- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 14, 2011

America is a poorer country under President Obama. Since last year, the ranks of America’s least well off grew by 2.5 million, according to the government definition of poverty, which includes a family with income of less than $22,314 a year or an individual making less than $11,139. One-sixth of the country, 46.2 million, met this standard, according to figures released Tuesday. That’s the highest total since the Census Bureau began keeping track a half-century ago.

The blame lies squarely on Mr. Obama’s policies, which have strangled the productive sector. The economy is moving, but barely so. Gross domestic product edged forward at a dismal 1 percent rate in the second quarter. Financial experts have been busy revising forecasts downward, with the National Association of Business Economists expecting the year to end with growth totaling a lackluster 1.5 percent.

That statistic has a real-life impact. Without real growth, companies have no reason to expand operations and make new hires. That means the unemployment rate won’t budge from the 9 percent level, where it has been stuck for most of this year. When people don’t have jobs, they become poor. The high unemployment rates and the increase in poverty are both symptoms of the same economic disease.

It’s something that even touches the middle class. One of the more striking facts contained within the census report is the increase in the number of young adults, aged 25 to 34, who continue to live with their parents. That’s an increase of 1.2 million since the start of the recession. Mostly it reflects the number of college grads who can’t find jobs.

So far, grandma and grandpa appear least affected by the Great Malaise. The poverty rate among the elderly remains virtually unchanged at 9 percent, which is 40 percent lower than the rest of the population. The poverty problem shouldn’t be used as an excuse to keep Social Security reform off the table.

Instead, statistics show kids are hardest hit. Child poverty has jumped from 20.7 percent to 22 percent. When a household living paycheck to paycheck loses its income, the descent into poverty can have long-term impact on the children including lower educational achievement and decreased lifetime earnings. Short-term economic problems for a family can lead to a lifetime of lowered expectations for the children. As more Americans simply abandon hope of finding a job, they seek government assistance. That’s why 46 million Americans are on food stamps.

Rather than cultivate the American dream of hard work and free enterprise, the White House is obsessed with reviving the failed redistributionist policies of the past. The American Jobs Act is nothing more than a Keynesian stimulus package recycled from the Jimmy Carter era. The scheme will generate more debt while crushing the private sector - where jobs are created - with higher taxes. That’s not what the economy needs right now. It’s time to roll back Mr. Obama’s tax, regulate, borrow and spend agenda. Focusing on creating a competitive and innovative business climate is the only sure strategy for winning the war on poverty.

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