There are many wildly misleading claims about poverty in America. Unfortunately, many of these myths are taken as truth despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. And yes, self-identified think-tanks peddle these myths far too often. As we mark the 50th Anniversary of President Johnson’s launch of the War on Poverty, here are the top 5 myths that should be put to rest in 2014:

1.      The War on Poverty Failed

Many pundits often assert that poverty-reduction efforts have failed and likely point to the official poverty level to support their claims. But, when you examine a more accurate measure of poverty the evidence is clear that the War on Poverty launched during the Johnson era and those implemented thereafter—such as the Earned Income Tax Credit—have helped make substantial progress against poverty. Still, without question, much more needs to be done to help further reduce poverty and hardship and promote economic opportunity.

2.      “Welfare” Pays Better than Work

Folks insisting that it pays better to be jobless have yet to produce findings that stand up to serious scrutiny. Read More

The second Quarterly General Fund Revenue Report from the Fiscal Research Division of the NC General Assembly reveals some underlying and troubling trends in the economy. It also foreshadows some of the particular challenges of the new tax plan—namely the tax rate reductions for profitable corporations.

On net, the General Fund was $83.5 million above the $10.02 billion revenue target for the first-half of the current fiscal year that ends in June. Revenue collections were ahead of target largely due to a “stronger-than-expected” performance by the corporate income tax. As the economy has slowly improved, corporate profits have been on an upward trend. Collections from the corporate income tax were ahead of target by nearly $90 million.

The new tax plan, however, diminishes the ability of corporate income tax collections to contribute to public investments and support revenue recovery after a downturn in the future. Read More

Gene Nichol—Boyd Tinsley Distinguished Professor and Director of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the UNC School of Law—wrote a year-long series in the News and Observer last year that highlighted poverty’s persistent and varying grip on North Carolinians. The timing could not have been more perfect. A group of state lawmakers were intent on dismantling the state’s public structures even though the economy was failing to deliver for far too many of our family members, friends, neighbors, and fellow North Carolinians.

Mr. Nichol cites some startling figures that I’ve shared in this space before, such as the troubling trend of poverty among children of color that is edging closer and closer to half of the population. But Nichol did what I couldn’t do: he tapped into the hearts and minds of his readers by eloquently moving beyond the bloodless statistics. He brought to light the disturbing and stark reality of how the iconic images of the faces of poverty 50 years ago when the War on Poverty was launched are not all that different from the working poor of today.

To the disbelief of many, he documented the experiences of those living in extreme poverty out in the eastern part of our state—experiences that are so meager that some live in shacks with no in-door plumbing. Read More

On Monday evening, US House and Senate budget negotiators reached agreement on a detailed $1.012 trillion budget deal that would fund the federal government through the end of September. The House approved the measure yesterday, with the Senate expected to pass the measure later this week. If enacted, the measure would end the looming threat of another government shutdown and roll back the harmful across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to take place over the next year.

The measure fills in the details of a bipartisan agreement struck last month that, as my colleague wrote at the time, represents a “missed opportunity” because it fails to replace the across-the-board spending cuts in the out years and fails to include any new tax revenue. Read More

More than 1 million jobless workers were deserted by lawmakers who failed to extend the federal unemployment benefits program that expired in late December. This came three weeks after the Congressional Budget Office concluded that extending emergency unemployment compensation through the end of 2014 would positively impact economic growth and job creation in the short term. Despite this report, conservative members of the US Senate blocked efforts yesterday to extend unemployment insurance at a time when long-term unemployment is at record high-levels.

To no surprise, conservatives are insisting that the extension of benefits be paid for by cuts in other programs, including those that offer support to low-income and jobless families. In exchange for their vote, some conservative Senators want to bar immigrant families from claiming the Child Tax Credit—a measure known as the Ayotte Amendment. This tactic is misguided and counterproductive. Read More