It's not breaking news that 2009 was a miserable year for the American economy--unemployment spiked across the country, home foreclosures continued at high frequency, more Americans lost their health insurance and the ugly statistics go on and on. But the Census released figures today that put the economic struggles of Americans into stark perspective: the overall poverty rate climbed to 14.3%, or 43.6 million people, meaning that one in seven Americans is technically at or below the poverty line. There's no disputing the hardships faced by Americans, but what has been consistently debated is the best response to this economic crisis--Democrats, led by President Obama, have greatly expanded government assistance and welfare programs to assist the neediest Americans, while Republicans generally distrust the effectiveness of public spending. The chief of the Census Bureau's household economics division estimated that expanded unemployment benefits helped keep 3.3 million people out of poverty last year; what are the best policies for economic recovery going forward?
Alicia Lara, Vice President of Community Investment for United Way
Douglas J. Besharov, Professor of public policy at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, where he directs the school’s Welfare Reform Academy; former scholar at the American Enterprise Institute