Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The war on the war on poverty.

So today Mr. Ryan, and some of his other buddies in the Grand Ole Party released a critique of the War on Poverty.  Solutions in the report, MIA/KIA.

“We have declared unconditional war on poverty. Our objective is total victory. . . . I believe that thirty years from now Americans will look back upon these 1960s as the time of the great American Breakthrough . . . toward the victory of prosperity over poverty.”
— Lyndon B. Johnson, My Hope for America (1964)
Those are some very iconic words in the liberal mind.  An unconditional war on poverty, with nothing less than its total eradication being the goal, so how has it stood up over the last five decades?  Not very well, which is a tragedy.  So pulling up the report that Mr. Ryan generated we will notice some trends, it does not have a "Eureka" moment, no man holding a smoking gun over a dead body as police enter the scene.  Just a blueprint, that is not even a blueprint.  It just more of the same old, it doesn't work, so it needs to be fixed, without taking the time to examine why it does not work.

So we see a few sad statistics in the report, I mean they are pathetic:
• In 1965, the poverty rate was 17.3 percent. In 2012, it was 15 percent.
• Over the past three years, “deep poverty” has reached its highest level on record.
• About 21.8 percent of children live below the poverty line.
So we have seen a 2.3% decrease in poverty in the past fifty years.  Not accounting for changes in population (194 million to 313 million), changes in what qualified as being in poverty (today its around 19k a year income for a family of 3), the value of the dollar (which is lower now), and other factors too numerous to list here.  

So as of right now it is claimed in this report that 92 government programs spend around 800 Billion dollars on social safety nets.  This is wrong actually, the figure is actually closer to  732 Billion between Medicaid and Welfare programs.  But lets look at the numbers shall we?
  • Federal Civilian Retirement: $87 billion
  • Food Stamps (now known as "SNAP"): $80 billion
  • Earned Income and Child Tax Credits: $79 billion (taxpayers receive "refunds" larger than their tax liabilities)
  • Unemployment Compensation: $77 billion (has increased dramatically due to high unemployment)
  • Veterans Benefits: $71 billion
  • Military Retirement: $49 billion
  • Supplement Security Income: $47 billion (minimum monthly benefit for aged, blind and disabled who are not covered by Social Security)
  • Family Support: $25 billion (includes the state-run Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program which replaced welfare in the 1990s, child support enforcement, and child care)
  • Child Nutrition: $19 billion (includes school lunches, school breakfasts, and other child and adult care food programs)
  • TARP (troubled asset relief program): $16 billion
  • Farm programs: $13 billion
  • Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP): $9 billion
 And that is not including the $259 billion for Medicaid.  As you can see the numbers are already skewed due to TARP, and higher than normal Unemployment, which people pay into anyway.  We pay into unemployment, so it is merely funded from time to time to cover people in certain periods who over stay their unemployment.  That is not something that happens daily.

There are many reasons why poverty persists to such a wide extent today. Changes in family structure, changes in labor-market opportunities, and changes in broader demographics are a major part of the answer. But federal policies also have contributed. To promote work and improve upward mobility, then, the first step is to review what the federal government is doing now—so policymakers can determine what it can do better.
 I actually somewhat agree with this.  Thanks Mr. Ryan, you were mostly honest with this one.  I applaud your attempt to be honest with the American people.  Sure, changes have occurred in family structure, we don't immediately get hitched when someone becomes pregnant...  The changes in the labor market opportunities have changed, to a max profit minimum pay standard. 

It did not take race long to come into this, basically the breakdown of the family as a cause of poverty, from a study performed in 1965 which was of "Black families".  Well, sadly Mr. Ryan, I do believe that times have changed in the last fifty years.  And correlation is not causation.  There is a tie between being a single parent and being in poverty, but that does not mean that being a single parent causes someone to be in poverty.  Nice try.  The fact is, and I can line people up around the block to be studied that shows being in poverty is more likely to cause a family to break up.  In fact, being born into a poor family makes it more likely you will be poor.  Not that you will always live in poverty, it is just more likely that you will spend a significant period of your life in poverty.  So it makes sense that if poverty creates a stressful environment which leads to divorce, it certainly can say that poverty is "concentrated" in broken families.  So, does poverty cause the broken family, or does the broken family cause the poverty?  Hint, I can also point out to numerous studies that point at poverty breaking families.

Ah the decline in labor force.  Forget the fact that we have a better balance between men and women working today, than we ever had in the past.  Forget the fact that more people are working multiple jobs to make ends meet, which means some people are not going to find a job.  But here is where you made a mistake, and I don't even need to verify the numbers Mr. Ryan.  You stated that 23.6% of people above the age of 16 who do not work are living at or below the poverty level, that is a difference of 8.6%.  That should indicated some major problems in the workforce itself.  Low wages, and stagnant pay are the prime factors that allow for that.  If wages were not the issue here, the number of people 16 and older who live in poverty should be higher, a lot higher.  Given that people who work part time are slightly lower than the national average. 

Oh education, specifically college education, the very thing you guys have basically been talking shit about for the last decade.  You know, you go to college you should work any ole job that comes along?  Whats that I hear crickets?  I guess so, since you just acknowledged this little tidbit:

Without a job, it is difficult to get out of poverty. And without education, it is difficult to find a job. The lack of affordable education—and of effective training programs—hinders skill formation, which is critical to social mobility. According to the Pew Economic Mobility Project, 47 percent of those born in the bottom quintile will remain there if they are unable to complete college. Contrast that with their peers who do manage to complete college—only 10 percent will remain in the bottom quintile.
Ah, as I said, you now acknowledge that education, a good education is key to getting one out of poverty, and you now rail against overly expensive costs, that prohibit many from getting one.  You then say that a college degree is indicative of earlier education.  Sorry, but I have seen some pretty stupid people with Master's degrees.  I actually know a Ph.D candidate who is so dense she cannot understand why she is constantly pinched for plagiarization.  Again, correlation is not causation.

In a way I also agree with this next part of your report.  Welfare in a way is a trap.  The more you make the less you get, and when you are at the very bottom, the way it is designed makes it harder to get off it.  It can be done, but you will suffer for it, as if you aren't really suffering enough.  So, I do agree that the system needs to be reformed on that count, we need to ensure that as we cut people off, they do not fall back into poverty or worse, homelessness.

I thought that this report was all about the War on Poverty, but here you go, dragging up Social Security.  Like Unemployment insurance, Medicare and Medicaid, we pay for that shit.  We build that.  Not you, or the government.  Ah I see now, you tied it into your War on the War on Poverty.  See you claim that the following are a disincentive to work:
• Medicaid
• Food Stamps
• Head Start
• Job Corps
• Volunteers in Service to America
• Legal Services
• Child-nutrition programs
Really?  I count working 40 hours a week and bringing home 220 dollars or less a week as a disincentive to work.  Now when it takes you more than that just to live, in a home.  At that rate I would not only be able to live on my own (I haven't for several years now), but I would not be able to afford college or job training (which I did anyway), nor have any of the perks of life (running water, heat, food).  So yeah, low wages force people onto welfare, which is really a designed trap which as you earn more you get less, therefore to keep a roof over your head, food in your belly, you tend to prioritize.  Of course I would rather be out of the trap, or not go into it, so you see the point.  The problem is, because of the trap you and your kind have created in the past 50 years, you have forced people onto it.  You created it because of all your bull pucky, now you want to pull the rug out from under everyone.

So your conclusion is the War on Poverty is failing to address the problems, and making them worse.  I guess so, a refusal to put companies in their place, free trade agreements that do nothing for the American people, a wage that is by no means livable, and a for profit system that makes its money off of breaking everyone.  And I haven't even gotten past your summary into the nuts and bolts of the report itself.  I will later, maybe tomorrow, but for now, I am done beating on this dead horse.  You killed it, you purposely ran a red herring and the said thing is, people actually will fall for it.