Nation readers know the record-setting levels of poverty in America today: nearly one in six citizens below the official poverty line of $22,300 for a family of four, including one of five kids. African-American and Hispanic children are even worse off, with poverty rates of 40 percent and 37 percent, respectively. More than one in three Americans are struggling on incomes below twice the poverty threshold—roughly $45,000 for a family of four.
In 2011, The Nation kept the plight of the poor and near-poor front and center.
When Congress debated budget cuts in the abstract, The Nation showed their real human costs; when Representatives voted against the interests of their districts, The Nation held them accountable; and when decimated state and local budgets hit poor people with a vengeance, The Nation told their stories. Finally, if you didn’t catch the year-end Occupy the Safety Net issue, check it out, you will get a clear picture of the state of the welfare system—food stamps, housing, TANF and more—it sure ain’t the hammock Congressman Paul Ryan says it is.
In 2012, TheNation.com will post This Week in Poverty every Friday morning as part of its continuing coverage of an issue editor Katrina vanden Heuvel calls “the shame of our nation.” The blog will track the vital statistics that are too often ignored; provide updates on legislative efforts at the national, state, and local levels; report on the battles activists are fighting in their communities; summarize cutting-edge ideas, studies, and proposals offered by antipoverty experts and organizations; find opportunities for action, highlight programs that are working, flag must-read articles, bust myths, list quotes of the week, and more.
Today, a look back at five key things we learned about poverty in 2011:
We Can Reduce Poverty
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) the poverty rate would have been nearly twice as high—just under 30 percent—if not for government assistance programs. That’s 40 million more people who would be in poverty. (Tell them the War on Poverty programs failed.) Six initiatives in the Recovery Act alone prevented nearly 7 million people from falling into poverty. But those provisions are set to expire and many of the programs that are working (or at least minimally working) are now slated for deep cuts at the federal and state levels.