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5 questions every presidential candidate should answer on poverty

September 16, 2015

By Robert Doar and Angela Rachidi

Any serious discussion among 2016 presidential candidates must address the issues facing low-income Americans. Despite the paucity and poor quality of our available data, there are certain facts about domestic need which any president should understand, and certain leadership questions that each candidate should be able to answer. Here are five:

1. How has the government’s social safety net performed in the fight against poverty?

America’s safety net is both a failure and a success. By one measure, poverty has barely budged since the War on Poverty of the 1960s. Recently released data show that the official poverty rate was 14.8% in 2014, only slightly below the 15% in poverty in 1970. And this is despite large increases in federal spending on anti-poverty programs.  Spending on these programs has increased almost tenfold in constant dollars since the early 1970s and increased from 1.0% of GDP in 1972 to 3.8% in 2012, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

But the official poverty measure does not take into account much of this increased spending. It primarily counts market income (income from earnings and investments), as well as cash-based government benefits (such as Social Security). But it does not include non-cash or tax-based transfers, such as SNAP, the EITC, or housing assistance. As a result, the official measure reflects the extent to which families are earning their way out of poverty, but fails to provide a complete picture of material well-being.

Read the full article at the American Enterprise Institute: 5 questions every presidential candidate should answer on poverty

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