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End the deception in the war on poverty

Afghanistan is not the nation's longest war. The bureaucracy has waged a War on Poverty for nearly half a century, and if one looks at the bureaucracy's numbers, poverty is winning.

That is because the method the bureaucracy set up to measure poverty in America has changed little since the 1960s.

The method fails to take into account the value of federally provided income such as food stamps, child tax credits, subsidized housing and utilities, free school lunches and a dozen other federal programs.

The bureaucracy also left out such items as payroll taxes, federal income taxes and child support payments - expenses that push the working poor into poverty.

The Census Bureau recently tested a new method of calculating the nation's poverty level, which it called the supplemental poverty measure.

It found that once the value of assistance programs is added and the cost of working is subtracted, the nation's poverty rate averaged 15.8 percent over 2009 to 2011, slightly ahead of the official rate of 15 percent over those three recessionary years.

But in many states, the poverty rate fell substantially when the more accurate measure was applied.

West Virginia's rate fell from the official 16.9 percent rate down to 12.3 percent, well below the national average.

That reflects the impact of federal programs.

Nationally, for example, the rate of poverty for persons 65 and older is 15.8 percent under this proposed new method. However, when the value of Social Security checks is removed, the poverty rate among those 65 and older rises to 54.5 percent.

On the other hand, payment of federal income taxes increased the poverty rate for working age adults 18 to 64 from 14.7 percent to 15.2 percent nationally.

Payroll taxes, child support payments and health insurance expenses also increased poverty.

The net result is that many people may be better off eschewing employment in favor of living on the dole. That is one way to make the War on Poverty permanent and hopeless.

Some changes are due.

 


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