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
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.