Rob Horowitz: The War On Poverty, 50 Years Later
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
It is accurate to say that most Americans do not view the War on Poverty as an unqualified success. A majority don’t go as far as President Reagan did when he famously said, "In the sixties we waged a war on poverty, and poverty won." But a recent poll conducted for the Center for American Progress shows that only 1 in 5 Americans believe that the War on Poverty has made a major difference. An additional 41 percent say that it has made a minor difference.
Not surprisingly, attitudes about the War on Poverty break down along largely partisan, ideological, and racial lines. For example, as the report states, “Nearly 7 in 10 (69 percent) white liberals and progressives believe the War on Poverty has worked, and more than 6 in 10 (64 percent) white conservatives and libertarians believe the opposite”.
These mixed views are understandable when one considers that the official poverty rate in the United States has only dropped from about 19% when the War on Poverty was launched 50 years ago to about 15% today.
Great progress made...
However, the official poverty rate, because it does not count the assistance provided by the very programs put in place by the War on Poverty, dramatically understates the real progress that has been made. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Arloc Sherman points out, “A poverty measure that, as most analysts recommend, accounts for (rather than ignores) major non-cash benefits that the official poverty measure leaves out—namely, SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps), rent subsidies, and tax credits for working families—would find that poverty in the United States today is considerably lower than it was throughout the 1960s, despite today’s weaker economy."
Sherman adds, “Average household income for the bottom fifth of Americans (counting non-cash benefits and tax credits, adjusted for inflation and changes in household size) was more than 75 percent higher in 2011 than in 1964.
...But more work to be done
Still, by anyone’s measure there are too many Americans who remain mired in poverty, and 1 in 5 children today grow up in households who fall below the official poverty line. Even with the use of a more accurate measure of poverty, that still leaves far too many of our kids without the basic building blocks essential to future success and happiness.
The best answers to poverty then and now remain expanding opportunity, access to a quality education, and good paying jobs available for people who work hard and play by the rules. In today’s tough, competitive, and volatile global economy, there is even more of a need for a strong safety net. But it is not the ultimate solution. Let’s use the 50-year mark on the War on Poverty to spur a competition for the best ideas to generate significant growth in middle income jobs—ones where people earn enough so they can raise a family. We may never completely defeat poverty, but we can sure continue to significantly reduce it.
Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.
Related Slideshow: New England Communities With the Most Political Clout 2013
The Sunlight Foundation, in conjunction with Azavea, released data maps this week showing political contribution dollars to federal elections dating back to 1990 -- by county.
GoLocal takes a look at the counties in New England that had the highest per-capita contributions in the 2012 election cycle -- and talked with experts about what that meant for those areas in New Engand, as well as the candidates.
24. Cheshire County, NH
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $9.88
Total contributions: $759,209
Cheshire is one of the five original counties in New Hampshire and was founded in 1771. The highest point in Cheshire County is located at the top of Mount Monadnock, which was made famous by the poets Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.
21. Hampshire County, MA
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $10.41
Total contributions: $1,664,077
Hampshire County has a total area of 545 square miles and is located in the middle of Massachusetts. Hampshire County is also the only county to be surrounded in all directions by other Massachusetts counties.
20. Barnstable County, MA
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $10.90
Total contributions: $2,348,541
Barnstable County was founded in 1685 and has three national protected areas. Cape Cod National Seashore is the most famous protected area within Barnstable County and brings in a high amount of tourists every year.
19. Berkshire County, MA
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $12.49
Total contributions: $1,624,400
Berkshire County is located on the western side of Massachusetts and borders three different neighboring states. Originally the Mahican Native American Tribe inhabited Berkshire County up until the English settlers arrived and bought the land in 1724.
18. Essex County, MA
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $13.22
Total contributions: $9,991,201
Essex is located in the northeastern part of Massachusetts and contains towns such as Salem, Lynn, and Andover. Essex was founded in 1643 and because of Essex historical background, the whole county has been designated as the Essex National Heritage Area.
15. Addison County, VT
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $15.49
Total contributions: $569,299
Located on the west side of Vermont, Addison County has a total area of 808 square miles. Addison's largest town is Middlebury, where the Community College of Vermont and Middlebury College are located.
11. Bristol County, RI
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $20.91
Total contributions: $1,027,472
Bristol County has a population of 49,144 and is the third smallest county in the United States. Bristol County was originally apart of Massachusetts, but was transferred to Rhode Island in 1746.
10. Grafton County, NH
Contributions, per capita, 2012 :$20.95
Total contributions: $1,868,739
With a population of 89,181, Grafton County is the second largest county in New Hampshire. Home of New Hampshire’s only national forest, White Mountain National Forest takes up about half of Grafton’s total area
7. Middlesex County, MA
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $32.81
Total contributions: $50,432,154
Middlesex County has a population of 1,503,085 and has been ranked as the most populous county in New England. The county government was abolished in 1997, but the county boundaries still exists for court jurisdictions and other administrative purposes.
6. Nantucket County, MA
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $33.41
Total contributions: $344,021
Nantucket County consists of a couple of small islands and is a major tourist destination in Massachusetts. Normally Nantucket has a population of 10,298, but during the summer months the population can reach up to 50,000.
4. Dukes County, MA
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $36.32
Total contributions: $618,960
Consisting of Martha’s Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands, Dukes County is one of Massachusetts’ top vacation spots. Originally Dukes County was apart New York, however it was transferred to Massachusetts on October 7, 1691.
3. Suffolk County, MA
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $40.73
Total contributions: $30,323,537
Suffolk County has a population of 744,426 and contains Massachusetts’s largest city, Boston. Although Suffolk’s county government was abolished in the late 1900’s, it still remains as a geographic area.
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