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  • More Misleading Numbers on Poverty

    This past week, media outlets have been abuzz, heralding the news that poverty levels in the United States are higher than previously thought. But the numbers are misleading.

    The Census Bureau reported last week that, according to its new “supplemental poverty measure,” 49.7 million Americans are in poverty. This figure is higher than 46.2 million reported by the Census back in September using the traditional poverty measure.

    This “supplemental poverty measure”—which has been promoted by the Obama Administration—is essentially a relative measure of poverty. As The Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector and I explain in this 2011 National Review Online piece, the measure is inherently flawed:

    The new measure…distorts the picture of poverty by placing income thresholds on an automatic elevator that climbs as overall income rises.

    Thus, by this measure, even if the income of all Americans doubled immediately, poverty would not decrease, because the income thresholds would also double. Only if the incomes of the poor rise more quickly than those of the rest of the population would poverty decrease.… It will ensure that “poverty” can’t be alleviated except by extreme income leveling. The new measure is designed to provide a never-ending argument for the Left to insist that we must continue to “spread the wealth.”

    What about the traditional poverty measure, which showed that 46.2 million Americans are poor? Also misleading.

    The Census Bureau counts only a small amount—roughly 3 percent—of welfare spending as income when calculating poverty. (This is a crucial reason why poverty in the U.S. looks very different from the vision most people have of it.)

    A more accurate measure of poverty is “self-sufficiency”: the ability to sustain an income without reliance on welfare. Today, the U.S. has record-high numbers of Americans who lack self-sufficiency, as indicated by record-high levels of government welfare spending. Annually, the government spends roughly $930 billion on welfare, or nearly five times the amount necessary to pull every poor person out of poverty. This cost is on course to rise under Obama’s budget proposal.

    The U.S. needs a new approach to combating poverty—an approach that empowers the poor by promoting self-reliance over dependence. Additionally, the complex problems that underlie poverty are often best addressed by the institutions of civil society: private organizations, churches, faith-based institutions, and so forth. Many local grassroots leaders around the nation work with individuals to help them overcome addictions, repair broken family relationships, help youth avoid delinquency and truancy, and assist children in the foster care system. Their work is touching lives and restoring families and communities.

    Many Americans are in need and require assistance to overcome the barriers that inhibit prosperity, but a government safety net should not become a trap of dependence. Policies that promote work and respect the vital work of civil society will lead to better tomorrows for those in need today.

    Posted in Featured [slideshow_deploy]

    13 Responses to More Misleading Numbers on Poverty

    1. Tom says:

      The article does not fully explain the methodology of the Census Bureau, but, based on the information presented, it appears that if the top 50% earned 20% less and the bottom 50% earned 10% less, the number in poverty would decline. This would be the ultimate example of liberal logic.

    2. Lloyd Scallan says:

      Absolutely amazing only a few days after the election, almost all of the numbers are trending against Obama and his policies. These disgusting media outlets deliberately lied and distorted the truth to protect Obama. We must realize the more Americans belive the main-stream media, the more dependent they become on government, resulting in more Democrat voters. This keeps the people under the foot of big government control. In plain terms, Socialism!

    3. Mike Mohle says:

      It is clearly time to shut off the faucet, and start all over again with no benefits except for EXTREME need and in accordance with the US Constitution. There is no reason why living perpetually on the dole with no other requirements should ever be allowed, but of course, this is the Dem voter base and when the benefits are automatic and often exceed the income one could make from a job (by design no doubt) why should people even attempt to find employment? Time to start over!

    4. Jerry says:

      As I read the numbers posted, that is 49.7 million men, women and children reported to be in poverty. There was $930 billion spent on these people, That is the equivalent of over $18,000 per person being spent on our "poor", $72,000 per year for a family of 4. That is a number that would place these people in the middle class. If I have my numbers wrong, please correct me. Yet none of these people have anything in their savings account.
      By being supported by Government, they all are waiting for the next check to come. Government only provides the least means necessary. (Unless you are a government crony of course).
      We have gone terribly astray as a nation.

    5. roystoll2 says:

      Here we go with the income redistribution baloney again. I am a pretty average small business owner and I put in a lot of hours personally because there is a chance that I can become financially comfortable which makes working those long hours worthfile. Now if I have to give more and more money to those who choose not to work, what incentive do I have to work harder? Can't these liberals understand this? Bottom line is I was not put on this earth to support them. I will retire first.

    6. government safety net should not become a trap of dependence

    7. Sheila King says:

      The government has no Constitutional mandate to be a social safety net. Charity for the really needy is the mandate of religion. If independent charities took over taking care of the real poor, the government wouldn't waste so much money on "civil servants". Pigs feeding at the public trough are being fattened up for the slaughterhouse of freedom – being essentially enslaved by their own government.

    8. Mike, Wichita Falls says:

      The sooner this $1T welfare system collapses, the sooner we can change the minds of people who keep voting for it be they recipients or their sympathizers. Talking about this looming collapse was obviously not enough for this past election and maybe any future election. People will have to endure much pain before they wake up from their slumber.

      So should the House GOP hasten the inevitable by going along with the statists?

    9. Bobbie says:

      and complacent as it becomes, Obama doesn't care! The more the merrier. No discipline, no structure, no practicality. People want it, Obama makes it theirs even when it isn't asked for. People don't stop to realize the destruction they're causing as democrats feed them distortions and deception for comfort and joy. The only reason Republicans are predominantly white, they don't lie and explain the truth that many dem followers have been indoctrinated not to follow, not to accept and not to comprehend. Educated that way in the democratic union run public schools systems across the country. Won't even teach truth. "it's for the kids…" Republican party is open to all at a "freedom of choice" not to be confused with bribes and favors.

      Republicans stand on principle where democrats are condescending, bribing, inducers of fear and slander and desperate at all costs of destroying people (none the wiser) and the country. Democrats gather all their tax exempt and government (employees) constituents to vote for tax increases. Not right!!! There shouldn't be anyone working tax exempt or able to deduct from obligatory taxes! When voter approval isn't 100% then have those that want it pay it for sincerity.

      God Bless the true America and her true people that mirror America's(ns) greatness that fights all threats against America's freedom and independence!
      Government control is not the key. PEOPLE ARE THE KEY!

    10. david O says:

      Please PRAY for our country.

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