Policy Matters For Reducing Poverty In The United States
Although it’s true the economy has improved since the Great Recession, an astounding 46.7 million people still lived in poverty in 2014. Some states have made strides in reducing poverty, while others have fallen behind, according to the new analysis released today by the Center for American Progress. “State of the States: 2015” includes factsheets for all 50 states and D.C. with state rankings across 15 key indicators of poverty and economic opportunity – including poverty, income inequality, and health insurance coverage, among others. The new report makes it clear that policy matters when it comes to reducing poverty and increasing opportunity, and state policymakers have a host of tools at their disposal to bring about change that makes a meaningful difference for American families.
Even though many politicians love talking a big game on poverty and economic mobility, many policymakers refuse to support policies that will actually help struggling American families. Here are just a few examples:
- Nevada and Texas lag behind in the share of residents without health insurance, yet Republican lawmakers’ policies are only making matters worse. Nevada has one of the largest uninsured populations and yet all of the GOP candidates clamoring for votes in tonight’s caucus in Nevada have vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which has helped nearly 18 million Americans gain health insurance. If the Affordable Care Act were repealed, more than 88,000 people in Nevada could lose their health insurance. Texas ranks dead last for health insurance coverage, yet Governor Abbott refuses to expand Medicaid, making health care further out of reach for low-income Texans. Speaker Paul D. Ryan, the GOP’s supposed “all-star” on anti-poverty issues, leads the House Republican who have voted 63 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act and has proposed cuts to Medicaid, which provides health care to 70 million Americans, including low-income children, seniors, and people with disabilities. Adding insult to injury to low-income working families, Speaker Ryan opposes raising the federal minimum wage and has proposed slashing $125 billion from the enormously effective Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) over the next 10 years.
- Ohio and Texas have high teenage birth rates compared to the national average, yet state lawmakers want reduce access to reproductive health care. Despite the fact that Ohio has a higher than average teen birth rate and a high infant mortality rate among African Americans, Ohio Governor and GOP presidential candidate John Kasich signed a bill this week aimed at defunding Planned Parenthood, an organization that particularly helps low-income people access affordable reproductive healthcare services. Defunding Planned Parenthood in Ohio will hurt programs that helped serve almost 2,800 new or expecting mothers, provided more than 47,000 STD tests and 3,600 HIV tests, and provided information to young people and women about healthy relationships. Access to reproductive care is also under attack in Texas—which has nearly the highest teen birth rate in the nation—as the state legislature passed tight restrictions on reproductive clinics. These restrictions, which are being challenged in the Supreme Court in the Whole Women’s Health v. Cole case, would force low-income women to travel much farther to access reproductive care.
- Poverty in South Carolina remains high—especially among children—but Republicans won’t support critical anti-poverty policies. South Carolina—home to Speaker Ryan’s poverty summit in January—has one of the highest child poverty rates in the country. Yet, Governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley still refuses to expand Medicaid to help low-income families. And her pick for the 2016 presidential election—Sen. Marco Rubio—is no better: Rubio does not support raising the minimum wage and has proposed tax plans that favor the wealthy few over those in need. Though Rubio has gotten good press for his Child Tax Credit plan, his position on key expansions of the Child Tax Credit that help low-income families remains vague. And Rubio’s own plan for an additional Child Tax Credit will massively cut taxes for higher-income families like his own family, who will receive an estimated tax cut of $8,900 each year.
BOTTOM LINE: Policy matters when it comes to reducing poverty and increasing opportunity, yet GOP lawmakers at all levels of government oppose key anti-poverty policies, especially in states that need these policies the most. Though they may claim that they want to reduce poverty, these politicians—GOP presidential candidates, Republicans in Congress, and Republican governors—do not walk the walk when it comes to making this rhetoric a reality.
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