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The Right Choices to Cut Poverty and Restore Shared Prosperity

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SOURCE: AP/Paul Sakuma

Cutting the federal deficit doesn’t have to happen at the expense of our country’s most vulnerable citizens. In fact, bringing more families into the middle class is essential to cutting the deficit in the long term and returning America to a sustainable and prosperous future.

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See also: Video: Making the Right Choices for Shared Prosperity by Lauren Santa Cruz and Katie Wright (CAP Action)

Read the full report (CAP Action)

In 2011 the official poverty rate in the United States was 15 percent, statistically unchanged from 2010. This means that 46.2 million people—or nearly one in six Americans—lived below the official poverty line of $23,018 a year for a family of four.

Make no mistake—this lack of progress is not an accident. Widening income inequality over the past 40 years, the proliferation of low-wage work with poverty-level wages, and conservative obstructionism on creating jobs are stalling progress on advancing our goal of cutting poverty in half in 10 years.

None of these trends is inevitable. We have the tools to make significant gains in reducing U.S. poverty—a goal that, if achieved, would bring millions of Americans into the middle class, grow our economy, and enhance our economic competitiveness. We have the resources to accomplish this goal even as we tackle our long-term deficits. Whether or not we achieve our target is a matter of political and public will and the choices we make.

The policy decisions ahead of us over the next year represent fundamentally different visions of what makes a strong and prosperous America. As our leaders determine how to move forward, austerity policies that continue to weigh on low-income families will severely harm our economy in the long run, shortchanging our future workforce and reducing our economic competitiveness. Cutting the federal deficit doesn’t have to happen at the expense of our country’s most vulnerable citizens. In fact, bringing more families into the middle class is essential to cutting the deficit in the long term and returning America to a sustainable and prosperous future.

Half in Ten believes an alternative vision is possible—a path that prioritizes the creation of good jobs, supports strategies to strengthen families and communities, and provides greater economic security and opportunity by investing in education and workforce training, nutrition assistance, health care, affordable housing, and asset building for vulnerable families. These investments are possible in the context of long-term deficit reduction if we ask everyone to pay their fair share, curb system-wide long-term health care costs, and make strategic cuts in our defense spending that do not jeopardize our national security.

By bringing people off of the economic margins and investing in their participation in shared economic prosperity, this plan will stabilize our long-term fiscal outlook, creating more taxpayers and greater economic growth.

Read the full report (CAP Action)

To speak with our experts on this topic, please contact:

Print: Katie Peters (economy, education, poverty, Half in Ten Education Fund, women's issues)
202.741.6285 or kpeters@americanprogress.org

Print: Tom Caiazza (foreign policy, health care, LGBT issues, gun-violence prevention, the National Security Agency)
202.481.7141 or tcaiazza@americanprogress.org

Print: Chelsea Kiene (energy and environment, Legal Progress, higher education)
202.478.5328 or ckiene@americanprogress.org

Spanish-language and ethnic media: Tanya Arditi
202.741.6258 or tarditi@americanprogress.org

TV: Rachel Rosen
202.483.2675 or rrosen@americanprogress.org

Radio: Chelsea Kiene
202.478.5328 or ckiene@americanprogress.org