Strong Public Policies are Essential in a Weak Economy
In an economy that is not working, children and families in Washington state need strong social and economic policies more than ever.
Strong public programs are a cornerstone of a strong economy, and are a major reason why the recent downturn did not become another Great Depression. In 2011 alone, policies like the State Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and Unemployment Insurance (UI) kept 40 million people in the U.S. out of poverty.
Washington state’s most recent employment report shows that there still aren’t enough jobs being created, and that the slight drop in the most recent unemployment rate is largely due to people who have given up looking for work. The jobs data look grim – 18 of the top 20 occupations with the most vacancies in Washington state do not pay enough for a family of three to even meet basic needs (see figure).
The lack of jobs – especially those that pay enough to get by – is one of the main reasons for Washington state’s declining middle class and increase in poverty. One in three kids in our state lives in a low income family, which does not bode well for their future or our collective well-being as a state (see figure).
As the Legislature debates a new budget this session, policymakers should keep in mind that investments in programs that help families find or keep a job and keep children out of poverty are essential to improving the overall economy.
Stay tuned to schmudget this week for a series on investments that will rebuild the middle class and put Washington state on a stronger path to prosperity.