January marks the fiftieth anniversary of Lyndon Johnson’s declaration of war on poverty. Half-a-century later, we clearly haven’t won. But have the government’s safety net programs – key components of this war – at least helped? It’s a question that has led to a lot of political division.
Thanks to a new report from Columbia University, we seem to have a clear answer (WaPo, 12/10):
According to the new research, the safety net helped reduce the percentage of Americans in poverty from 26 percent in 1967 to 16 percent in 2012. The results were especially striking during the most recent economic downturn, when the poverty rate barely budged despite a massive increase in unemployment.
While the government has helped keep poverty at bay, the economy by itself has failed to improve the lives of the very poor over the past 50 years. Without taking into account the role of government policy, more Americans — 29 percent — would be in poverty today, compared with 27 percent in 1967.
Hopefully this report will help defuse some of the tension about safety net programs on the Hill. At the same time, our elected leaders better pay attention to the report’s findings on the economy, particularly as they relate to wages.
HEALTH | While the report above is a big win for the government, the same can’t be said for the Affordable Care Act so far. The law was intended to prevent insurers from refusing consumers with pre-existing conditions, but advocates say that the law has a major loophole that allows insurance companies to offer inadequate drug coverage. As such, people with conditions like HIV can’t access the care that they need. (WaPo, 12/10)
– One final piece about the government. The Center for Effective Philanthropy has released the results of a survey that asked foundation executives about progress and impact. One of the key findings: “the current government policy environment is a source of major frustration for foundation leaders.” (Chronicle, 12/10)
– Our sector loves buzzwords. In the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Lucy Bernholz crafted a list of 2013’s buzzwords, most of which I don’t think I’ve ever heard. Solutionism? I don’t think I have understandment of that term. (Chronicle, 12/10)
HOUSING | Buying a home is prohibitively expensive for many Americans. But the market is also driving up rental costs to unaffordable levels. This trend is a problem for everybody since there is no viable third option, but it’s disproportionately affecting black and Latino renters. (NPR, 12/10)
COMMUNITY | Forbes has an eye-opening look at the experiences of three low-income students whose college opportunities were made possible by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. These students have a totally different perspective from their wealthier classmates who are able to take for granted things like nice clothing, money for social lives, and easy transportation. (Forbes, 12/10)
LOCAL | Columbia, Maryland, was designed to be a midpoint between D.C. and Baltimore so that the two cities could eventually grow into each other. It didn’t quite happen, but maybe Baltimore and D.C. will finally connect now that MARC trains will be running on the weekends! (Elevation DC, 12/10)
Well, the snow storm didn’t really materialize here in D.C. How about in the suburbs? This is the second time this calendar year that the weathermen have predicted significant snow while at the same time calling for above freezing temperatures. Anyway, at least I can crank up the volume and blast some seasonal tunes – like Christmas in Hollis!
Since you’re “snowed in,” here are some extra links. First, from Halloween, this toddler’s parents have a great sense of humor. Second, here’s the visually stunning trailer for the Wachowski siblings’ new movie Jupiter Ascending. And third, here are some debunked internet rumors about the past.