Poverty: Mickey Kaus is All Over the Map

Mickey Kaus gets around to responding to Brad DeLong and has a lot more to say. Let’s start with something that will disappoint a certain troll:

“Roland Patrick” comes up with similar good news” in answer to DeLong. I’m skeptical, however, of arguments that claim the poverty rate isn’t even a useful measure because it “moves in the wrong direction on good [economic] news.” It looks to me like it moves in the right direction, but after a lag.

Alas, he follows this wisdom with:

But I’d love to see a poverty rate that makes two obvious corrections: 1) Don’t count the millions of new immigrants who come to this country poor and swell the poverty numbers simply because they have yet to move up the ladder. What’s the poverty rate in 2005 for those families that were here in 2000? Compare it with the rate in 2004 for families here in 1999, etc. … 2) Don’t count affluent people who, by reason of their affluence, are able to take off a year with no income and therefore show up as “poor” in the income stats.

Kevin Drum has some fun with 2). In his reply to Brad DeLong, Mickey Kaus writes:

If there’s good news, I assume it would be mainly that the poverty rate – and the “extreme poverty” rate – seem to have peaked, after the 2000 recession, at a lower level than they peaked after the previous recession … That’s a good thing, no? On the other hand, poverty hasn’t yet fallen to the low level achieved at the end of the Clinton boom/bubble. … Will the rate continue to fall? Has it maybe become less volatile – less sensitive to both busts and booms? Only time will tell! …

There WAS good news during the late 1990’s. The bad news is that the Bush recovery has not brought us back to those lower levels. But to be fair, maybe there will be a lagged effect – only time will tell. But then Mickey Kaus really gets nutty:

But I would think Democrats – especially Clintonite Democrats, should resist bogus bad news, like the left’s spin on the “deep poverty” number, a number that was suddenly emphasized by opponents of Clinton’s welfare reform when, after that law’s passage, the regular old poverty numbers failed to soar as predicted. The “deep poverty” number didn’t soar either, so leftish organizations like Robert Greenstein’s Center on Budget and Policy Priorities moved on to noting that “deep poverty” increased (slightly) as a percentage of all poverty – a completely confected statistic that we shouldn’t really care about.

I’m not sure what Robert Greenstein meant by “soar” (or even if he used that particular term) but the fact is that the extreme poverty rate was 5.4% in 2005 versus 4.5% in 2000. Also the official poverty rate in 2005 was higher than it was in 2000. We are hearing from the likes of Mickey Kaus that welfare reform worked – even though the evidence suggests poverty is higher now than it was before the Bush recession/recovery.

Update: Brad DeLong makes a very good decision:

Some correspondents are asking me to go back to [Slate]. They don’t know what they’re asking. You don’t know what it’s like over there. I can’t go back. I can’t. Please don’t make me.

Even as he wisely refuses to read Kaus, he makes an interesting point:

Yep. Rich people who don’t work, so they don’t have any earned income; don’t have pensions and Social Security; don’t own property, so they don’t have any rental income; don’t own stocks, so they don’t have any dividend income; they don’t have any oil wells or literary properties, so they don’t have any royalty income; and don’t own bonds or have bank accounts, so they don’t have any interest income. Rich people without any earned income, pension income, Social Security income, rental income, royalty income, dividend income, or interest income. But they are “affluent.” There are sure a lot of them. Why, I run into thousands every day. At Safeway.

The point being that the best way to address a dopey argument is to mock it!