Pandemic relief programs worked to head off total economic disaster and untold human suffering—and there’s a lesson to be learned from that: The United States can do a lot to fix poverty and hunger. Republicans, though, say that the U.S. shouldn’t do that, even if it can.
The supplemental poverty rate, which takes government aid into account, was almost 12% in 2019. In 2020, it was under 10% despite massive unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic. Stimulus checks alone meant 11.7 million fewer people in poverty, according to the Census Bureau, and additional federal unemployment benefits kept 5.5 million people out of poverty.
The Urban Institute estimates that without pandemic relief programs like the American Rescue Plan, the poverty rate would have been 12.6% in 2021, versus a predicted level of 7.7% with that aid in place. And, Politico reports, “the percentage of people late on their debt payments has declined 2 percentage points since the pandemic first hit, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.”
These successes are not a reason to let up—they’re reason to conclude that safety net programs work and should be continued. Take the expanded child tax credit:
Three million fewer kids in poverty in a month. But the expanded child tax credit ends at the end of the year. Those families are struggling again as soon as it ends. And while food insecurity didn’t rise in the overall population during the pandemic, it did rise for households with children.
Millions of households—many of them with children—could face eviction in the coming months, and rental assistance has been distributed too slowly to help many of those people. Nearly one in four people recently told a pollster they haven’t been able to get enough to eat or haven’t been able to get the kinds of food they want. The need is ongoing.
But Republicans say no.
“The best way out of poverty and to raise the standard of living is not endless government checks but our job opportunities and growing paychecks,” Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, told Politico. “That provides unlimited opportunity for families, especially those trying to climb the economic ladder.”
First off, go directly to hell with talk about “growing paychecks” when you oppose increasing the minimum wage. Second, the “best” way to get out of poverty might well be the sudden appearance of a well-paying job with benefits. But we should be a lot more worried about the actual way out of poverty. The way that happened for 3 million kids in August. The way food security rose and dropped during the pandemic in response to the outflows of relief.
And we know—it is a fact—that childhood poverty has lifelong consequences, with people who were poor in childhood having worse health and educational outcomes. Keeping children out of poverty now is one way to achieve Brady’s “best way” later on, by setting today’s children up to do well throughout their lives. But, of course, even if it wasn’t the financially thrifty way to proceed, making sure fewer kids are poor would be the right thing to do. (Not a question that often concerns today’s Republicans.)
Republicans say they don’t like poverty. But given ways to dramatically reduce it—an expanded child tax credit, more generous unemployment aid, higher Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, subsidized child care—they say no. Given another set of ways to dramatically reduce it—an increased minimum wage, universal health care—they also say no.
It’s time for Democrats to ignore what Republicans say and just do the right thing.
From Daily Kos at Read More. This article is republished from DailyKos under an open content license. Read the original article at DailyKos.