Thursday, July 30, 2015

Scott Walker’s legacy: more children living in poverty

Wisconsin sees higher rate of children in poverty level under Walker’s tenure

A new report released this month sheds some light on some disturbing news.

The number of children living in poverty in the state has gone up. Between 2008 and 2013 there was a five percent increase in child poverty in Wisconsin, according to the Kids Count survey conducted this year.

A growth in poverty within the state can be found elsewhere as well. Those numbers are reflective in the number of Foodshare recipients, as an example.

From 2010 to 2014 the number of Foodshare recipients went up significantly. There was a 10.6 percent increase in the number of non-duplicated recipients of the program, signifying a greater need for assistance across the state.

These rising numbers likely had to do with the global recession of 2008. So the blame cannot be placed squarely on Scott Walker for this trend.

What we can say for sure, however, is that Walker’s policies have done anything but help stave off this rising trend.

In his first budget Gov. Walker signed into law a measure to reduce the Earned Income Tax Credit. This reduction especially hurt low-income families, who relied on the credit to help them, however small, pay for necessary items in their lives.

A single mother of three earning minimum wage, for example, saw her taxes go up by $500 after the EITC was changed. A two-parent household (both earning minimum wage) with two children saw a reduction of more than $150.

Those dollar amounts add up: and as a result, they create a higher burden for parents to help their children.

An additional burden was an increase in health care costs for low-income families. Though his move to refuse a Medicaid expansion in the state affected families earning 100 percent to 133 percent of the poverty level guidelines, Walker’s gambit increased costs for families overall. For those near the lower threshold of that range, it could have meant that their earnings and higher health costs ironically helped to tank into the poverty levels, contributing to the higher rates of children in poverty.

When he rejected the Medicaid expansion, Walker said that he did so not because he didn’t care about people, but rather because “I care too much about the people of this state not to empower them to control their own destiny.”

That’s an odd way of thinking, especially since the ability of low-income people to get out of poverty is maddeningly dim. Economic mobility is a myth: if you’re born poor, your most likely to stay poor. And gutting programs like the EITC or refusing the Medicaid expansion doesn’t help things.

The “destiny” Walker had in mind for people probably wasn’t keeping them poor -- but that’s the path he helped set them out on.

Walker’s legacy in Wisconsin is going to include many things. Among the most troubling is the trend of more kids living in poverty.

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