Amid reports of rising poverty, two Fox News contributors claimed that anti-poverty programs have done nothing to alleviate poverty. In fact, federal government programs such as food stamps, Social Security, and other measures created or boosted by the stimulus billhave kept millions out of poverty and lowered the poverty rate.
Fox Figures Claim Anti-Poverty Programs Are “Not Helping”
Fox's Mary Katharine Ham: “We've Spent $17 Trillion On The War On Poverty Since It Began” And “It's Not Helping.” Fox News contributor Mary Katharine Ham appeared on The O'Reilly Factor to declare that “it does not feel to people like” anti-poverty programs are helping. From the program:
HAM: Well, here's the other thing. Like you noted, Bill, that we've spent 17 trillion dollars on the war on poverty since it began, originally the plan was to be able to lift people out of poverty. It does not feel to people like we're getting there, and [Obama's] out there doing other things and making the pitch that that is what's going to solve the problem. More spending. We're on track to spend over a trillion dollars per year on welfare programs. We've spent 2 trillion, I believe, over the last two fiscal years. And people are looking at that and it's not helping. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 7/23/12]
Fox's Monica Crowley: Anti-Poverty Programs Haven't Worked, None Have “Alleviated Poverty.” On Your World, Fox News contributor Monica Crowley claimed “none of these social welfare programs ... have worked.” From Your World:
CROWLEY: Here's the problem. Since the mid-1960's when Lyndon Johnson launched the Great Society program, and started this massive spending spree, which was actually, Neil, all ideological. It was about instituting these redistribution schemes in every part of our economy in the name of social justice, in the name of a social safety-net, in the name of compassion. What we now know is that none of those social welfare programs, that we continue to pour all of this taxpayer money into, have worked. None of it has alleviated poverty. In fact the poverty rate has gotten worse instead of better. [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 7/23/12]
But Federal Anti-Poverty Programs Have Kept Millions Out Of Poverty
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Reduced Poverty By 4 Million In 2010 Alone
USDA: Food Stamp Benefits Led To “Average Decline Of 4.4 Percent In The Prevalence Of Poverty” Between 2000 And 2009. A USDA study released on April 9 titled, “Alleviating Poverty in the United States: The Critical Role of SNAP Benefits,” explored how the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), otherwise known as food stamps, affected “poverty from 2000 to 2009.” The study found “an average decline of 4.4 percent in the prevalence of poverty due to SNAP benefits, while the average decline in the depth and severity of poverty was 10.3 and 13.2 percent, respectively.” [United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, 6/3/12]
Study: Food Stamps' “Antipoverty Effect Was Strongest In 2009, When Benefit Increases Were Authorized By ... The Stimulus Package.” A summary of the USDA study also stated:
SNAP's antipoverty effect was strongest in 2009, when benefit increases were authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), also known as the stimulus package. In 2009, SNAP benefits:
· Reduced the depth of child poverty by 20.9 percent and the severity of child poverty by 27.5 percent.
· Ensured that the depth and severity of poverty in the overall population increased only slightly from their 2008 levels despite worsening economic conditions. [United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, April 2012]
NY Times: Study Showed Food Stamps “Reduced The Poverty Rate By Nearly 8 Percent In 2009.” From an April 9 New York Times article about the USDA study:
A new study by the Agriculture Department has found that food stamps, one of the country's largest social safety net programs, reduced the poverty rate substantially during the recent recession. The food stamp program, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, reduced the poverty rate by nearly 8 percent in 2009, the most recent year included in the study, a significant impact for a social program whose effects often go unnoticed by policy makers.
The food stamp program is one of the largest antipoverty efforts in the country, serving more than 46 million people. But the extra income it provides is not counted in the government's formal poverty measure, an omission that makes it difficult for officials to see the effects of the policy and get an accurate figure for the number of people beneath the poverty threshold, which was about $22,000 for a family of four in 2009.
The study, which examined nine years of data, tried to measure the program's effects on people whose incomes remained below the poverty threshold. The program lifted the average poor person's income up about six percent closer to the line over the length of the study, making poverty less severe. When the benefits were included in the income of families with children, the result was that children below the threshold moved about 11 percent closer to the line.
The program had a stronger effect on children because they are more likely to be poor and they make up about half of the program's participants. [The New York Times, 4/9/12]
CBPP: Food Stamps Kept 4 Million People - Including 2 Million Children - Out Of Poverty In 2010. From the Center on Budget on Policy Priorities primer on the food stamp program:
A CBPP analysis using the National Academy of Science measures of poverty, which counts SNAP as income found that SNAP kept about 4 million people out of poverty in 2010, including about 2 million children. SNAP lifted 1.3 million children above 50 percent of the poverty line in 2010, more than any other benefit program. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 7/9/12]
Social Security Keeps Nearly 20 Million Americans Out Of Poverty
CBPP: Social Security Keeps Nearly 20 Million Americans -- Including More Than 1 Million Children -- Out Of Poverty. From a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report titled, “Social Security Keeps 20 Million Americans Out of Poverty: A State-By-State Analysis” :
Almost 90 percent of people aged 65 and older receive some of their family income from Social Security. Without Social Security benefits, 45.2 percent of elderly Americans would have incomes below the poverty line, all else being equal. With Social Security benefits, only 9.7 percent are poor. Some 13.2 million elderly Americans are lifted out of poverty by Social Security.
Social Security is important for children and their families as well as for the elderly. About 6 million children under age 18 (8 percent of all U.S. children) lived in families that received income from Social Security in 2008, according to Census data. Over 3 million children received their own benefits as dependents of retired, disabled, or deceased workers. Others lived with parents or relatives who received Social Security benefits. In all, 1.1 million children are lifted out of poverty by Social Security. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 8/11/10]
CBPP: Without Social Security Benefits, Nearly Half Of Elderly Would Be In Poverty. A post on the CBPP's Off the Charts blog stated: Without Social Security benefits, almost half of Americans aged 65 and older would have incomes below the poverty line. With Social Security benefits, only one-tenth of the elderly do. The post included the following chart:
[Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Off the Charts, 8/11/10]
NBER: Increase In Social Security Benefits Is Associated With Decrease In Elderly Poverty Rate. In a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, economists Gary Engelhardt and Jonathan Gruber estimated that “a $1,000 increase in Social Security benefits is associated with a 2 to 3 percentage point reduction in poverty rates for elderly households.” NBER stated:
Applying this estimate to the change in Social Security benefits between 1967 and 2000 suggests that the increase in benefits can explain all of the 17 percentage point decline in poverty that occurred during this period.
The NBER article included the following graph:
[National Bureau of Economic Research, accessed 7/23/12]
The Poverty Rate Would Have Been Double Its Level In 2010 Without Anti-Poverty Programs
CBPP: Poverty Rate Would Have Been Double Its Level In 2010 Without Government Anti-Poverty Programs. A Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of 2010 census data using “an alternative measure of poverty that takes into account the impact of government benefit programs and taxes” found:
Census data show that in 2010, poverty rates without government income assistance of any sort would have been nearly twice as high as they actually were: 28.6 percent rather than 15.5 percent (see Figure 2). This shows the impact of public programs, including not only tax credits, unemployment insurance, and SNAP benefits but also Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, veterans' benefits, public assistance (including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), and housing assistance, among others, and the net effect of the tax system. Without government help from the six initiatives highlighted in this analysis, but with the rest of the safety net, the poverty rate in 2010 under our NAS measure would have been 17.8 percent in 2010.
The report included the following graph:
[Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 11/7/11]
CBPP: Unemployment Insurance Benefits Kept More Than 3 Million People Out Of Poverty In 2010. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that "[u]nemployment benefits kept 3.2 million people above the poverty line in 2010." The CBPP also included the following graph:
[Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 9/14/11]
CBPP: Making Work Pay Tax Credit Kept 1.5 Million Out Of Poverty In 2010. A graph provided by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that when using a poverty measure recommended by the National Academy of Sciences in 1995, the now-expired Making Work Pay tax credit from the stimulus bill kept 1.5 million people out of poverty in 2010:
[Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 11/7/11]
CBPP: Earned Income Tax Credit And Child Tax Credit Lifted More Than 9 Million People - Including 5 Million Children - Out Of Poverty In 2010. A report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities on the effectiveness of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit found that when using a poverty measure recommended by the National Academy of Sciences in 1995:
The EITC and CTC lifted 9.2 million people -- including 4.9 million children -- above the poverty line in 2010, under a broad measure of poverty that counts refundable tax credit payments as income (and subtracts income and payroll taxes). Improvements in these credits enacted as part of the 2009 Recovery Act are responsible for lifting 1.6 million of those people above the poverty line. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 6/26/12]
The report included the following graph:
[Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 6/26/12]
CBPP: Stimulus Programs Kept Nearly 7 Million People Out Of Poverty. From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
Six temporary federal initiatives enacted in 2009 and 2010 to bolster the economy by lifting consumers' incomes and purchases kept nearly 7 million Americans out of poverty in 2010, under an alternative measure of poverty that takes into account the impact of government benefit programs and taxes. These initiatives -- three new or expanded tax credits, two enhancements of unemployment insurance, and an expansion of benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called food stamps) -- were part of the 2009 Recovery Act. Congress subsequently extended or expanded some of them.
To gauge the impacts of these initiatives on poverty, analysts cannot use the official poverty measure because it counts only cash income and does not take refundable tax credits, SNAP benefits, and other non-cash assistance into account. Therefore, we use a poverty measure that adopts recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), and that most experts prefer to the traditional poverty measure. Using the NAS measure to analyze newly released Census data for 2010, we find that the six Recovery Act initiatives kept 6.9 million people above the poverty line in 2010.
These initiatives had a wide reach across the population, reaching a majority of American households. The 6.9 million people kept above the poverty line in 2010 included an estimated 2.5 million children, 200,000 seniors, 3.1 million non-Latino whites, 1.3 million non-Latino blacks, and 2.0 million Latinos. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 11/7/11]