The Trump Administration is looking into altering how it determines the national poverty level, which may put some Americans at risk of losing access to welfare programs, according to Bloomberg. The move might occur from changing how inflation is calculated in the "official poverty measure" according to a regulatory filing by White House Office of Management and Budget. That formula has been used for decades to try and determine where the poverty line is and what people qualify for social programs and federal benefits.
The measure is calculated at three times the cost of a minimum food diet and adjusted every year as prices rise. It was first set in the 1960s and, in 2018, a family of four making no more than $25,900 was considered under the poverty line. This figure determines eligibility for federal, state and nonprofit programs like Medicaid and food stamps.
By changing this measure, the poverty level could wind up rising at a slower rate. One proposal has been a shift to "chained CPI", which regularly shows a slower pace of price gains than
the already rigged traditional measures. It shows slower inflation growth because it assumes consumers will substitute less expensive items when prices rise.
The Office of Management and Budget said: “Because of this, changes to the poverty thresholds, including how they are updated for inflation over time, may affect eligibility for programs that use the poverty guidelines.”
The change is being reported as an effort by the Trump administration to make it more difficult to access welfare programs. Last year, the president signed an executive order calling on federal agencies to strictly enforce current work requirements for welfare recipients and propose new stricter requirements that could reduce eligibility.
Trump said in December: “Millions of able-bodied, working-age adults continue to collect food stamps without working or even looking for work. Our goal is to move these Americans from dependence to independence, and into a good-paying job and rewarding career.”
This isn't the first time that the government has suggested using chained CPI to bring down the cost of government programs. While democrats won’t like to hear it, but President Barack Obama proposed switching cost-of-living adjustments in Social Security and other retirement programs to the index in 2014. Obama ultimately abandoned the proposal after outrage from congressional Democrats. Something tells us Trump may not fall victim to that same pressure, however.
At the beginning of the year, we reported that the U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights in the United States found about 40 million live in poverty, 18.5 million in extreme poverty, and 5.3 million live in Third World conditions.
The U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty warned the U.S. has one of the highest rates of income inequality among Western nations, while critiquing the Trump administration for the $1.5 trillion in debt-fueled tax cuts in December 2017 that overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy and worsened inequality among the middle class and poor.