The federal poverty line has not been updated for almost 50 years. As a result, low-income Americans who need social services but fall slightly above the current line are not factored into federal poverty statistics, making it difficult to justify poverty alleviation programs to the voting public.
The only politician with jurisdiction to update the poverty line is the President. For half a century, our country's leaders have dragged their feet; the time to act is now. Ask President Obama to update the federal poverty line immediately.
Current guidelines set the poverty line at $22,050 for a family of four. This extraordinarily low figure doesn't take into account the costs of healthcare, transportation, clothing, childcare, or even housing. Instead, it relies solely on an antiquated food budget from 1964 (adjusted for inflation) to determine an average household's cost of living, even though food costs make up a much smaller percentage of living expenses now than they did in the 1960s.
The National Academy of Sciences agrees: it's time for a change. In a nearly 500-page report, they suggest a new, statistically defensible poverty measure that is "acceptable and understandable to the public" and "feasible to implement," describing in detail the many changes that need to be made.
We know how to improve the poverty line, and we have the resources to do it. The time for deliberation and stalling is over.
An updated poverty line will force American politicians to acknowledge that poverty can't be swept under the rug. Demand that President Obama update the poverty line in accordance with the National Academy of Science's suggestions.
Photo credit: jurvetson
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