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The website “Benefits.gov,” option “Browse by Category,” lists 77 programs for child care and child support, 108 programs for energy assistance, 271 programs for food/nutrition, 54 programs for housing, 70 programs for living assistance, and 53 loan programs, many in various states.
Doug Besharov, a resident scholar at American Enterprise Institute and visiting professor at University of Maryland, has written that rhetoric about cutting poverty is misleadingly outmoded because, he wrote, “it implies that government income transfers can be the vehicle for achieving substantial reductions in poverty. Almost all Americans live far above subsistence poverty,” mostly because of their earnings, and the rest because of government transfer programs. “What is now called poverty is really income inequality.” Besharov was the first director of the U.S. Center on Child Abuse and Neglect.
Reducing income inequality, Besharov says, cannot be accomplished through government income transfers alone. They “cost too much, create harmful disincentives to work and marriage, and must compete against old-age pensions and health care.” Real progress in boosting income means “increasing the earnings capacity of lower-income workers and reducing the number of female-headed families.”
The poverty level that Professor Mulligan writes about refers to various resources available to families. Considering all the hammering the economy took during those years from 2007 to 2010, the poverty increase is tiny. “Measures of the poverty rate typically change more than that over any three year period,” notes Mulligan.
By now, however, many unemployed have exhausted their unemployment benefit. The Associated Press reported in November that 75 percent last year were getting a check. Now, it’s down to 48 percent. Nearly a third of the country’s jobless have not worked for a year or more.
As Mulligan writes, “Were it not for government assistance, for every seven people who would have been considered in poverty,” the safety net caught six. “Another interpretation is that the safety net has taken away incentives and serves as a penalty for earning incomes above the poverty line.” Mulligan added, “I suspect that unemployment cannot return to pre-recession levels until safety-net generosity does, too.”
Well-meaning—and always political—safety-net programs can make public assistance a life-style. For instance, a woman who begins having children while in high school can get relatively magnanimous benefits, including free family medical and dental care, groceries, transportation, rent and child care that is worth $30,000 to $40,000 a year. Obama has set aside millions in programs for single women—a favored voter group.
If, instead of living the welfare life, the woman mentioned decides to finish high school and start working, she might make only, say, $ 9 an hour ( $18,700 a year). Which course do you suppose most uneducated, single young women take in this era of Obama?
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