Friday, January 17, 2014

The GOP efforts to create more poverty continue; what we need are real solutions.

Ezra Klein has the details: A simple test for conservative poverty proposals: 
There’s a simple way to tell whether the Republican Party’s newfound commitment to fighting poverty is more than rhetoric: Follow the money.   Follow the trail in the party’s recent budgets and what you find, hidden between appendix tables, are deep cuts to programs for the poor. That’s the inevitable consequence of Republican commitments to favored constituencies. The party promised its anti-tax wing no tax increases and lower tax rates. It promised older voters that Medicare and Social Security would not change for those over age 55. It promised defense hawks that sequestration cuts to military spending would be reversed. And it promised its tea party allies that it would cut trillions from government spending and balance the federal budget.
 The GOP can't openly embrace their own agenda:
In recent years, Republicans have backed themselves into a corner; virtually everything they’ve proposed entails deep cuts to programs for the poor. They’ve tried to escape this trap -- and allegations by opponents that they are indifferent to suffering -- by arguing that various reforms, such as turning federal programs over to the states, will unleash such miraculous efficiencies that meager budgets will stretch to cover existing needs.
They won’t.
The model they cite is welfare reform, which was enacted in 1996 during the highest-growth economy since the 1960s. Welfare cuts didn’t make the fight against poverty magically more efficient; they simply made it stingier. In 1996, 68 of 100 families living in poverty with children received welfare benefits. In 2010, two years after the worst economic shock since the Great Depression, only 27 of 100 such families were receiving benefits. The assistance once provided by welfare is now supplied by tax credits such as the earned income tax credit, which the government has vastly expanded.
Taking poverty and joblessness seriously doesn’t mean the government needs to spend more forever. But it does mean the government needs to spend more now -- when poor people are squeezed by high unemployment and low growth. That spending could be reallocated from other programs, or it could be offset by future tax increases or spending cuts. But there is no getting around it: Any policy that sharply reduces government spending to alleviate poverty is a policy that will lead to more poverty.
The labor force participation rate is at a 35 year low.

We have a jobs crisis and we need real solutions like a jobs program.  

A Job Guarantee would improve the labor market, not only for the unemployed, and underemployed who want to work, but create upward pressures on wages and incentives to improve the quality of the work enviornment.  A Federal Job Guarantee would take power out of the hands of the employers--who like keeping workers desperate and willing to take whatever scraps they are thrown--and shift it to some of the most at-risk vulnerable populations within our economy who want to work.

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