A recent article in The Economist magazine, commented on LBJ's fabled "War on Poverty." In the 1960's LBJ and his administration adopted a political goal to wipe out poverty, like the current administration's "War on Terror" Johnson had a particular difficult time identifying the enemy. The poverty line that was adopted and used to define what being impoverished meant (this poverty line is still used by the government today) is $18,660 for a family of four.
This number in no means truly addresses the actual cost of raising a family in America today. Mollie Orshansky, administrator of Social Security during LBJ's administration, determined the number by calculating the needs of a family's nutritional needs and multiplied by one-third, because families of that era on average spent a third of their income on food. The current threshold poverty amount is really the cost of feeding a family in the 1960's adjusted for current inflation. This is leading to criticism that there are a greater number of Americans that are living in poverty than the Census Bureau and the Dept. Of Health and Human Services account for.
The recent economic boom and welfare reform are agravating the problem. Due to the welfare reform initiatives enacted by Bill Clinton while the economy was booming several Americans who are in desperate need of assistance will not qualify. While the welfare reforms of the 1990's were heralded as reducing poverty, they are hitting the working poor the hardest -- those who work, but are unable to find work that pays a fair wage. Poorly designed welfare limits exclude the working poor from the needed relief that the government spends their tax dollars to provide.
This article was found at: http://www.economist.com/agenda/displayStory.cfm?story_id=3146724