Aug. 12: Candidates should focus on poverty

Aug. 12: Candidates should focus on poverty

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have talked a lot about helping the middle class and creating jobs, but neither presidential nominee has focused on programs for the poorest Americans, including those who aren’t working. Housing has also been missing from the conversation, with neither candidate mentioning a plan to increase affordable housing or bolster homeownership at their convention.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have talked a lot about helping the middle class and creating jobs, but neither presidential nominee has focused on programs for the poorest Americans, including those who aren’t working. Housing has also been missing from the conversation, with neither candidate mentioning a plan to increase affordable housing or bolster homeownership at their convention. Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times has more.

 

“We don’t have a full-voiced condemnation of the level or extent of poverty in America today,” said Matthew Desmond, a Harvard professor of sociology. “We aren’t having in our presidential debate right now a serious conversation about the fact that we are the richest democracy in the world, with the most poverty. It should be at the very top of the agenda.”…“It was pretty shocking not to hear that word, housing, uttered on the main stage” at either party’s convention last month, Mr. Desmond said. The silence is particularly striking because the problem is growing. There is not a single state where a full-time worker earning the minimum wage can rent a market-rate one-bedroom apartment for 30 percent or less of their income, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. And more than 11 million households spend more than half of their income on rent…The candidates have spent less time talking about the service jobs performed by the vast majority of low-wage workers. There were 64,000 steelworkers last year — and 820,000 home health aides.

 

Strengthen the Child Tax Credit

Children living in poverty who experience an increase in family income are less likely to experience “toxic stress” (proven to cause serious harm to developing brains) and are more likely to see long-term benefits. Because of the way the federal Child Tax Credit (CTC) is administered, the poorest children in the United States qualify for a very small income boosting credit, if any at all. Chuck Marr, Chloe Cho and Arloc Sherman of The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explain and offer a solution:

 

The full CTC should be available to all low-income children.  The fact that a child’s parents have fallen into desperate times and may have little or no earnings should not cause the child to be denied the CTC, as is the case today…The current practice of excluding children in families with $3,000 or less in earnings — and of failing to provide the full $1,000 per-child credit until the earnings of a family with two children reach $16,333 — results in children in the poorest families receiving no CTC and many other children who live in deep poverty receiving only a small, partial child credit. Since income can have particularly large impacts on young children in the lowest-income families, the first dollars of any CTC improvement should go to where they can do the most for young children’s brain development, health throughout life, and ability to live up to their potential.  Accordingly, the first priority for CTC improvement should be to boost the credit for young children in the lowest-income families.

 

Federal-state partnership to fund higher education?
To keep higher education affordable, the federal government should incentivize states to maintain a base level of funding for public colleges and universities. Writing in the Washington Post, LSU President F. King Alexander notes that this type of relationship already exists in funding for healthcare, highways and hospitals.

While many hypotheses about why tuition has increased have been bandied about, studies have shown that more than 80 percent of public higher education tuition increases during the past two decades were directly related to state disinvestment. In other words, as states backed out of their previous funding commitments, colleges and universities were forced to charge more just to cover basic costs and maintain competitiveness. The long-term result of this ongoing trend is that state tax effort for higher education (which measures actual state spending by a state’s total taxable resources per capita) is currently down to 1965 funding levels. If nothing is done to stop our states’ strategy of distancing themselves from funding responsibilities for maintaining affordable public colleges and universities, Colorado will become the first state not to spend a single penny on public higher education as early as 2025. This means that Colorado children who are now in pre-K classes will have no affordable public college or university options in less than a decade. States that will soon follow include Louisiana (2027), Iowa (2029), Michigan (2030), and Arizona (2032).

 

Charter schools vs. public schools
A Baton Rouge state appellate court heard arguments this week over whether or not charter schools can be considered public schools and continue to receive funding through the Minimum Foundation Program, the funding source for all public schools. The Advocate’s Joe Gyan explains:

 

Iberville School Board attorney Mike Fontham argued to the five-judge panel that the state is illegally redirecting Minimum Foundation Program funds from the Iberville school system to charter schools. “This is unconstitutional,” he said. “They’re taking our money and giving it to the charter schools. That cannot be constitutional.”…At stake is the flow of state money to about three dozen BESE-authorized charter schools, including seven in East Baton Rouge Parish, six in Orleans Parish, three in Lafayette Parish and two in Jefferson Parish. Mark Beebe, a lawyer for the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools and others, warned that the public education of 20,000 students is at stake in the case. “The Constitution doesn’t say ‘only,'” he said of the LAE’s and Iberville School Board’s argument that MFP money can go to only city or parish school systems… Charter schools are run by nongovernmental boards and they operate without much of the red tape associated with traditional public schools. Whipple, Guidry, Holdridge and fellow Circuit Judges Ernest Drake and Wayne Ray Chutz took the arguments under advisement without indicating when a ruling would be issued. Chutz was the third member of the original panel.

 

Number of the Day
18.5 – The percentage of children under 6 living in poverty in the United States in 2014 (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)