Santorum Gets It All Wrong on Poverty in America

Rick Santorum.<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/5438148298/sizes/m/in/photostream/">Gage Skidmore</a>/Flickr

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GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, a devout Catholic, was asked by NBC’s Brian Williams at tonight’s Republican debate how he would tackle the issue of poverty in America. One in seven Americans, Williams noted, currently live in poverty.

For his part, Santorum trumpeted his record as a US senator in reforming America’s welfare programs to serve fewer people and so nudge lower-income people into the jobs market. Santorum then claimed that, as part of his reform effort, poverty reached its “lowest level ever in 2001.”

Bzzt. Sorry, Rick. According to the US Census Bureau (PDF), poverty actually rose in 2001, to 32.9 million Americans from 31.6 million. Percentage-wise, that’s an increase to 11.7 percent of Americans from 11.3 percent. In fact, most of the government’s poverty measurements—by family, race, ethnicity, location—increased in 2001. Santorum may want voters to believe that he helped shrink poverty, but no one did.

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