Anti-Poverty Programs: Not Just for Mothers and Children

The New York Times editorial board weighs in on the Republican Party's assault on anti-poverty programs, arguing that mothers and children aren't the only ones in need of them.

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Families stock up on goods at a New York City food pantry. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The federal government's anti-poverty programs have largely ignored a vast number of childless adults living in poverty, the New York Times editorial board writes in a piece that disassembles the Republican Party's relentless assault on the programs.

For impoverished Americans, the biggest obstacle to health insurance remains the refusal of 26 mostly Republican-led states to expand their Medicaid programs as called for under the health reform law. As a result, up to an estimated eight million people will get no help at all because they earn too little to buy subsidized coverage on the new insurance exchanges and too much to qualify for Medicaid in states that won't expand their programs.

Many of the excluded are poor children and their parents. Most, however, are childless adults, generally defined as those age 19 to 64 without dependent children. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, at least four million childless adults living near or below the poverty line will be denied coverage in the holdout states. Of those, 60 percent are men. They are part of a population of 26 million impoverished adults in the United States, of whom 16 million are childless.

Traditionally, Medicaid, and other government anti-poverty programs, have largely ignored childless adults under the antiquated rationale that only children, their parents, older Americans and the disabled are deserving of help. The sheer number of childless adults in poverty defies that notion, as does compassion and economic necessity — an economy cannot thrive with a significant share of the working-age population stuck in poverty.

Read the entire editorial at the New York Times.

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