Just how many Americans are poor? The Trump administration wants you to believe that just 3 percent of the U.S. population is poor. The Council of Economic Advisers made that claim in a little-noticed report published earlier this summer, as part of a coordinated effort to justify harsh new restrictions on government assistance programs.
This bad-faith estimate emerged more from a desire to hurt the poor than to engage in honest policymaking on the issue of poverty. In March, the Congressional Budget Office found that nearly half of social safety net payments are going to people that the federal government once considered “middle class.”
Think about that: At a time when even the middle class is starting to look poor, the administration argues that not even the poor are poor so that federal officials can move to cut programs that both groups now rely on to stay afloat.
So what’s behind this numbers game?