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Return to Economic Issues Updated 12/21/23        
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1. Why Poverty is Controversial?
   A. Which Poverty Data is Correct?
     B. Is Poverty a Conditional or a Positional?
     C. Follow the Money

     D. Is Enough Done for the Poor?
     E. Is Income Stagnation Serious?
2. Follow the Money
    A. Is Politics About the Money?
Do People Vote Their Pocketbook?
    C. Should Americans Follow the Money?
     D. Federal Deficit
    E.  Tax the Rich
Economic Wellbeing
A. Policy Affects Income 
B. Few Good Jobs
C. Income Inequality Cures  
D. Inequality Exposed

E. Entitlements
F. Welfare

A. Which Poverty Data is Correct?

Poverty Down Only 4.5% Points Over Fifty Years

Poverty Down 14.2% Points Over Fifty Years 

See War on Poverty, Was it Lost? NYT
Legacies of the War on Poverty

This chart "...provides a first approximation of how correcting the 2013 poverty rate for noncash food and housing benefits, refundable tax credits, and not using the upward [inflation] bias of the CPI-U would change the 2013 poverty rate. This adjusted poverty rate falls from 14.5 to 4.8 percent, making the 2013 rate roughly a quarter of the 1964 rate (19.0 percent). If we were to lower the poverty threshold for cohabiting couples to match that for married couples the 2013 poverty rate would have fallen even more." Examples of noncash benefits include food stamps SNAP), discounted school lunches, subsidized rent, Medicaid, and Medicare. See Source Editors Comments are in red.

B. Is Poverty a Condition or a Position?
Growing up in a rural 1950's Massachusetts I observed Retiring in rural  2003 Central Florida I observed
Condition Position Condition Position

Elderly lived with their children, few had health insurance or much income
Poor Families lived in older house at the end of dirt roads
Poor Children were skinny, often dirty, didn't finish HS,
pooped around and then went into military, found a trade or pumped gas

Bottom 20%
dropping to
bottom 15%

Elderly live on their own with Medicare
Poor families lived in older lowland house or trailers
Poor Children, obesity a problem, most finish HS,  try college,
go into one of many services industries and live at home.

Stuck at 15% as Government Help
 is Ignores by many Liberals and
Despised by many Conservatives.
C. Follow the Money

Are Medicare and Medicaid
Part of the Welfare System?
Social insurance Taxes - SS + Medicare
= deep doo-doo

Liars, Dame Liars
and Statisticians

This data shows a tremendous increase in our safety net spending but there are two problems. Total spending is not adjusted for inflation which has been was very high in the 1970's and high the rest of the century. Also using appropriate techniques shown above yields a drop in poverty to 4.8%.

More Relevant Question is

why isn't the CBO providing and publicizing basic data using appropriate methods to judge specific issues. The CPI-U is an all-purpose index that is very often updated but it is inap- propriately for long-term comparisons. Instead liberals use one set of data and conservatives use another set of data. Both are true but do not communicate the truth.

Visualizing Individual Income

Food for Thought

Average State Spending Per Poor Person


Spending Per Capita and Per Poor Person on Different Types of Social Welfare Functions, Averages for Fiscal Capacity Quartiles, 1977-2000, Average spending per poor person

And the Answer Is? 
U.S. Government Defined Poverty from Distributing Income
may help with your answer.

A Relevant Question
How has the lifestyle and wellbeing changed for the bottom decile?

Economic Wellbeing

...shows that government transfer payments to individuals approximately doubled, rising from about 7% of GDP in 1970 to nearly 15% in 2014. These transfer payments primarily redistribute income through various social programs, including disability and unemployment insurance, Medicare and Medicaid, and food stamps. As such, these transfers should disproportionately benefit households in the bottom 80% of the income distribution." Rising Income Inequality

Editors Note: I am really annoyed at those on either side of an issue that should know which statistics are misleading but are interested in personal gain. Human prejudice for a particular idea causes many to easily accept any data that supports their prejudice. Example is education. Many use the average income of those with a Bachelor's degree as a reason of everyone going to college when the much lower median income of those with just a bachelor's degree is much more meaningful when considering college for everyone. In addition, STEM majors have always had the highest economic investment return but only recently has this fact been getting publicity.  Please e-mail suggestions to
Another Relevant Question

What if people reporting all these people especially children who are supposedly staving are basing there numbers on the official rate that does not include food stamps and help paying for school   lunches? Do you think they do it so you will donate to their nonprofit program to help the poor? To get elected? Have you ever checked out salaries at

See For Poorer and Richer NYT 3/14/15

Source U.S. Political Economy Controversies1A