See also National Data | Another Lesson From 1965: More Immigrants=More Poverty, by Edwin S. Rubenstein
One Annie Lowrey has proclaimed on the front page of the New York Times that "50 Years Later, War on Poverty Is a Mixed Bag." [January 5, 2014]. Miss Lowrey turns out to be 29. I knew she had to be young because she doesn’t mention the dramatic, unplanned surge in low-skilled immigration that has occurred since 1965, with tens of millions of legal and illegal immigrants swarming the nation’s unguarded borders.
(In fact, none of the Main Stream Media pieces I’ve seen on the War On Poverty so far have mentioned immigration. Here’s another, from today’s Washington Post front page: “Great Society” agenda led to great — and lasting — philosophical divide, by Karen Tumulty, January 8, 2014.)
Lowrey’s piece tees off:
"To many Americans, the war on poverty declared 50 years ago by President Lyndon B. Johnson has largely failed. The poverty rate has fallen only to 15 percent from 19 percent in two generations, and 46 million Americans live in households where the government considers their income scarcely adequate."
I wonder how many of these 46 million were immigrants who arrived herelegally or illegally since 1965?
"But looked at a different way, the federal government has succeeded in preventing the poverty rate from climbing far higher. There is broad consensus that the social welfare programs created since the New Deal have hugely improved living conditions for low-income Americans. At the same time, in recent decades, most of the gains from the private economy have gone to those at the top of the income ladder.
Half a century after Mr. Johnson’s now-famed State of the Union address, the debate over the government’s role in creating opportunity and ending deprivation has flared anew, with inequality as acute as it was in the Roaring Twenties and the ranks of the poor and near-poor at record highs. Programs like unemployment insurance and food stamps are keeping millions of families afloat. Republicans have sought to cut both programs, an illustration of the intense disagreement between the two political parties over the best solutions for bringing down the poverty rate as quickly as possible, or eliminating it."
Lowrey is right to mention Republicans are trying to cut welfare, but she neglects to mention that both parties are eager to import poverty, either for cheap labor (Republicans) or for ethnic votes (Democrats).
This would be excusable if Lowrey simply ignored the labor market. But incredibly, she focuses on it.
Here’s a beauty:
"For poverty to decrease, "the low-wage labor market needs to improve," James P. Ziliak of the University of Kentucky said. "We need strong economic growth with gains widely distributed. If the private labor market won’t step up to the plate, we’re going to have to strengthen programs to help these people get by and survive." "
But how precisely can the low-wage labor market be improved while we are bringing in more poor and uneducated immigrants? As anyone who has taken Econ 101 will tell you, the price of labor, like anything else, is a function of supply and demand.
Naturally, our President, whose Executive Orders have been used to hinder enforcement and encourage more immigration, makes misleading and mindless comments to cover the obvious downside of his policies:
In Washington, President Obama has called inequality the "defining challenge of our time." To that end, he intends to urge states to expand their Medicaid programs to poor, childless adults, and is pushing for an increase in the minimum wage and funding for early-childhood programs.
But how can we maintain these programs if we continue to dump millions more people onto them?
Republicans are hardly blameless. As Thom Hartmann so eloquently points out in his masterpiece, The Crash of 2016, our social contract is breaking down as the middle class is gutted by the concentration of wealth by “economic royalists.”
It’s not surprising that The Stupid Party continues to ignore the immigration glut and continues to shill for its cheap labor loving donor class .Example:
But conservatives, like Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, have looked at the poverty statistics more skeptically, contending that the government has misspent its safety-net money and needs to focus less on support and more on economic and job opportunities.
"The nation should face up to two facts: poverty rates are too high, especially among children, and spending money on government means-tested programs is at best a partial solution," Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution wrote in an assessment of the shortfalls on the war on poverty. Washington already spends enough on anti-poverty programs to lift all Americans out of poverty, he said. "To mount an effective war against poverty," he added, "we need changes in the personal decisions of more young Americans."
This is classic blaming-the-victim. If there is poverty among children, surely they are not to blame. It is obvious that "Means tested" means mean!
My two granddaughters just graduated from two top colleges and are finding decent starting jobs very tough to find. The only “personal decisions" they can make is to look harder.
The NYT article does frantically defend Johnson’s War on Poverty:
"Still, a broad range of researchers interviewed by The New York Times stressed the improvement in the lives of low-income Americans since Mr. Johnson started his crusade. Infant mortality has dropped, college completion rates have soared, millions of women have entered the work force, malnutrition has all but disappeared.”
But high rates of poverty… have remained a remarkably persistent feature of American society… According to one recent study, as of mid-2011, in any given month, 1.7 million households were living on cash income of less than $2 a person a day, with the prevalence of the kind of deep poverty commonly associated with developing nations increasing since the mid-1990s."
But the most important cause of poverty is (drum roll) –
The more important driver of the still-high poverty rate, researchers said, is the poor state of the labor market for low-wage workers and spiraling inequality. Over the last 30 years, growth has generally failed to translate into income gains for workers — even as the American labor force has become better educated and more skilled.
Aha! The “poor state of the labor market”! What could be the reason for that?
Economists remain sharply divided on the reasons, with technological change, globalization, the decline of labor unions and the falling value of the minimum wage often cited as major factors.
Immigration and the labor supply glut is not even mentioned. Such neglect can only be deliberate.
This is not to say the NYT does not have a policy solution. Lowrey chirps:
If Congress approved a proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour from its current level of $7.25, it would reduce the poverty rate of working-age Americans by 1.7 percentage points, lifting about five million people out of poverty, according to research by Arindrajit Dube of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst."
But restricting labor supply by restricting immigration would be a surer way of increasing the price of labor. Simply mandating prices won’t work long term.
Where does this leave us? Apparently, we are all like Dickens’s Mr. Micawber, hoping that “something will turn up.”
"In the meantime, the greatest hope for poorer Americans would be a stronger economic recovery that brought the unemployment rate down from its current level of 7 percent and drew more people into the work force.
The final devastating sentence —
“The poverty rate for full-time workers is just 3 percent. For those not working, it is 33 percent."
If it were not so tragic, the willful neglect of the immigration angle would be hilarious.
Why did it become so hard to find a job? From 1925 to 1965, immigration averaged about 200,000 a year. Now we take in well over a million a year, legally and illegally.
The Economic Royalists (and, arguably, left-wing Democrats) are better off. But as long as there is de facto Open Borders, the “War on Poverty” looks more like a War on the Poor.
Donald A. Collins [email him], is a freelance writer living in Washington DC and a former long time member of the board of FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. His views are his own.