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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Once Upon a Time We Were Winning the War on Poverty

Once Upon a Time We Were Winning the War on Poverty

Sunday, 05 January 2014 09:53

The NYT had a retrospective on the 50th anniversary of the war on poverty. One item that is worth noting is that the poverty rate actually fell sharply through the sixties and into the early seventies. Then the economy was derailed by the oil price shocks and the recessions that followed in 1974-75 and then again at the end of the 1970s. Then President Reagan got elected and surrendered.

Since the poverty rate is ostensibly based on an absolute living standard, the failure to make any progress over the last fifty years really is striking. If we had seen the same growth rate over this period with no increase in inequality, poverty would have been almost completely eliminated. The rise in inequality over the last three decades explains the lack of progress on reducing poverty.


Comments (4)Add Comment
Give a Man a Fish and He Wants More Fish, Give a Man a Fishing Pole and ...
written by Last Mover, January 05, 2014 11:26
But in the meantime, the greatest hope for poorer Americans would be a stronger economic recovery that brought the unemployment rate down from its current level of 7 percent and drew more people into the work force. The poverty rate for full-time workers is just 3 percent. For those not working, it is 33 percent.

This should be a no-brainer, even for the most virulent against government poverty programs.

Stimulus spending necessary to attain full employment is not a poverty program. It does not cause inflation. It creates the very jobs conservatives rail the poor should have, but don't due to being on the government dole claimed to reduce incentives to work.

Yet this first and best step is ignored across the board by all in control, the latest example in Obama's speech on inequality.

Imagine the huge reductions in spending for safety net programs at full employment, combined with added output and efficiency gains from reducing the trillion dollar output gap.

And what do MSM sock puppets talk about instead? Why LBJ poverty programs of course, little more than red meat bait for conservatives to blame on the current state of poverty, rather than improving it. Yes, let's do get into another zero-sum food fight over who gets and deserves what entitlements, shall we?

In the past, the comment on poverty was, Give a man a fish and he will want more fish, but give a man a fishing pole and he can catch his own fish.

Now they won't even make a fishing pole available, even though the cost is far lower than the current means of dealing with poverty at high unemployment.

They gave all the fishing poles to the 1% long ago, and
have been lying about the result of widespread poverty and sharp rise in inequality ever since.

The excuses designed to justify and hide the agenda of a neofascist society don't work anymore. It's not about takers in the 99% taking too much from the 1%.

It's about makers in the 99% being blocked in every way imaginable from working for a living - by takers in the 1% who took all the fishing poles for themselves, then dole out subsistence jobs to the masses like they were magnificent gifts from omnipotent job creators on high.

Wake up America. Get rid of the one trillion dollar output gap and give a job to everyone who wants one in a tight labor market created with stimulus spending. Then we can talk about poverty and the march back to equal pay for equal work ... for the real makers.
written by urban legend, January 05, 2014 2:16
And why cannot a president, especially one elected as a Democrat with a large majority, convince self-centered Americans, and thus a workable majority, with relentless repetition if necessary, that high poverty is a drag on the entire economy -- and, therefore, that reducing it will help everyone? Is there some kind of torpor of Third Way/DLC-induced belief that Americans will oppose a policy devoted to full employment?
written by djb, January 05, 2014 2:28
they allege that inequality drives improvement in technology and technique and productivity making everyone richer

they apparently believe that this justifies keeping people in poverty

somehow poor people are supposed create new products and start their own business and "create something"

you know like on wall street where they create computer programs that make thousands of trades per second with no sales tax attached, and strip the market of value without providing anything useful to society

Keynes also believed that inequality would help drive advancements in technique and technology but that laws should be created so that economy helps all of society and not just a few
written by Tom, January 05, 2014 2:28
Isn't the War on Poverty successful if, when less skilled immigration continues for decades after the 1960s, bringing in millions of people who would be likely to live in poverty, and people in poverty have kids at higher rates than rich people and people in the middle class, which should presumably increase the proportion of the population that is poor and the poverty rate, the poverty rate still remains largely unchanged?

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.