The poverty numbers from the Census release yesterday were pretty depressing, not least because they didn’t have to be that bad. Congress has been making things worse by cutting jobless benefits:
The Republican mantra is that we “can’t afford” to extend jobless benefits, or borrow more money to spend on useful public goods and services to get people back to work. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our borrowing costs are historically low. There’s no reason to be acting like the US is up against some kind of borrowing constraint or that there’s some pressing need to reduce the debt in the short run.
Over the long-term, to address poverty Congress needs to look beyond after-tax policies like transfer payments and in-kind services for low income folks. That stuff is important, but what’s more important is the way government shapes markets. In health care, in trade, in money policy, the rules are designed to funnel wealth upward through explicit policy choices.