Policy Shop Weekly Digest: SNAP, Poverty, Inequality, Power

I had 4 posts over at Demos’ Policy Shop this week. Here is a rundown with links:

Being Able-Bodied Doesn’t Make Jobs Magically Appear. Excerpt:

In the most recent month for which there is available data, July of this year, there were three unemployed people for every job opening.

Focusing on individuals being able-bodied makes very little sense in any economic climate. But in a recessed economy that is way beneath full employment, it is entirely incoherent. The importance, presumably, of someone being able-bodied is that they can get work. But an able-bodied person cannot get work when there is no work to be gotten. And that’s the reality millions of people currently find themselves in.

How Much Money Would It Take to Eliminate U.S. Poverty?. Excerpt:

In its annual poverty report, the Census includes a table that few take note of which actually details by how much families are below the poverty line. A little multiplication and addition later, and the magic number pops out. In 2012, the number was $175.3 billion. That is how many dollars it would take to bring every person in the United States up to the poverty line. In 2012, that number was just 1.08% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is to say the overall size of the economy.

Since 1991, Only College Graduates Have Seen Their Incomes Rise. Excerpt:

Obviously on the policy side, you do what you can with what you have. But we face this intractable combination of problems right now: 1) increasing income inequality that diverges on educational lines, 2) a strong link between parental income and childhood educational attainment, and 3) a strong link between parental income and offspring income that even dominates over educational attainment. In the face of that cocktail of issues, it is really hard to see how anything short of altering the income distribution is supposed to deliver the goods.

Inequality Is a Function of Political Power. Excerpt:

Once you understand what I am saying, you realize that the old leftist cliche is right: who gets what is purely a matter of political power. If the rich elites continue to run the show, it doesn’t matter what you do. The distribution will continue to favor them and income stagnation and inequality will never be whipped. Even if you make some strides against those things within the existing set of economic rules, they can use their power to change those rules to preserve the distribution they like. What ultimately matters for inequality is who has the power to control the levers of distribution management and what result they are aiming to produce. Everything else — technology, education, competition, and so on — is completely secondary.