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In spite of policies, poor have lost ground under Obama

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 9th, 2014
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Fifty long years after President Lyndon Baines Johnson gave his war on poverty speech; there are no plans to commemorate it by the Obama administration. It was in 1964 that Johnson added such sweeping changes as Medicaid, head Start and federal anti-poverty programs. In spite of President Barack Obama's stated dislike for the disparity of the rich and poor in the U.S., there are signs that the poor have actually lost ground under his administration. There are 13 million more people receiving food stamps since he took office.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The president's only public event Tuesday was a plea for Congress to approve extended benefits for the long-term unemployed. The gesture only served to underscore the ongoing economic troubles during the president's five years in office.

"What I think the American people are really looking for in 2014 is just a little bit of stability," Obama said.

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The poverty rate has stood at 15 percent for three consecutive years, the first time since the 1960s. The poverty rate in 1965 was 17.3 percent; it was 12.5 percent in 2007, before the Great Recession.

A staggering 50 million Americans live below the poverty line, which the federal government defined in 2012 as an annual income of $23,492 for a family of four.

Robert Rector, a specialist on welfare and poverty at the conservative Heritage Foundation says that Obama's anti-poverty efforts "are basically to give more people more free stuff. That's exactly the opposite of what Johnson said," Rector says. "Johnson's goal was to make people prosperous and self-sufficient."

In Obama's defense, the president's advisers say his policies rescued the nation from the deep recession in 2009, saved the auto industry and reduced the jobless rate to seven percent from a high of 10 percent four years ago.

Gene Sperling, the president's top economic adviser, said Mr. Obama has pulled as many as nine million people out of poverty with policies such as extending the earned income tax credit for parents with three or more children and reducing the "marriage penalty."

"There are things that this president has done that have made a big difference," Sperling said this week.

Sperling also points to the president's raising of the minimum wage. "It would make them less dependent on government programs. It would not add to the deficit one penny, but it would reward work and reduce poverty," he said.

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