitalism works.
Instead it was exactly what we expected - wealth redistribution for the rich.
As has been widely reported, the benefits of the tax cuts have been going mostly to shareholders, not workers. An analysis earlier this year put workers’ total gains at $6 billion versus $171 billion for shareholders in buybacks and dividend increases. Since then, total announced buybacks have risen to $437 billion. If management continues these priorities, some argue, workers are less likely to see substantial wage gains...
As the chart below shows, even when wages finally do tick up, they tend to not keep up with inflation. This means that workers are merely treading water despite rising wages. If you thought stagnant wages created populist discontent before, wait until people figure out that their raises do nothing to raise living standards.
Republicans promised two things: a) massive tax cuts for the wealthy, and b) gutting what little is left of the safety net.
Eventually Republican voters will figure out that their lives have gotten much harder. Most likely they will then turn to someone even more fascist than Trump.