Alexia Campbell reports for Vox on new 2017 poverty and income data from the Census Bureau. The data show that federal anti-poverty programs work. But, President Trump and the GOP are looking to slash their budgets and make it harder to qualify for them.
The good news from the Census Bureau is that 2.4 million more Americans had full time jobs in 2017. In addition, household income was up a bit, and the official poverty rate dropped from 12.7 to 12.3 percent.
The bad news is that women are still earning 80 percent of what men earn. As bad, millions of people with full time jobs qualify for welfare because they are paid poverty-level wages; and income was up principally for the wealthiest Americans.
Incomes dropped for the poorest Americans, people with incomes averaging just over $14,000 a year. In 2017, the federal poverty level was $12,060.
The data also show the valuable benefits of Social Security and safety net programs such as food stamps, disability insurance, refundable tax credits and help with housing costs. These programs help tens of millions of minimum and low-wage workers. Nearly 45 million workers avoided poverty with the help of these programs.
Social Security alone kept 27 million people from falling into poverty.
But, health care costs undermined the economic security of almost 11 million people, pushing them into poverty. Health care costs are a growing driver of impoverishment in the U.S. In 2016, health care costs drove 10.5 million people into poverty. One year later, health care costs drove 10.9 million people into poverty, 400,000 more people.
President Trump and the GOP’s 2019 budget slashes funding for these social safety net programs, including a 7.1 percent cut to Medicare. Trump and the GOP also want to add work requirements, which will disqualify many people from these programs without improving their lives. The data show that work requirements don’t bring people out of poverty because people’s wages generally are very low.
And, many programs already have work requirements, including food stamps. Unless you are disabled or have children, you must work 80 hours a month.
Medicaid does not have work requirements under federal law, but two-thirds of people with Medicaid work. And a large portion of those who do not work have serious disabilities and other conditions that leave them unable to work.
Here’s more from Just Care: