The Great Recession has dramatically blurred the lines between the middle class and people in poverty. Even worse, the number of Americans in poverty has increased dramatically, with over 20% of American children currently living in poverty, a staggeringly high rate in comparison to other Western countries.
However, our safety net programs are not a primary cause of the nation’s long-term budget problems.
Almost all of the recent growth in low-income entitlement programs is due to the recent recession, as well as rising costs throughout the U.S. health care system, which affect costs for both private insurance and public health programs like Medicaid.
An assault on entitlement programs is an assault on the middle class.
Entitlement programs also include Veterans benefits, unemployment insurance and Pell Grants, programs that are not typically assailed by partisan rhetoric.
Drawing upon her experiences as a struggling single parent, Robin has worked steadfastly to help those who struggle to make ends meet. As a state representative, she has passed legislation to extend Medicaid reimbursement to prenatal and perinatal health care services, as well as reduce Medicaid co-payments for name-brand and generic drugs.
Entitlement reform has little or nothing to do with reducing future budget deficits. Furthermore, deficit reduction must not ignore tax entitlements, as any future reduction that comes entirely from spending cuts means cutting entitlement programs that mainly help poor and middle-class families while shielding tax breaks that mostly help the wealthy.
As Congresswoman, I will take a balanced approach towards managing entitlements, through an even mix of revenue increases and spending cuts. But I pledge that I will support no deficit reduction agreement that increases poverty or income inequality.
With respect to other entitlement programs, I pledge to do the following:
– I will work to put the “affordable” into the Affordable Care Act: The Act successfully substantially expands health, thereby making people more employable and productive, and opening the path to the middle class. As Congresswoman, I will work to find ways to reduce exponentially rising health care cost growth in both the public and private sectors.
– I will oppose any resolution to a per-person cap on the federal Medicaid match, which would effectively turn it into a block grant program, thereby shifting the entire rise of increasing health care costs onto the states.
– I will oppose cuts to Medicaid that could not only harm those who are already participating but would jeopardize the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Medicaid expansion. Cuts to Medicaid may cause states to worry that future changes would make this matching formula less favorable, discouraging them from proceeding with the Medicaid expansion.
Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)/Child Tax Credit (CTC):
– I pledge to extend the 2009 Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). The failure to extend these provisions will drive nearly one million children into poverty.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly Food Stamps):
– I will oppose any changes to the SNAP program, including making it a block grant, which would frustrate its fundamental purpose as a program designed to respond quickly to help more low-income families during economic downturns as poverty rises, unemployment mounts, and more people need assistance.
– I pledge to protect Social Security. Social Security benefits play a vital role in reducing poverty.
Without it, over 21 million more Americans would be poor, including some 14.5 million elderly Americans.
– I will oppose raising the eligibility age for receiving Social Security benefits. That would put an unfair burden on most laboring people, whose bodies begin wearing out about the same age they did decades ago even though they live longer.
– I will oppose reducing cost-of-living adjustments for inflation. Benefits are already meager for most recipients, only about $15,000. The median income of Americans over 65 is less than $20,000 a year. Nearly 70 percent of them depend on Social Security for more than half of this.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF):
– I will support giving states expanded and more flexible options for implementing work requirements. TANF agencies could do more to help recipients achieve long-term employment success if they could provide assistance based on individual needs and circumstances rather than on a narrowly defined set of options that are inconsistent with the characteristics of TANF’s caseload and the current economic reality.
– I will also support fixing the Contingency Fund. When Congress created TANF, it recognized that states would need more assistance during hard economic times. However, the TANF Contingency Fund that it created for this purpose has not worked as intended. With high unemployment rates expected to continue for some time, now is the time to redesign the fund to ensure that states with the greatest need can gain access and restrict the fund to activities that directly address economic hardship caused by a weak economy.