Poverty Program at Age 50 – Why Are We Still Importing More Poverty Each Year?

    By Donald A. Collins | 14 January 2014
    Progressives for Immigration Reform

    At the height of the Great Depression in 1932, President Franklin Roosevelt delivered a speech outlining the New Deal — a major expansion of the social safety net. In the coming years, the federal government launched numerous new agencies with the mission of putting people back to work and increasing the standard of living in the United States.

    Well, this is no surprise, but surely someone will make a point of it besides me! But maybe not. On Page one of the Washington Post on Thursday, January 9, 2014, was an article entitled “Great Society—and a great, lasting divide: Politics Debrief” by Karen Tumulty. On Wednesday evening, January 8th in a long featured segment on The News Hour, the effects of LBJ’s historic program were also discussed.

    FLASH: When discussing poverty and the state of our nation’s poor, in neither case was one word mentioned about the fact that we have imported millions of mostly poor uneducated aliens since 1964. Check out the WAPO piece here. Then add to that my astonishment when opening my Sunday NY Times I read the following January 4th story by Annie Lowrey, “50 Years Later, War on Poverty Is a Mixed Bag” with another massive omission: no mention of immigration, which bad policies in those years has allowed, like an out of control freight train carrying millions of the world’s poorest immigrants, driving a stake into the heart of the poverty program’s worthy intent. Annie baby (you must be young or you wouldn’t have omitted this critical fact in your analysis).

    The United States has added millions of the world’s poorest migrants, both illegally and legally since 1963 and this piece fails to mention any of these numbers. The piece tees off with “to many Americans, the war on poverty declared 50 years ago by President Lyndon B. Johnson has largely failed. The poverty rate has fallen only to 15 percent from 19 percent in two generations, and 46 million Americans live in households where the government considers their income scarcely adequate.”

    I wonder how many of these 46 million were immigrants who arrived to the United States legally or illegally since 1965? Ms. Lowery continues:

    “…but looked at a different way, the federal government has succeeded in preventing the poverty rate from climbing far higher. There is broad consensus that the social welfare programs created since the New Deal have hugely improved living conditions for low-income Americans. At the same time, in recent decades, most of the gains from the private economy have gone to those at the top of the income ladder.

    Half a century after Mr. Johnson’s now-famed State of the Union address, the debate over the government’s role in creating opportunity and ending deprivation has flared anew, with inequality as acute as it was in the Roaring Twenties and the ranks of the poor and near-poor at record highs.

    Programs like unemployment insurance and food stamps are keeping millions of families afloat. Republicans have sought to cut both programs, an illustration of the intense disagreement between the two political parties over the best solutions for bringing down the poverty rate as quickly as possible, or eliminating it.”

    Hey, you are right in mentioning attempts to cut welfare by some Republicans, but you fail to mention that BOTH parties have been eager to bring in more cheap labor.

    The rest of this article offers no mention of immigration (I guess author Lowrey knows how to tow the editorial line at the Times on immigration), but continues to treat us to clueless statements from so-called experts on poverty. Here’s a beauty:

    “For poverty to decrease, ‘the low-wage labor market needs to improve,’ James P. Ziliak of the University of Kentucky said. ‘We need strong economic growth with gains widely distributed. If the private labor market won’t step up to the plate, we’re going to have to strengthen programs to help these people get by and survive.’ “

    So he and the open border folks both right and left want to continue to bring in many more of the world’s poorest to the United States. Over the past 50 years, these numbers have been wantonly, greedily, fecklessly layered on top of the millions of African Americans who were kept back by racism for decades and really needed special help to come forward.

    This phenomenon has suited business interests perfectly by making lower wages for unskilled and even skilled labor, plus lining the pockets of the already rich. Naturally, our President, whose executive orders have been used to hinder enforcement and encourage more immigration wants to make misleading and mindless comments to cover the obvious effects of his policies.

    President Obama has called inequality the “defining challenge of our time.” To that end, he intends to urge states to expand their Medicaid programs to poor, childless adults, and is pushing for an increase in the minimum wage and funding for early-childhood programs. Just how can we possibly improve those in poverty or poor health care by adding more of the same to the numbers?

    And then there are those tax cutting Republicans who as Thom Hartmann so eloquently points out in his masterpiece, The Crash of 2016, have used this method for decades as their method of Santa Claus benefits for the rich, whom he dubs “economic royalists” who now control most of our national wealth. He sees economic disaster ahead as our social contract no longer finds approval from our shrunken middle class and those masses of out of work US citizens at all levels.

    Of course, too many Republicans continue to ignore the immigration glut.

    Lowrey continues:

    “But conservatives, like Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, have looked at the poverty statistics more skeptically, contending that the government has misspent its safety-net money and needs to focus less on support and more on economic and job opportunities.

    The nation should face up to two facts: poverty rates are too high, especially among children, and spending money on government means-tested programs is at best a partial solution, Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution wrote in an assessment of the shortfalls on the war on poverty. Washington already spends enough on anti-poverty programs to lift all Americans out of poverty, he said. ‘To mount an effective war against poverty,’ he added, ‘we need changes in the personal decisions of more young Americans.’ “

    What the hell do those stupid statements mean? If there is poverty among children, surely they are not to blame. It is obvious that “means tested” means mean!

    My two granddaughters just graduated from two top colleges and are finding decent starting jobs very tough to find. The “personal decisions” they have made has been to look harder.

    Finally, the piece offers us some favorable comments about the Poverty Program, which after all helped many citizens do better, before the immigration invasion gained flood level proportions 3 decades ago. The NY Times piece continues:

    “Still, a broad range of researchers interviewed by The New York Times stressed the improvement in the lives of low-income Americans since Mr. Johnson started his crusade. Infant mortality has dropped, college completion rates have soared, millions of women have entered the work force, malnutrition has all but disappeared. After all, when Mr. Johnson announced his campaign, parts of Appalachia lacked electricity and indoor plumbing.

    Many economists argue that the official poverty rate grossly understates the impact of government programs. The headline poverty rate counts only cash income, not the value of in-kind benefits like food stamps. A fuller accounting suggests the poverty rate has dropped to 16 percent today, from 26 percent in the late 1960s, economists say.

    But high rates of poverty – measured by both the official government yardstick and the alternatives that many economists prefer – have remained a remarkably persistent feature of American society. About four in 10 black children live in poverty; for Hispanic children, that figure is about three in 10. According to one recent study, as of mid-2011, in any given month, 1.7 million households were living on cash income of less than $2 a person a day, with the prevalence of the kind of deep poverty commonly associated with developing nations increasing since the mid-1990s.”

    So when are these experts going to fess up to the basic cause of this last paragraph? Likely never. And the article continues missing the point to its bitter end.

    Sorry to quote these continuing insanities, but I simply wanted to demonstrate the media’s consistency in avoiding telling the truth. The piece continues:

    “Both economic and sociological trends help explain why so many children and adults remain poor, even putting the effects of the recession aside. More parents are raising a child alone, with more infants born out of wedlock. High incarceration rates, especially among black men, keep many families apart. About 30 percent of single mothers live in poverty.

    In some cases, government programs have helped fewer families because of program changes and budget cuts, researchers said. For instance, the 1996 Clinton-era welfare overhaul drastically cut the cash assistance available to needy families, often ones headed by single mothers.

    ‘As of 1996, we expected single mothers to go to work,’ Professor Ziliak said. ‘But if they’re shelling out most of their weekly pay in the form of child care, they can’t make sense of doing it.’

    The more important driver of the still-high poverty rate, researchers said, is the poor state of the labor market for low-wage workers and spiraling inequality. Over the last 30 years, growth has generally failed to translate into income gains for workers – even as the American labor force has become better educated and more skilled. About 40 percent of low-wage workers have attended or completed college, and 80 percent have completed high school.

    Economists remain sharply divided on the reasons, with technological change, globalization, the decline of labor unions and the falling value of the minimum wage often cited as major factors. But with real incomes for a vast number of middle-class and low-wage workers in decline, safety-net programs have become more instrumental in keeping families’ heads above water.

    The earned-income tax credit, for instance, has increased employment among single mothers and kept six million Americans above the poverty line in 2011. Food stamps, formally known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, kept four million Americans out of poverty in 2011.

    Above all, the government has proved most successful in aiding the elderly through the New Deal-era Social Security program and the creation of Medicare in the 1960s. The poverty rate among older Americans fell to just 9 percent in 2012 from 35 percent in 1959.

    But for working-age households, both conservatives and liberals agree that government transfer programs alone cannot eliminate poverty. The answer, the White House has said, is in trying to improve households’ earnings before tax and transfer programs take effect.

    ‘Going forward, the biggest potential gains that could be made on poverty would be in raising market incomes,’ said Jason Furman, the chairman of Mr. Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. ‘In the short run, that means things like the minimum wage, and in the long run, things like early education.’

    If Congress approved a proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour from its current level of $7.25, it would reduce the poverty rate of working-age Americans by 1.7 percentage points, lifting about five million people out of poverty, according to research by Arindrajit Dube of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.”

    Not likely, but here again, feeding the burgeoning flood won’t survive long term, especially when inflation comes roaring back. And the recovery remains very fragile. So like Dicken’s Mr Macawber, many are hoping like this author that something will turn up.

    “In the meantime, the greatest hope for poorer Americans would be a stronger economic recovery that brought the unemployment rate down from its current level of 7 percent and drew more people into the work force. The poverty rate for full-time workers is just 3 percent. For those not working, it is 33 percent.”

    If that last paragraph were not so seriously flawed it would be funny. If you are like too many American citizens living in your car, if you have one, long unemployed, and living on food stamps which those economic royalty representatives in Congress want to cancel, you may ask why at some point. And maybe it will finally dawn on enough of our electorate that we have taken in too many immigrants so we will stop. Recall what Republican economist, the late Herbert Stein said about that: “things that can’t go on, won’t.”

    From 1925 to 1965, immigration averaged about 200,000 a year; now we take in 2 million every year, legally and illegally.

    Former US Navy officer, banker and venture capitalist, Donald A. Collins, a free lance writer living in Washington, DC., has spent over 40 years working for women’s reproductive health as a board member and/or officer of numerous family planning organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Guttmacher Institute, Family Health International and Ipas. Yale under graduate, NYU MBA. He is the author of From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013.

    Mickey Kaus – Immigration Policy and Social Equality

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