WASHINGTON — Why are so many American families trapped in poverty? Of all the explanations offered by Washington’s politicians and economists, one seems particularly obvious in the low-income neighborhoods near the Capitol: because there are so many parents like Carl Harris and Charlene Hamilton.
For most of their daughters’ childhood, Mr. Harris didn’t come close to making the minimum wage. His most lucrative job, as a crack dealer, ended at the age of 24, when he left Washington to serve two decades in prison, leaving his wife to raise their two young girls while trying to hold their long-distance marriage together.
CBO finds that during the past 40 years, federal spending for 10 of the major means-tested programs and tax credits for low-income households more than tripled as a share of GDP. In 2012, such spending totaled $588 billion, one-sixth of all federal outlays. Over the next decade, spending on those programs will continue to rise under current law, CBO projects, driven mainly by growth in Medicaid and other means-tested health care programs.
The report was written by Will Carrington, Molly Dahl, and Justin Falk, with assistance from other CBO staff.