Good news: At the end of July, the federal government announced it will not be implementing President Obama’s spread-the-wealth “Supplemental Poverty Measure.”
The Census Bureau reported:
Since the FY 2011 federal budget did not include the funding requested by the President for the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) initiative, the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics do not currently have the resources necessary to move the Supplemental Poverty Measure from research mode to production mode.
The proposed measure would have resulted in a major reconstruction of the definition of poverty. According to Heritage’s Robert Rector, Obama’s poverty measure would include “new income thresholds” with “a built-in escalator clause” that “rise automatically in direct proportion to any rise in the living standards of the average American.” In other words, poverty would no longer be measured by how much income an individual or family made, but rather, how much an individual or family made relative to others.
As Rector notes:
…if the real income of every single American were to magically triple overnight, the new poverty measure would show there had been no drop in “poverty,” because the poverty income threshold would also triple. Under the Obama system, poverty can be reduced only if the incomes of the “poor” are rising faster than the incomes of everyone else.
The only way to reduce so-called poverty in such a system: redistribution of wealth.
Yet “spread-the-wealth” policies are nothing new. Since the 1960s, U.S. welfare spending has increased 13-fold and continues to climb.
And the current living standards of “poverty”—as defined by the federal government’s own data—is already a far cry from what most people would consider “poor.” For example, government data reveals that the majority of poor households in the U.S. possess a significant number of amenities (refrigerators, microwaves, cable or satellite TV, DVD players, cell phones, air conditioning, etc.) and nearly all have enough to eat. Furthermore, the homes of the average poor family are in good repair and provide adequate space.
Already, the government’s definition of poverty is skewed, yet President Obama’s poverty measure would further this misconception. And while his attempt to redefine poverty is off the table for the time being, the federal government says it plans to “continue…research efforts on this important topic.”
Wise anti-poverty policy cannot be based on misinformation. Helping those who are truly in need requires a correct understanding of who these people are, as well as the causes of their deprivation. Obfuscating real poverty only sets the stage for fiscally irresponsible policies and does little to benefit the poor or the nation as a whole.