Last week, we highlighted our analysis of the Census Bureau’s new poverty data, in which we found that unemployment benefits kept many Americans out of poverty and economic hardship in 2009. Food stamps helped, too. In fact, the increase in the number of Americans with income below the poverty line is nearly three times as great if you don’t count unemployment benefits and food stamps as if you do.
BEYOND THE NUMBERS
“Perhaps the biggest scandal of all — especially after last week’s Census Bureau finding that one in seven Americans is living in poverty — would be to allow the expiration of an emergency fund included in the stimulus to subsidize jobs for low-income parents and young Americans,” columnist E. J. Dionne wrote yesterday. But that’s exactly what will happen unless Congress acts within the next ten days to renew the TANF Emergency Fund, which 37 states have used to provide one-quarter of a million people with jobs.
The Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research, which makes the official determinations of when recessions start and end, announced today that the recession that began in December 2007 ended in June 2009.
Proponents of extending President Bush’s costly tax cuts for people making over $250,000, which the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has rated the worst of all options under consideration for boosting a weak economy, are resorting to increasingly dubious claims to buttress a weak case. Two examples are in today’s papers:
In the current debate over federal taxes, all eyes are focused on what to do about President Bush’s expiring tax cuts for high-income people. Proponents of these tax cuts, mainly but not solely Republicans, argue that letting the cuts expire on time amounts to a tax increase — and, with the economy still very weak, now is not the time to raise taxes on anyone, wealthy or otherwise.
The Census Bureau data for 2009 reflect the severity of the recent recession, as poverty rose sharply and the number of uninsured spiked. The new figures somewhat overstate the rise in poverty, however, because they do not count the bulk of direct assistance that the 2009 Recovery Act provided to households, which kept millions of Americans from falling into — or deeper into — poverty (as a broader measure of poverty that Census will release later this year is sure to show).
Today’s Census Bureau report shows that the number and share of Americans without health insurance rose by 4.3 million and 1.3 percentage points, respectively — the largest single-year increases on record on data that begin in 1999.
The headline story in today’s Census Bureau report is the large jump in the poverty rate in 2009. But an exclusive Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of the new survey data shows that unemployment insurance benefits — which expanded substantially last year in response to the increased need — kept 3.3 million people out of poverty in 2009.