The shameful persistence of “deep poverty”

The shameful persistence of “deep poverty”

An estimated 2 million children in America live in “deep poverty” – meaning their families survive on income that’s less than half the federal poverty line. This year, deep poverty is about $14,000 per year for a family of four. A new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds that deep poverty increased in the decade after the federal “welfare reforms” of the mid-1990s eliminated guaranteed cash assistance for struggling families. But the number of children living in deep poverty was lower in 2016 (2.7%) than in 2005 (3.1%) because of improvements to the economy after the Great Recession and efforts to strengthen other government assistance programs as a response to the downturn. Danilo Trisi and Matt Saenz outline policy options that can help families with the greatest hardship, including strengthening SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps), which lifts more children from deep poverty – 1.9 million – than any other program. 

Raising SNAP benefits also would reduce deep child poverty substantially. Research links receipt of SNAP benefits with long-term advances in health and well-being, but roughly half of all households participating in SNAP are still “food insecure,” meaning they lack consistent access to enough food to support an active, healthy life. This suggests that SNAP’s quite-modest benefits – which average less than $1.40 per person per meal – may not be sufficient to meet the needs of families in poverty. Additional benefits would increase families’ food spending and improve food security. The NAS report finds that a 35 percent increase in SNAP maximum benefit would, by itself, reduce the number of children in deep poverty by more than one-fourth. 


Business tax breaks (still) aren’t worth it
Numerous studies show that tax breaks aimed at getting businesses to relocate to a particular area have limited effectiveness nor long-term benefits. But many states and cities continue to find these tax giveaways irresistible. While companies receiving these incentives do create the number of jobs they promised, on average, they don’t significantly improve the broader local economy. Governing’s Alan Greenblatt explains why business tax breaks are so tantalizing for elected officials. 

Building up clusters of homegrown industries is likely to pay off better in the long run, but who wants to think about the long run?“ Building homegrown industries and diversifying your economy works completely against political timelines,” [President and CEO of the Economic Innovation Group, John] Lettieri says. “They want the ribbon cutting today and 1,000 jobs a lot more than the founder of a company announcing they’re hiring five people, and it might grow to 1,000 jobs over time.”


Bill shields schools from financial penalties
The Louisiana Board of Regents unanimously approved new, tougher minimum admissions standards for public colleges and universities last week, with support from all four state university systems. While the new rules allow exceptions to the standards based on students’ life experiences, they also give the Regents the ability to strip money from schools that admit too many students who don’t meet minimum requirements. State Sen. Cleo Fields, who will chair the Senate Education Committee, has filed a Senate Bill 76 aiming to stop the board from imposing those penalties. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte reports

“The board does not have the constitutional authority to appropriate state funds or take funds away from an institution, regardless of admission standards, and this bill will make that clear,” Fields said in a statement Monday. … The board, which divvies up most state financing for public college campuses through its funding formula, has never penalized schools for not complying with admissions criteria. Under the new rules, regents would have to vote to strip any money from a school — and the threat of reduced funding doesn’t come unless a school has breached the policy for two consecutive years.


Louisiana plants rank high in toxic emissions
Louisiana is home to four of the top 10 “super polluter” chemical plants, according to a new report from the Environmental Integrity Project. The “Breath to the People” report, done for the United Church of Christ, looked only at plants within one mile of a populated area, and ranked emitters by giving extra weight to plants who release a higher amount of the most toxic chemicals. The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate’s David J. Mitchell breaks down the rankings

In Louisiana, the Sasol Chemicals complex in Lake Charles ranked No. 2 nationally in the listing of the top 100 so-called “super polluters,” while the BASF Corp. and Shell Chemical complexes in Geismar were also in the top six. Ranked third and sixth, respectively, the BASF and Shell facilities are located in Ascension Parish, a few miles from Dutchtown High School, the state’s largest high school by student population, and the parish government-owned multiuse complex Lamar-Dixon Expo Center.


Number of the Day
26 Number of years since Congress raised the federal gasoline tax. The purchasing power of the tax has fallen by 71% in that timespan. (Source: Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy)