‘Cliff’ Deal is a Decent Start for Low-Income Americans

By:  Greg Kaufmann

If you had told me in recent months that on January 2, 2013, we would have unemployment insurance extended for a year, an improved child tax credit and earned income tax credit extended for five years and no cuts to food stamps (SNAP), Medicaid or Social Security—I would have told you that you were out of your mind.

I understand that the criticism coming from the left about this deal is based largely on where things stand for the next round of negotiations, and also a concern that the deal didn’t raise sufficient revenues to avert substantial cuts down the road. But I’m troubled by the lack of attention being paid to how this deal benefitsthe more than one in three Americans living below twice the poverty line—earning less than $36,000 annually for a family of three, and the 46 million Americans living below the poverty line (less than $18,000 annually for a family of three).

I’m reminded today of a politically active homeless woman I spoke with earlier this year, who—although she is disgusted with Republican policies—was even more frustrated with “so-called progressives” (her words) whom she said talk about caring about poor people but fail to sufficiently speak up about their issues, bring them into their advocacy work and address their concerns in an ongoing and substantive way.

So let’s look at some of the particulars of this deal and how they affect low-income Americans.

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