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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Obama’s Anti-Poverty Record Should Lift His Approval Rating

Tali Mendelberg’s and Bennett L. Butler’s NYT op-ed “Obama Cares. Look at the Numbers” gives the president and Dems a new meme to promote. The gist, from the authors:

…Mr. Obama has been more committed to communities like Ferguson than any Democratic president in the past half century.
…The Congressional Budget Office’s inflation-adjusted numbers show that Mr. Obama sought to spend far more on means-tested anti-poverty programs than other first-term Democratic presidents. The targeted needs include food, housing, education, health care and cash.
Mr. Obama earmarked 17 percent of his budget for these needs, versus Mr. Clinton’s 12 percent and Jimmy Carter’s 8 percent. These presidents all faced economic challenges, although of different degrees and strength. Each was committed to the needs of the poor and the disadvantaged. But Mr. Obama made good on that commitment far more concretely.
…Christopher Wimer of Columbia University found, for example, that tax and transfer policies lowered the poverty rate by only 1 percentage point in 1967, under President Lyndon B. Johnson, but by almost 13 points in 2012.
Did Mr. Obama plan to spend more simply because he had more mouths to feed? No. Even after accounting for the higher numbers of poor people caught in the Great Recession, Mr. Obama’s record outshines his predecessors’. His proposed first-term spending per poor individual was $13,731 to Mr. Clinton’s $8,310 and Mr. Carter’s $4,431, in 2014 dollars.

Mendelberg and Butler continue with more compelling statistical evidence of President Obama’s commitment to reducing poverty and conclude that the president’s critics “are wrong to say that he does not care about poor communities of color.” Add to their analysis that the Affordable Care Act has provided previously unavailable health care coverage to millions of impoverished people, and it becomes clear that few American presidents have done more to help low-income working people of all races.
And that is a message worth broadcasting far and wide as voter registration deadlines approach across the country.

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