The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Poverty Jump and "Shredding the Safety Net"


The New York Times is reporting: "Forty-four million people in the
United States, or one in seven residents, lived in poverty in 2009, an
increase of 4 million from the year before, the Census Bureau reported
on Thursday."

Mink is co-editor of the two-volume Poverty in the United States: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics and Policy and author of Welfare's End.
She said today: "The rise in poverty in 2009 -- the largest number of
people in poverty in the 51 years poverty has been measured -- should be
a wake-up call to politicians in both parties who have spent the past
30 years shredding the safety net. The spread of poverty in the past
year is only partially explained by the economic collapse of 2008 and
the prolonged, acute problem of unemployment that followed and
continues. Since 1980, income supports for low-income people have been
withdrawn, eroded, and withheld. Notwithstanding the current recession
-- deep and intractable as it is -- economic support for poor Americans
has remained meager, stingy, and inaccessible.

"Between December 2007 and April 2010, TANF [Temporary Assistance
for Needy Families] caseloads increased only 12 percent -- even though a
48 percent rise in Food Stamp caseloads attests to the exponential
growth in need during that period. The minimal rise in TANF enrollments
is not due to an improvement in the economic circumstances of low-income
families, especially single mother families. In fact, single mothers
are disproportionately unemployed, disproportionately shunted into
part-time employment, and disproportionately paid very low wages. The
low comparative rise in TANF enrollments is due to the active
discouragement of welfare participation by eligible families, the rigid
conditions for welfare participation, and the rise of ineligibility due
to draconian time limits under so-called 'welfare reform.' The grim new
poverty numbers expose a state of economic emergency for low income
Americans. It is time to end the 30-year war on the poor and re-dedicate
ourselves first to alleviating current misery and then to eliminating

A nationwide consortium, the Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA) represents an unprecedented effort to bring other voices to the mass-media table often dominated by a few major think tanks. IPA works to broaden public discourse in mainstream media, while building communication with alternative media outlets and grassroots activists.