Before the new Republican administration has a chance to implement its campaign promises and dismantle the social safety net, it’s useful to remember who in fact is assisted by the existing programs.
According to a new study by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, people of all races and ethnic groups who lack a bachelor’s degree receive significant help from the safety net. But white working-class adults stand out.
Among working-age adults without a college degree, 6.2 million whites are lifted above the poverty line by the safety net — more than any other racial or ethnic group. In addition, the percentage of people who would otherwise be poor that safety net programs lift out of poverty is greater for white working-age adults without a college degree than for other adults without a college degree.
But we also need to remember how brutal U.S. capitalism is, before government programs are taken into account.
In particular, as can been seen in the table above, the poverty rate before taking income from government programs into account is more than three times higher among working-age adults without a college degree (30.4 percent) than among other adults (8.7 percent). And while poverty rates are lower for white adults without a college degree (24.3 percent) than for other adults without a degree (43.1 percent for Blacks and 36.2 percent for Hispanics), 1 in 4 white adults who lack a degree is poor before accounting for government benefits and tax credits.
The fact is, government anti-poverty programs are so important—for white, Black, and Hispanic Americans—precisely because capitalism in the United States generates so much poverty among its workers, especially those without a college degree.