In 2012, the number of poor Americans reached 50 million, 16 million of which lived below half of the poverty line. Over one million children were also considered homeless, as reported by Robert Greenstein for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. These numbers alone should alarm the American society of the state of our countrymen. It should concern not only the government and the politicians, but also all citizens in our society. However, there are still numerous things that can be done about this. In fact, various steps have already been proven to help alleviate the current state and number of those who are below the poverty line.
The investment in the education and training of the unemployed and poor would benefit society in ways that could possibly reduce poverty, create opportunities, increase employment, and ease the life of those below the poverty line. The high numbers of the poor and unemployed could be seen as an opportunity, not just a hopeless situation. Gearing plans, actions, and investments towards education, especially of children who are born to families with low incomes, could improve the numbers of the poor in the long run. Less fortunate children who are not given the opportunity for education are more prone to facing problems in finding success with their careers as they grow up. Giving importance to education could improve their chance at a better future. The number of those who will be given the chance to finish high school, and eventually the chance to get a college degree could increase substantially. According to the Center for American Progress, various studies have shown that many anti-poverty programs, especially those programs that target children, offer excellent returns on investment to taxpayers.
Likewise, the training of the unemployed and the poor could also benefit society to increase the quality and quantity of those belonging in the workforce. People who are less fortunate to get proper training for their respective jobs may experience instability of one’s career as they are most likely involved with mismatched, complicated or unrelated jobs. Giving attention to their training could help the standing and permanency of their careers, as well as help improve the status of their respective families. Seeing the numbers of the unemployed and poor should influence society in providing more opportunities and prospects directed towards the less fortunate.
One other step that has help alleviate poverty has been through the safety net programs that developed from President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty. The social safety net program are transfer programs that seek to prevent the poor from falling below the poverty line. The safety net transfer programs include, but are not limited to, the cash transfers, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), waivers and exemptions for health care such as Medicare and Medicaid, in-kind transfers such as school supplies and uniforms, price subsidies for electricity or public transport, and an expanded Social Security. Although there has been reports that say that anti-poverty programs are actually creating disincentives to work by discouraging people and reducing participation of the work force, consequently creating a “poverty trap”, various researches have been done on the actual advantages of the anti-poverty programs and policies like the safety net and the Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC), which is a benefit for working people who have low to moderate income that helps people keep more of what they earn by reducing the amount of tax they owe and leaving more money for themselves.
The safety net, according to the Supplemental Poverty Measure from the Census Bureau, kept 41 million people out of poverty in 2012, 9 million of which are children. Specifically, the EITC along with other policies such as the Child Tax Credit kept 5.3 million children out of poverty in 2012. Benefits given to the unemployed also helped reduce poverty, keeping 2.5 million people out of poverty in the same year. Moreover, SNAP helped the lives of 2.2 million children, along with 2.7 million people. SNAP actually cut the number of children belonging below half of the poverty line from 4.9 to 3.5 million. The safety net benefited not only children below the poverty line, but also senior citizens, people with disabilities, and adults with low-income. They had access to more affordable health care with the use of Medicare and Medicaid, which provided them with health coverage since its expansion. The expansion has benefited the parents, along with their children, since then, and has also provided near-poor and moderate-income people with subsidies to improve their insurance by buying private coverage. These health programs, along with the creation of the Children’s Health Insurance Program have considerably increased the number of children who are insured.
Public investments on these programs and policies truly help reduce poverty as well as increase the class and economic mobility of people. The long term effects of these are seen in children who are seen to be in better health as they grow up as they are less likely to have stunted growth, be obese, or be diagnosed with heart and other system disease. Not only that, but they are also more likely to graduate from high school, attend college, and have higher earnings and better careers as adults. Aside from these positive effects, these programs also became an incentive for adults as seen by the increase in percentage of employed adult women from 42% to 64%, and by the fact that parents had an additional of 135 working hours per year as well as a 17% increase in annual earnings when they were given income assistance for poor children, as stated by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Providing adequate safety net for people remarkably help increase their provisions and status. Along with the education and the training of the unemployed and poor, the policies and programs provided by both the public and private sector are important in society to not only help people transition into jobs with higher earnings by creating opportunities and chances for stability, but also benefit children and families to improve their living, increase mobility from below poverty line to middle-class, and provide growth for their economic status and individual careers.
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Greenstein, Robert. (2014). “Greenstein Testimony Before House Budget Committee on Poverty and the Safety Net”. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Retrieved on July 1, 2014 from http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=4083
Ayres, Sarah. (2014). ”The Safety Net is Good Economic Policy”. Center for American Progress. Retrieved on July 11, 2014 from http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/budget/report/2014/03/31/86693/the-safety-net-is-good-economic-policy/
IRS. (2014). “Earned Income Tax Credit, Questions and Answers”. Retrieved on July 11, 2014 from http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/EITC,-Earned-Income-Tax-Credit,-Questions-and-Answers