Analysis Politics

Hard Work and Marriage Aren’t the Magic Cure-Alls for Poverty Jeb Bush Is Hoping For

Ally Boguhn

Economists are already calling out the dangerous ramifications of Bush’s plan to eliminate safety net programs in favor of providing block grants to states.

At the Kemp Poverty Forum in South Carolina on Saturday, Republican heavy-hitters threw around a lot of suggestions—and plenty of misinformation—about what is causing poverty in the United States and the best ways to end it. Chief among their talking points were the popular conservative notions that marriage and working hard are magic cure-alls that could do away with poverty altogether, claims that Jeb Bush used last week to launch his welfare reform platform in anticipation of the event.

Fresh off the release of his “Empowerment Agenda for the 21st Century,” Bush used the Kemp forum to highlight the main points of his plan to makeover welfare programs.

“Work needs to be the single biggest requirement,” Bush said at the forum. “No more waivers, as this administration has done,” he went on, seemingly referring to a temporary waiver on work requirements for food stamp recipients living in states with dire economic situations.

“Imagine a system where you are starting from scratch, not the one we have today. If you had the same amount of money, but you could deliver these programs to help people get out of poverty in a different way. You would reward marriage, not penalize it,” Bush continued, likely referencing the Earned Income Tax Credit (EIC).

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The details of Bush’s welfare reform push identify four key areas of change for social safety net programs: eliminating what Bush deems to be “bloated, destructive welfare programs” such as such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and Section 8 housing vouchers and replacing these programs with state block grants; eliminating fraud and abuse; promoting work throughout welfare programs; and “promot[ing] marriage” both generally and through the tax code.

Economists are already calling out the dangerous ramifications of Bush’s plan to eliminate safety net programs in favor of providing block grants. Economist Jared Bernstein noted on his blog that Bush’s proposal, like a similar pitch from Paul Ryan in years past, may actually “increase poverty,” deeming it an attempt to “fix poverty by breaking the safety net. And that’s a really bad idea.”

And Bush’s initial justification for his reformsthat these programs are rampant with fraud—is false. His claim in the plan that social safety net programs are “subject to considerable waste, fraud and abuse,” making federal funding “unfair” for taxpayers to pay into, is nothing more than a conservative myth.

Occurrences of fraud and error in programs such as SNAP are actually incredibly rare. A 2014 report from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities found that SNAP errors are at “an all-time low,” having declined for seven consecutive years in a row.

Bush’s proposal goes on to call for a greater emphasis on “promoting work” by instating a work requirement for able-bodied welfare usersbut that requirement already exists for many programs, as stringent work requirements were signed into law as part of a 1996 welfare reform package. And the results are nothing to brag about.

When it comes to SNAP, for example, the 1996 reform included a mandate that childless SNAP recipients be cut off from the program after three months if they did not find work for at least 80 hours per month or a job training program. States are able to receive a waiver from the work requirement during times of high unemployment. Although 37 states qualified for such waivers for 2015, eight—Delaware, Maine, Texas, Colorado, Indiana, New Mexico, Ohio and Wisconsin—moved to partially or completely bring back work requirements anyway, according to the New Republic.

As waivers begin to expire, economic policy experts estimate that more than 500,000 adults could lose access to food assistanceeven if they are actively searching for work and willing to accept any reasonable job offer.

Cutting off food assistance over a work requirement means ending access to a program already proven to help “millions of households lift themselves out of poverty,” as the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) explained:

By providing benefits that must be used to purchase food, SNAP is an important part of a low-income household’s budget. A CBPP analysis using the Supplemental Poverty Measure, which counts SNAP as income, found that SNAP kept about 4.8 million people out of poverty in 2013, including about 2.1 million children. SNAP also lifted 1.3 million children out of deep poverty (defined as 50 percent of the poverty line) in 2013, more than any other government assistance program.

The next part of Bush’s plan calls for a focus on “strengthening families” by focusing on marriage, under the assumption that the “most effective anti-poverty program is a strong, two-parent family.” 

Bush and his fellow Republicans are right about one thing: There is research to suggest that those married are less likely to experience poverty than their unmarried counterparts.

But the connection between marriage and poverty is a lot less black and white than Republicans might have us believe. As the Center for American Progress (CAP) explained in a January 2015 report, although stable marriages can help keep children out of poverty, pushing them as the solution to ending the issue relies on the false assumption that there are “static types of families that children are born into and remain in until they leave home.” However, many children experience an ever-transitional family structure over the course of their adolescence; those family structures are often not based around a married two-person parenting unit and can also include grandparents and other family members. The apparent correlation also glosses over the fact that a stable two-parent household may include unmarried parents, a reality for many same-sex partnerships where marriage was, until recently, not an option.

CAP’s report went on to directly contradict the “claim that marriage is the only difference between being poor and not poor with kids” frequently championed by Republicans, noting that there are now more married than never-married parents living below the poverty line.

“Of the 12 million poor adults who lived with related minor children in 2010, about 43 percent were married; 39 percent were never married, although a substantial share of this group were in a cohabiting relationship; 10 percent were divorced; 6 percent were married but separated; and 2 percent were widowed,” CAP’s report explained.

And we shouldn’t be so quick to attribute findings that married couples are less likely to live in poverty to the marriage itself.

“It isn’t that having a lasting and successful marriage is a cure for living in poverty,” Kristi Williams of Ohio State University told the New York Times in 2014. “Living in poverty is a barrier to having a lasting and successful marriage.”

Economist Nancy Folbre and historian Stephanie Coontz questioned the “widespread assumption that failure to marry, rather than unemployment, poor education, and lack of affordable child care, is the primary cause of child poverty,” in a brief on the topic, noting that “the low income associated with single parenthood reflects many interrelated factors.”

“Income is distributed far more unequally in the United States than in most other developed countries, making it difficult for low-wage workers (male or female) to support a family without a second income,” wrote Folbre and Coontz.

The GOP’s steadfast obsession with focusing on work and marriage as the end-all be-all solutions to poverty ignore the bigger picture. There is no magic pill that will unequivocally solve poverty, and the platforms the party is pushing to help address the issue—like Jeb Bush’s welfare reform proposal—ignore its root causes and do more to harm the poor than help them.

News Politics

Tim Kaine Changes Position on Federal Funding for Abortion Care

Ally Boguhn

The Obama administration, however, has not signaled support for rolling back the Hyde Amendment's ban on federal funding for abortion care.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), the Democratic Party’s vice presidential candidate, has promised to stand with nominee Hillary Clinton in opposing the Hyde Amendment, a ban on federal funding for abortion care.

Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, told CNN’s State of the Union Sunday that Kaine “has said that he will stand with Secretary Clinton to defend a woman’s right to choose, to repeal the Hyde amendment,” according to the network’s transcript.

“Voters can be 100 percent confident that Tim Kaine is going to fight to protect a woman’s right to choose,” Mook said.

The commitment to opposing Hyde was “made privately,” Clinton spokesperson Jesse Ferguson later clarified to CNN’s Edward Mejia Davis.

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Kaine’s stated support for ending the federal ban on abortion funding is a reversal on the issue for the Virginia senator. Kaine this month told the Weekly Standard  that he had not “been informed” that this year’s Democratic Party platform included a call for repealing the Hyde Amendment. He said he has “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde amendment.”

Repealing the Hyde Amendment has been an issue for Democrats on the campaign trail this election cycle. Speaking at a campaign rally in New Hampshire in January, Clinton denounced Hyde, noting that it made it “harder for low-income women to exercise their full rights.”

Clinton called the federal ban on abortion funding “hard to justify” when asked about it later that month at the Brown and Black Presidential Forum, adding that “the full range of reproductive health rights that women should have includes access to safe and legal abortion.”

Clinton’s campaign told Rewire during her 2008 run for president that she “does not support the Hyde amendment.”

The Democratic Party on Monday codified its commitment to opposing Hyde, as well as the Helms Amendment’s ban on foreign assistance funds being used for abortion care. 

The Obama administration, however, has not signaled support for rolling back Hyde’s ban on federal funding for abortion care.

When asked about whether the president supported the repeal of Hyde during the White House press briefing Tuesday, Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said he did not “believe we have changed our position on the Hyde Amendment.”

When pushed by a reporter to address if the administration is “not necessarily on board” with the Democratic platform’s call to repeal Hyde, Schultz said that the administration has “a longstanding view on this and I don’t have any changes in our position to announce today.”

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Republican National Convention Edition

Ally Boguhn

The Trump family's RNC claims about crime and the presidential candidate's record on gender equality have kept fact-checkers busy.

Republicans came together in Cleveland this week to nominate Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention (RNC), generating days of cringe-inducing falsehoods and misleading statements on crime, the nominee’s positions on gender equality, and LGBTQ people.

Trump’s Acceptance Speech Blasted for Making False Claims on Crime

Trump accepted the Republican nomination in a Thursday night speech at the RNC that drew harsh criticism for many of its misleading and outright false talking points.

Numerous fact-checkers took Trump to task, calling out many of his claims for being “wrong,” and “inflated or misleading.”

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 Among the most hotly contested of Trump’s claims was the assertion that crime has exploded across the country.

“Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement,” Trump claimed, according to his prepared remarks, which were leaked ahead of his address. “Homicides last year increased by 17 percent in America’s 50 largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years. In our nation’s capital, killings have risen by 50 percent. They are up nearly 60 percent in nearby Baltimore.”

Crime rates overall have been steadily declining for years.

“In 2015, there was an uptick in homicides in 36 of the 50 largest cities compared to the previous years. The rate did, indeed, increase nearly 17 percent, and it was the worst annual change since 1990. The homicide rate was up 54.3 percent in Washington, and 58.5 percent in Baltimore,” explained Washington Post fact checkers Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee. “But in the first months of 2016, homicide trends were about evenly split in the major cities. Out of 63 agencies reporting to the Major Cities Chiefs Association, 32 cities saw a decrease in homicides in first quarter 2016 and 31 saw an increase.”

Ames Grawert, a counsel in the Brennan Center’s Justice Program, said in a statement posted to the organization’s website that 2016 statistics aren’t sufficient in declaring crime rate trends. 

“Overall, crime rates remain at historic lows. Fear-inducing soundbites are counterproductive, and distract from nuanced, data-driven, and solution-oriented conversations on how to build a smarter criminal justice system in America,” Grawert said. “It’s true that some cities saw an increase in murder rates last year, and that can’t be ignored, but it’s too early to say if that’s part of a national trend.” 

When Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, was confronted with the common Republican falsehoods on crime during a Thursday interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, he claimed that the FBI’s statistics were not to be trusted given that the organization recently advised against charges in connection with Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

“According to FBI statistics, crime rates have been going down for decades,” Tapper told Manafort. “How can Republicans make the argument that it’s somehow more dangerous today when the facts don’t back that up?”

“People don’t feel safe in their neighborhoods,” said Manafort, going on to claim that “the FBI is certainly suspect these days after what they did with Hillary Clinton.”

There was at least one notable figure who wholeheartedly embraced Trump’s fearmongering: former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. “Great Trump Speech,” tweeted Duke on Thursday evening. “Couldn’t have said it better!”

Ben Carson Claims Transgender People Are Proof of “How Absurd We Have Become”

Former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson criticized the existence of transgender people while speaking at the Florida delegation breakfast on Tuesday in Cleveland.  

“You know, we look at this whole transgender thing, I’ve got to tell you: For thousands of years, mankind has known what a man is and what a woman is. And now, all of a sudden we don’t know anymore,” said Carson, a retired neurosurgeon. “Now, is that the height of absurdity? Because today you feel like a woman, even though everything about you genetically says that you’re a man or vice versa?”

“Wouldn’t that be the same as if you woke up tomorrow morning after seeing a movie about Afghanistan or reading some books and said, ‘You know what? I’m Afghanistan. Look, I know I don’t look that way. My ancestors came from Sweden, or something, I don’t know. But I really am. And if you say I’m not, you’re a racist,’” Carson said. “This is how absurd we have become.”

When confronted with his comments during an interview with Yahoo News’ Katie Couric, Carson doubled down on his claims.“There are biological markers that tell us whether we are a male or a female,” said Carson. “And just because you wake up one day and you say, ‘I think I’m the other one,’ that doesn’t change it. Just, a leopard can’t change its spots.”

“It’s not as if they woke up one day and decided, ‘I’m going to be a male or I’m going to be a female,’” Couric countered, pointing out that transgender people do not suddenly choose to change their gender identities on a whim.

Carson made several similar comments last year while on the campaign trail.

In December, Carson criticized the suggested that allowing transgender people into the military amounted to using the armed services “as a laboratory for social experimentation.”

Carson once suggested that allowing transgender people to use the restroom that aligned with their gender identity amounted to granting them “extra rights.”

Ivanka Trump Claims Her Father Supports Equal Pay, Access to Child Care

Ivanka Trump, the nominee’s daughter, made a pitch during her speech Thursday night at the RNC for why women voters should support her father.

“There have always been men of all background and ethnicities on my father’s job sites. And long before it was commonplace, you also saw women,” Ivanka Trump said. “At my father’s company, there are more female than male executives. Women are paid equally for the work that we do and when a woman becomes a mother, she is supported, not shut out.” 

“As president, my father will change the labor laws that were put into place at a time when women were not a significant portion of the workforce. And he will focus on making quality child care affordable and accessible for all,” she continued before pivoting to address the gender wage gap. 

“Policies that allow women with children to thrive should not be novelties; they should be the norm. Politicians talk about wage equality, but my father has made it a practice at his company throughout his entire career.”

However, Trump’s stated positions on the gender wage gap, pregnancy and mothers in the workplace, and child care don’t quite add up to the picture the Trumps tried to paint at the RNC.

In 2004, Trump called pregnancy an “inconvenience” for employers. When a lawyer asked for a break during a deposition in 2011 to pump breast milk, Trump reportedly called her “disgusting.”

According to a June analysis conducted by the Boston Globe, the Trump campaign found that men who worked on Trump’s campaign “made nearly $6,100, or about 35 percent more [than women during the April payroll]. The disparity is slightly greater than the gender pay gap nationally.”

A former organizer for Trump also filed a discrimination complaint in January, alleging that she was paid less than her male counterparts.

When Trump was questioned about equal pay during a campaign stop last October, he did not outline his support for policies to address the issue. Instead, Trump suggested that, “You’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job.” Though he had previously stated that men and women who do the same job should be paid the same during an August 2015 interview on MSNBC, he also cautioned that determining whether people were doing the same jobs was “tricky.”

Trump has been all but completely silent on child care so far on the campaign trail. In contrast, Clinton released an agenda in May to address the soaring costs of child care in the United States.

Ivanka’s claims were not the only attempt that night by Trump’s inner circle to explain why women voters should turn to the Republican ticket. During an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Manafort said that women would vote for the Republican nominee because they “can’t afford their lives anymore.”

“Many women in this country feel they can’t afford their lives, their husbands can’t afford to be paying for the family bills,” claimed Manafort. “Hillary Clinton is guilty of being part of the establishment that created that problem. They’re going to hear the message. And as they hear the message, that’s how we are going to appeal to them.”

What Else We’re Reading

Vox’s Dara Lind explained how “Trump’s RNC speech turned his white supporters’ fear into a weapon.”

Now that Mike Pence is the Republican nominee for vice president, Indiana Republicans have faced “an intense, chaotic, awkward week of brazen lobbying at the breakfast buffet, in the hallways and on the elevators” at the convention as they grapple with who will run to replace the state’s governor, according to the New York Times.

“This is a party and a power structure that feels threatened with extinction, willing to do anything for survival,” wrote Rebecca Traister on Trump and the RNC for New York Magazine. “They may not love Trump, but he is leading them precisely because he embodies their grotesque dreams of the restoration of white, patriarchal power.”

Though Trump spent much of the primary season denouncing big money in politics, while at the RNC, he courted billionaires in hopes of having them donate to supporting super PACs.

Michael Kranish reported for the Washington Post that of the 2,472 delegates at the RNC, it is estimated that only 18 were Black.

Cosmopolitan highlighted nine of the most sexist things that could be found at the convention.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) asked, “Where are these contributions that have been made” by people of color to civilization?