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One in six Americans already in poverty as $85 billion in cuts kick in

Published time: April 04, 2013 03:37
AFP Photo / Saeed Khan

AFP Photo / Saeed Khan

The estimated 50 million Americans already living in poverty will be hit hardest by the $85 billion in spending cuts set to begin after Democrats and Republicans failed to reach an agreement over the most effective way to address the national debt.

New statistics from the US Census Bureau reveal that one in every six Americans is living below the poverty line.

Additionally, one in five American children is now living in the same unfortunate situation.

The news that 16 per cent of the American public was living in poverty last rang true in the mid-1960s, when then-president Lyndon Johnson tried to launch a war on poverty. But his efforts – which fell under the Great Society program – were first suspended then permanently abandoned in order to pay for the US invasion of Vietnam.

Each individual American, or American family, is assigned one out of 48 possible poverty thresholds which vary depending on the size of the family and the age of its members. The thresholds were determined in 1964 and are based on what portion of their income families spend on food, although they do not vary geographically.

According to the Census Bureau, if a family’s monetary income is less than their predetermined appropriate threshold, then that family is in poverty. For example, a family of five with two children, a mother, father, and great aunt’s threshold was $27,517 in 2011. The 2013 threshold for a family of four is $23,021.

Food stamps, housing subsidies, and other non-cash government benefits are not used to determine a family’s income.

Now, the extra $85 billion in cuts will further exacerbate that financial stress. The sequester, which could have been avoided before the presidential election in November, could devastate programs that receive federal funding to help the poor. 

William McCarthy, executive director of Catholic Charities, told the Associated Press that the national budget cuts “will deepen and increase poverty” for low-income areas, children, poor senior citizens and many other demographics.

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