Fox's Martha MacCallum repeated the age old conservative adage that anti-poverty programs failed, despite evidence demonstrating that government programs aimed at reducing poverty have worked.
This week Georgetown University will host a “summit of Catholic, evangelical and other religious leaders” who are “coming together to make overcoming poverty a clear moral imperative and urgent national priority.” The summit featured President Obama, who called out Fox News for it's “constant menu” of slanted poverty coverage that ignores “typical” stories like that of a waitress “who is raising a couple of kids and is doing everything right but still can't pay the bills” in favor of coverage that suggests “the poor are sponges, leches, don't want to work, are lazy [and] are undeserving.”
During the May 12 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum said she hopes the summit leads to new ideas that decrease poverty, because statistics show that anti-poverty programs “have not worked.” MacCallum cited the “record numbers of dollars” spent on welfare programs, claiming that “a lot of it gets wasted.”
At least three government programs like Social Security, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and Medicaid have been effective at combating poverty. Overall, the poverty rate has dropped from 19 percent in 1964 to 14.5 percent today. Moreover, without anti-poverty programs, the number of Americans living in poverty in 2012 would have been double its recorded rate, according to an analysis by Columbia University researchers.
Social Security, long hailed as one of the most successful anti-poverty government programs, ensures seniors have a cost of living adjusted stream of income. According to The New York Times Economix Blog, without Social Security, the official elderly poverty would stand at 44 percent as opposed to 9 percent with the program. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
Social Security benefits play a vital role in reducing poverty. Without Social Security, 22.2 million more Americans would be poor, according to the latest available Census data (for 2012). Although most of those whom Social Security keeps out of poverty are elderly, nearly a third are under age 65, including 1 million children ... Depending on their design, reductions in Social Security benefits could significantly increase poverty, particularly among the elderly.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (known as SNAP or food stamps) provides nutrition assistance to over 40 million Americans. According to a New York Times report, SNAP reduced the poverty rate by nearly eight percent in 2009, at the height of the Great Recession. A USDA 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.”
Medicaid ensures that over 66 million Americans have access to affordable healthcare and has “greatly reduced the number of Americans without health insurance.” Expanded access to health insurance through Medicaid has effectively reduced the poverty rate. A 2014 study found that Medicaid decreased poverty rates “by 1.0 percent, 2.2 percent, and 0.7 percent among children, disabled adults, and the elderly.” Recent expansions in the program have also led to a healthier society. As noted by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
Expansions of Medicaid eligibility for low-income children in the late 1980s and early 1990s led to a 5.1 percent reduction in childhood deaths. Also, expansions of Medicaid coverage for low-income pregnant women led to an 8.5 percent reduction in infant mortality and a 7.8 percent reduction in the incidence of low birth weight.