Income inequality is on the rise, according to a national report card co-authored by a University of Wisconsin researcher. Timothy Smeeding, director of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the UW, said efforts to address poverty have been largely successful.
“We’ve done a pretty good job helping the poor, and we have to recognize that we’ve done that,” Smeeding said. “The big help has been refundable tax credits and the SNAP, or in Wisconsin FoodShare, program. Although the FoodShare program is about to be cut by Congress, and they’re trying to restrict the EITC.”
Smeeding’s findings are part of the first national Report Card on Poverty and Inequality published by the Stanford Center on Poverty. The report card’s release coincided with the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.
AUDIO: Timothy Smeeding on jobs (2:00)
“Non-cash programs really help fight poverty,” Smeeding said, and it makes no sense to restrict them in the current economic recovery, which is seeing flat income growth and relatively few jobs created.
“The problem right now is that the Right says ‘you have to work to keep getting these benefits, why aren’t you working,’ the Left says ‘there aren’t any jobs,'” Smeeding said. He suggests creating a program to enable low-income people who truly want to work to fill “jobs of last resort,” with federal money being used to provide subsidies to employers who provide such work.
“We need more jobs, and we need jobs that make work pay,” he said. “We all have to work together on this, the employers and the employees. And if we do this, we’ll have a much more healthy and vibrant society.”