We Can Cut the Deficit and Cut Poverty at the Same Time

August 21, 2012

Millions of American children and families depend on a federal safety net that offers nutrition assistance, job training and refundable tax credits. As Congress hammers out the details of next year’s federal budget and works to reduce the federal deficit ($965 trillion as of August 2012, according to the Congressional Budget Office), these programs -- and these families’ livelihoods -- are at risk. But do they have to be?

According to economists and policy experts, we don’t need to slash the safety net in order to grow our economy. In fact, the opposite may be true: reducing poverty may be critical to turning our economy around. We can reduce the nation’s rate of 22 percent of children in poverty and reduce the deficit at the same time. It’s a matter of the choices we make.

In a August 15, 2012 webinar sponsored by Half in Ten and other national organizations, economists and policy experts including Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) discussed the myths and realities of federal spending and the recipe for creating a budget that restores shared prosperity while addressing our long-term economic needs.

“People are working hard every day and doing the best they can to make ends meet,” Ellison says. “In the richest country in history of the world, we should regard [poverty] as a national crisis.”

The Center for American Progress (CAP) has created a budget plan with long-term investments to boost economic growth, create jobs and reduce the numbers of individuals in poverty by 3 million over 20 years. The areas for these investments include:

  • Clean energy technology research and deployment
  • Early childhood education
  • Job training
  • Pell and other post-secondary education grants
  • Public education
  • Transportation infrastructure

The CAP budget also includes immediate investments in federal programs that reward work and help families climb out of poverty, summarized below:

A minimum wage increase

28 million individuals affected with an estimate of 2.2 million moving out of poverty

An increase in Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) and expansion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

500,000 households

Child and dependent care tax credits

5.2 million households

High-quality affordable child care

600,000 children

School breakfast and lunch

10.8 million children

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

8.1 million individuals

Supplemental Security Insurance for blind and disabled adults and youth

6 million households

Housing subsidies

1.4 million households

At least 8 million households lifted out of poverty.

The result? At least 8 million households lifted out of poverty. If that sounds like the right outcome to you, here’s how you can help policymakers recognize that we can grow our economy while supporting children and families:

Julee Newberger is a freelance writer and contributing editor to SparkAction.




Julee Newberger