This year is not likely to be any better, economists said. Stimulus money has largely ended, and state and local governments have made deep cuts to staff and to budgets for social programs, both likely to move economically fragile families closer to poverty.
About 20.5 million people are in deep poverty, with food stamps increasingly replacing cash aid as the safety net of last resort. More than 45 million people get food stamps, an increase of 64 percent since January 2008. About one in eight Americans, and one in four children, receives aid. Using an alternative definition of income, the Census Bureau found that food stamps lifted 3.9 million people above the poverty line.
President Obama and the congressional super-committee tasked with deficit reduction have to protect families on the lowest rung of the economic ladder. Bash big government all you want, especially when it indulges in wasteful spending and earmarks for bridges to nowhere. But this is where government gets it right, big time. The safety net works.