Sunday, June 15, 2014

Not fewer poor, more working poor

Robert Reich pokes at three lies about poverty the GOP is currently telling. This might be part of a series. Reich has already debunked four lies about income inequality.

* Claim: Economic growth reduces poverty. Reality: Since the late 1970s the economy has grown 147% per capita, yet the share of Americans in poverty has stayed at 15%. Why? In that same time the share of total income by the 1% has grown from 9% to 20%.

* Claim: Jobs reduce poverty. Let's encourage and reward work! Reality: Yes, having a job is better than being unemployed. But more jobs pay lousy wages, the value of a minimum wage job continues to drop, and gov't assistance usually requires a person to work. Not fewer poor people, but more working poor (a phrase that is supposed to be an oxymoron).

* Claim: If the poor were ambitious they wouldn't be poor. Reality: No evidence the poor aren't ambitious -- many work long hours (for minimum wage).

What reduces poverty? Opportunity, starting with schools. Of the developed nations American is at the bottom or close to it on some important measurements:

* The amount of money spent on a rich kid's education compared to that of a poor kid. In most developed countries the money is equal. In America the rich kid's school gets a lot more money.

* The ratio of teachers to students. In America rich students have smaller class sizes. In much of the rest of the developed world it is the poor students with smaller class sizes.

* In America the best teachers are put into the best performing schools. In much of the rest of the developed world, the best teachers are put in the poorly performing schools.

So why does the GOP tell these lies? Because it nicely misdirects our national focus away from their power grab. And lies are cheaper.

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