Mickey Kaus Finds “Good Poverty News”

Brad DeLong reads Mickey Kaus and asks:

But what is the “good poverty news” in the Census Bureau’s report? What is the “good poverty news” in this table? Is it that there are more people in extreme poverty than in any year since 1993? Is it that the proportion of Americans in extreme poverty is greater than in any year since 1997? Is it that the extreme poverty rate is 0.9%-2,336,000 people–higher than in 2000, at the last business cycle peak? Is it that the overall poverty rate stands at 12.6%, 0.1% less than last year? Is it that the overall numbers in poverty stand at 36,950,000, 50,000 less than last year? Is it that 5,369,000 more people were poor last year than at the last business cycle peak, in 2000? Is it that the poverty rate is higher than in any year from 1999 to 2003 or from 1969 to 1979? Is it that the number of people in poverty this year and last year is greater than in any year since 1994? If you parse Kaus closely, he doesn’t actually say that there is “good poverty news.” He talks about how Bob Greenstein “specializes in… suggest[ing] that good poverty news is really bad poverty news” and about how Eric “Alterman [got] his bogus spin.” He wants his readers to think that there is a whole bunch of good poverty news that is being spun as bad, but he doesn’t actually say so.

Kaus wasn’t done in his imitation of Donald Luskin. He continues:

The purpose of welfare reform wasn’t to lower the poverty rate. It was to move people from welfare to work … If reform had accomplished this goal–a near-60% reduction in the families getting welfare**–with no increase in the poverty rate, that would be a victory. That the poverty rate has actually has fallen a full point from 1996 (13.7% then to 12.6% now–an 8% reduction) is a significant success.

Maybe Mickey Kaus doesn’t realize that economic growth tends to reduce poverty. But as he is suggesting that the “welfare to work” wasn’t supposed to reduce poverty, I suspect Robert Reich is having a good laugh at Mickey Kaus’s expense!