Posted by: Jeff | September 17, 2010

The Silver Lining in Those Poverty Numbers

The U.S. Census Bureau released data on poverty in the United States during 2009, the first full year of the Recession that followed the Wall Street crisis of 2008.  And the numbers aren’t good:

[T]he poverty rate climbed to 14.3 from 13.2 percent. That means that during 2009, 43.6 million people lived on less than the equivalent of $21,756 for a family with two adults and two children.

These are numbers that make sense in much of the developing world, but are completely staggering in the United States.  And without the stimulus of early 2009, the numbers could have been even worse.  The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates conservatively that President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act prevented an additional 6 million Americans from falling below the poverty line:

This analysis examines seven of the recovery act’s provisions — two improvements in unemployment insurance, three tax credits for working families, an increase in food stamps, and a one-time payment for retirees, veterans, and people with disabilities — and finds that they alone are preventing more than 6 million Americans from falling below the poverty line and are reducing the severity of poverty for 33 million more. Those 6 million people include more than 2 million children and over 500,000 seniors. This analysis includes state-specific estimates for California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Illinois.

These estimates are conservative. They do not include the poverty impact of many of the stimulus bill’s provisions for direct assistance to households — such as increases in funding for medical services, Pell grants, child support collection, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, and assistance to homeless individuals. Nor do they reflect the degree to which bill is ameliorating the increase in poverty by creating and preserving private- and public-sector jobs. According to a March CBO estimate, the recovery legislation “will increase employment by 0.9 million to 2.3 million jobs by the fourth quarter of 2009.”

Just a reminder that when candidates like Christine O’Donnell oppose the stimulus, they are dangerously close to eliminating the barrier preventing these 6 million Americans from sliding into poverty.

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