Congressional Black Caucusby Representative Marcy Kaptur
Posted on 2014-01-08
KAPTUR. Congresswoman Lee of Oakland, thank you so much for
raising the consciousness of a Nation again.
I rise to join my colleagues tonight in support of raising consciousness about how important the programs have been over the years to reduce poverty in our country since the half-century-old effort of the war on poverty started by Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, who wanted to replace despair with opportunity.
Mr. Speaker, at this time, I would like to place into the Record an executive summary of the Council of Economic Advisors, dated January 2014, that summarizes the great progress that has been made: poverty in our country declining by more than a third since 1967 because of important programs that Democrats created--Social Security, Medicare, the earned income tax credit, and unemployment compensation, which is being tested as we speak here today. The speaker from Ohio, where unemployment has just gone up, should bring up that bill to extend unemployment benefits that impacts millions of Americans across our country.
People who understand the value of work, they don't want any subsidy, they want a job--they want a job. The most important work we can do is to create jobs, but when they can't get a job, then to give them their earned benefits.
What is great about this evening is I was thinking back to the 1960s--I was pretty young back then--but there was a book written by Michael Harrington, ``The Other America.'' For whatever reason--maybe it was because President Kennedy was President--that book became almost like a small Bible. People read it and it raised their consciousness. I can remember President Kennedy campaigning in the mines in West Virginia and raising consciousness again about the conditions of miners and what they were enduring.
It is very important that we have that same kind of effort across our country to raise consciousness about how important these programs are for our children, for our seniors, for those who are out of work. By working together we, as a people, really do make a difference.
Congresswoman Lee, I want to thank you tonight for being part of that clarion call to raise consciousness of people who really care. The majority of Americans really do. As they are listening to Wall Street announce bigger and bigger and bigger bonuses, they know that there is a war on the middle class right now. So many Americans are falling out of that middle class. They know something is wrong. They want us to champion jobs here in Washington, D.C., and they want to make sure that that safety net is there for them if they hit the skids.
I just thank you so very much for doing this. I thank all of my colleagues who took the time tonight to be here and to issue a clarion call for consciousness for jobs in this country, for extending unemployment benefits, for maintaining Social Security, for maintaining the earned income tax credit, and making sure that our vigilant efforts continue to eliminate poverty in this country.
[From The Council of Economic Advisers, Jan. 2014] The War on Poverty 50 Years Later: A Progress Report Executive Summary ``Unfortunately, many Americans live on the outskirts of hope--some because of their [[Page H53]] poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity. This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America. I urge this Congress and all Americans to join with me in that effort.'' --President Lyndon B. Johnson, January 8, 1964 Fifty years ago, in January of 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a ``War on Poverty'' and introduced initiatives designed to improve the education, health, skills, jobs, and access to economic resources of those struggling to make ends meet. While there is more work to do, in the ensuing decades we have strengthened and reformed many of these programs and had significant success in reducing poverty. In this report, the Council of Economic Advisers presents evidence of the progress made possible by decades of bipartisan efforts to fight poverty by expanding economic opportunity and rewarding hard work. We also document some of the key steps the Obama Administration has taken to further increase opportunity and economic security by improving key programs while ensuring greater efficiency and integrity. These steps prevented millions of hardworking Americans from slipping into poverty during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Poverty has declined by more than one-third since 1967.
The percent of the population in poverty when measured to include tax credits and other benefits has declined from 25.8 percent in 1967 to 16.0 percent in 2012.
These figures use new historical estimates of the Census Bureau's Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) anchored to today's poverty thresholds. The SPM is widely acknowledged to measure poverty more accurately than the official poverty measure, which excludes the value of refundable tax credits and benefits like nutrition assistance and has other limitations.
By anchoring the measure to today's poverty standards we are able to ask how many people in each year since 1967 would have had inflation-adjusted family resources below the 2012 SPM poverty thresholds.
Despite real progress in the War on Poverty, there is more work to do.
In 2012, there were 49.7 million Americans grappling with the economic and social hardships of living below the poverty line, including 13.4 million children.
While the United States is often seen as the land of economic opportunity, only about half of low-income Americans make it out of the lowest income distribution quintile over a 20-year period. About 40 percent of the differences in parents' income are reflected in children's income as they become adults, pointing to strong lingering effects from growing up in poverty.
This significant decline in poverty is largely due to programs that have historically enjoyed bipartisan support and increase economic security and opportunity.
A measure of ``market poverty,'' that reflects what the poverty rate would be without any tax credits or other benefits, rose from 27.0 percent to 28.7 percent between 1967 and 2012. Countervailing forces of increasing levels of education on the one hand, and inequality, wage stagnation, and a declining minimum wage on the other resulted in ``market poverty'' increasing slightly over this period. However, poverty measured taking antipoverty and social insurance programs into account fell by more than a third, highlighting the essential role that these programs have played in fighting poverty.
Programs designed to increase economic security and opportunity lifted over 45 million people from poverty in 2012, and led to an average of 27 million people lifted out of poverty per year for 45 years between 1968 and 2012. Cumulatively these efforts prevented 1.2 billion ``person years'' of poverty over this period.
Social Security has played a crucial role in lowering poverty among the elderly. Poverty among those aged 65 and older was 35 percent in 1960. Following rapid expansions in Social Security in the 1960s and 1970s, poverty among the elderly fell to 14.8 percent in 2012.
These programs are especially important in mitigating poverty during recessions. Despite an increase in ``market poverty'' of 4.5 percentage points between 2007 and 2010, the poverty rate, appropriately measured, rose only 0.5 percentage points due to both existing programs and immediate actions taken by President Obama when he took office in response to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
``Deep poverty''--defined as the fraction of individuals living below 50 percent of the poverty line has declined as a result of these programs. Without government tax credits or other benefits, 19.2 percent of the U.S. population would have been in deep poverty in 2012, but only 5.3 percent were in deep poverty when these benefits are included.
Programs that strengthen economic security and increase opportunity continue to be essential in keeping millions of Americans out of poverty and helping them work their way into the middle class.
Social Security benefits reduced the 2012 poverty rate by 8.5 percentage points among all individuals, and by 39.9 percentage points among those aged 65 or older.
Tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) reduced the 2012 poverty rate by 3.0 percentage points among all individuals, and by 6.7 percentage points among children.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)-- formerly known as the Food Stamp Program--reduced poverty in 2012 by 1.6 percentage points among all individuals, and by 3.0 percentage points among children.
Unemployment Insurance (UI) reduced poverty by 0.8 percentage points in 2012.
Antipoverty programs have been increasingly oriented around rewarding and encouraging work and are an important source of opportunity for low-income working families.
Both the EITC and the partially refundable component of the CTC increase the reward to work, offsetting payroll taxes and providing a supplement to labor market earnings. Research has shown this increases work and earnings, and increases participation in the workforce, particularly for single parents.
Some traditional antipoverty programs have been redesigned to encourage and promote work. The vast majority of Americans receiving nutrition assistance have a job or are either too young to work, are over age 65 or are disabled. Meanwhile, bipartisan welfare reform signed by President Clinton in 1996 strengthened work requirements and put a greater emphasis on employment.
Despite concerns that antipoverty programs may discourage employment, the best research suggests that work disincentive effects are small or nonexistent for most programs.
Programs that help fight poverty and provide economic security touch a wide swath of Americans at some point in their lives.
Programs that fight poverty help a broad range of Americans get back on their feet after economic misfortune. For example, about half of taxpayers with children used the EITC at some point between 1979 and 2006, and over two-thirds of Americans aged 14 to 22 in 1979 received income from SNAP, AFDC/TANF, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or UI at some point between 1978 and 2010.
Social Security Old Age and Survivors' Insurance, Social Security Disability Insurance, and UI are available to all Americans with a steady work history. These social insurance programs play an important role in keeping out of poverty those who retire, experience a work-limiting disability, lose a parent or spouse, or lose a job through no fault of their own.
The economic and social benefits from these programs go beyond just helping reduce poverty in the current generation.
Increased access to SNAP for children has been found to lead to better health and greater economic self-sufficiency in adulthood.
Increased family income in childhood from the EITC and CTC leads to higher student achievement.
The long-term effects of Head Start and other high-quality preschool programs include higher educational attainment, employment, and earnings, and lower rates of teen pregnancy and crime, as beneficiary children become teenagers and young adults.
President Obama's policies to restore economic security and increase opportunity have helped reduce poverty.
The Affordable Care Act ensures all Americans have access to quality, affordable health insurance, by providing the resources and flexibility states need to expand their Medicaid programs to all people who are in or near poverty as well as financial help so hardworking families can find a health plan that fits their needs and their budgets.
The President significantly expanded the refundability of the Child Tax Credit, making it available to millions of working parents who were previously ineligible. He also expanded the EITC for larger families, who face disproportionately high poverty rates, and for low-income married couples. Together these expansions benefit approximately 15 million families by an average of $800 per year. The President is proposing to make these tax credit improvements permanent and also to raise the minimum wage.
The Administration has advanced investments in early learning and development programs and reforms for coordinated State early learning systems. President Obama has proposed the expansion of voluntary home visiting programs for pregnant women and families with young children; Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships to improve the quality of care for infants and toddlers; and high-quality preschool for every child.
President Obama has advanced reforms of the nation's K-12 education system to support higher standards that will prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace; pushed efforts to recruit, prepare, develop, and advance effective teachers and principals; and encouraged a national effort to turn around our lowest-achieving schools. The Administration has also put forward proposals to redesign the Nation's high schools to better engage students and to connect 99 percent of students to high-speed broadband and digital learning tools within the next five years.
President Obama has proposed Promise Zones where businesses partner with local communities hit hard by the recession to put people back to work and communities can develop and implement their own sustainable plans for a continuum of family and community services and comprehensive education reforms.
President Obama has proposed increased employment and training opportunities for adults who are low-income or long- term unemployed, and summer and year-round opportunities for youth along with reforms to [[Page H54]] our unemployment system to make it more of a re-employment system, and community college initiatives to reform our higher education system and support training partnerships with business in high-demand industries.
Other achievements include making college more affordable by reforming student loan programs, raising the maximum Pell Grant, and establishing the American Opportunity Tax Credit which is the first partially refundable tax credit for college; placing 372,000 low-income youth into summer and year-round employment in 2009 and 2010; improving access to school meal programs that help children learn and thrive; and extending minimum wage and overtime protections to nearly all home care workers to help make their jobs more financially rewarding.
The fundamental lesson of the past 50 years is that we have made progress in the War on Poverty largely through bipartisan efforts to strengthen economic security and increase opportunity. As our economy moves forward, rather than cut these programs and risk leaving hardworking Americans behind, we need to build on the progress we have made to strengthen and reform them. Going forward, we can't lose sight of the positive part government can continue to play in reducing economic hardship and ensuring access to economic opportunity for all citizens. At the same time, sustainable improvements are only possible if we create jobs and speed the economic recovery in the short run, raise economic growth in the long run, and work to ensure that the benefits of a growing economy reach all Americans.