Government Policies and Inflation are Making the Poor Even Poorer

Citizen Wealth Financial Justice

San Juan   There was something to celebrate on the first day of a new decade.  President Trump for only the second time in his term of office did NOT tweet.  What a relief! The other time was the day after the Mueller investigation report was made public.  This time, who knows?  He may have been kidnapped for the day by a roving band of pirates off the coast of Florida.  Maybe they came from Puerto Rico in protest of the lack of support for their hurricane recovery because of, as some may remember, his earlier claim that the island territory was “in the middle of the ocean” and too far away to help.  Certainly, almost all the restaurants in San Juan were closed on New Year’s Day, so the wait staff could have been the ones manning the boats.  I’m not sure.  I’m just offering some alternative facts.

The war talk and chest thumping over Iran pulling the strings on a US embassy takeover in Baghdad did decrease as the protestors withdrew after the Iraqi government promised to support a resolution asking the US to withdraw troops from that country.  On the other hand, the war on the poor continued to accelerate as the Department of Agriculture doubled down on its plan to take another 700,000 people off of food stamps.  The Secretary claimed it is all about getting them to work without reckoning with the fact that most recipients are already working, they just aren’t making enough to adequately and healthily feed their families.  The New York Times Upshot column noted that when lower income families ate better it saved $1400 a year per person in health care costs and had led to reductions in Medicaid spending in a number of states.  Does the administration care or is this all about a body count?

Even as many bemoan the rising gap between the rich and the poor and the federal government pushes to make the poor even poorer, other studies, including a recent one from a team of researchers connected to Columbia University and the Groundwork Collaborative have found that they are already poorer than previous statistics had determined.  Reported in The Hill, they found that “Real income for low-income Americans fell more than 7 percent between 2004 and 2018, in part because of rising costs for items and services purchased by those Americans.”

Inflation in goods that are already more highly priced for poor families is under-reported, making the income gap experienced by lower income families more pronounced.  Seven percent may not sound like much, but in a country the size of the United States it means that,

Using their inflation measure, the paper’s authors estimate that 3.2 million more people would fall below the poverty line, bringing the nation’s total to 41.4 million. The U.S. population in 2018 was about 327 million.

It seems hardly the time to intensify the war on the poor, when they are already getting poorer.  What would it take to get the Trump administration to finally negotiate a peace in this war and withdraw its bureaucratic troops at USDA, DHHS, DHS, and the other agencies?  It’s past time!