Safety nets are and should be just that. They are not intended to be a way of life nor are they able to lift anyone out of poverty, but instead enable them to exist in poverty.
Rep. Ryan’s report vastly understates the success of the War on Poverty. The report points out that the official poverty rate has declined just a small percentage—from 17.3 percent in 1965 to 15 percent in 2012—suggesting that the poverty rate has changed very little since the start of the War on Poverty. But the official poverty rate measures income before taxes and does not include capital gains or noncash benefits such as public housing, Medicaid, and SNAP benefits.
As a result, families who benefit from tax measures, such as the EITC, or income supports, such as SNAP, appear to be no better off than families who are not enrolled in these programs. In other words, the report makes a claim on the effectiveness of federal anti-poverty policies using a measure of poverty that explicitly ignores the impact of those same policies.
An analysis by the Council of Economic Advisers shows that when safety net programs are taken into account, the poverty rate actually fell from 26 percent in 1967 to 16 percent in 2012—a reduction of more than one-third. This is important because it demonstrates that the safety net succeeds in raising people out of poverty, not trapping them in poverty. Source: americanprogress.org
It could have dire consequences for the social safety net—and for the 70 percent of us who will turn to a means-tested program like Medicaid or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at some point in our lives. And it could impact millions who expect to rely later in life on Medicare and Social Security. Source: talkpoverty.org
What about when safety net programs are not taken into account?
So, I am uneducated and barely employable, I am unmarried with several children, I am married and have been poor all my life and my wife and I have several children, but we are no longer “poor” because we have housing subsidies, SNAP, childcare and school meals; Medicaid and CHIP❓
The fact is I am still uneducated and still can never get a good paying job, I have no understanding of economics or finances and cannot impart much hope to my children. THE SAFETY NETS HAVE NOT RAISED ME OUT OF POVERTY, they have enabled me to barely survive in it. I feel trapped because as far as I can see, I am trapped.
Or, I am a high school or college graduate. I had a good job and supported my family, but I have fallen in hard times. Maybe I lost my job or I became disabled. Perhaps my wife became ill and I needed to care for her. Safety nets saved my family during these times. That’s what they are supposed to do and when these times passed, I got back to work and again took care of my family … because I have the tools, skills and drive to do so.
The thinking expressed above by americanprogress.org represents the great divide in America. It expresses a point of view that dependence on government and hence on a declining number of other tax-paying citizens is somehow a good thing. It’s not.
While the government has helped keep poverty at bay, the economy by itself has failed to improve the lives of the very poor over the past 50 years. Without taking into account the role of government policy, more Americans — 29 percent — would be in poverty today, compared with 27 percent in 1967. Source: The Washington Post December 2013
30.2% of American households earn less than $35,000 a year. The federal poverty level for a family of four is $24,600 and Medicaid eligibility is $33,948. Where is the real economic or individual progress for these Americans?
Safety nets are essential to be sure, but like any safety device they are to be used only as needed in time of crisis, not for years. And if you don’t have the skills and tools to make a permanent change in your life, you will likely always be very low income if not poor. If your philosophy is that more dependence on government reduces poverty, then we have no chance of actually lifting people from poverty … because we don’t understand how to.