Reed and Robertson on Poverty


“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”  ― Franklin D. Roosevelt

Counties in District 23 have above-average poverty rates compared to other parts of New York. How would you address that issue?


The following ideas for combating poverty are from opinion pieces published in local Gannett newspapers on July 20.

Martha Robertson:

    1. I will fight to keep these programs (Social Security and Medicare) strong and vibrant for older Americans.
    2. A tax system that expands our middle class– Martha opposes tax policies that reward special interests, millionaires, and corporations that ship jobs overseas.
    3. Opposes “free” trade deals, which reward companies that ship jobs overseas.
    4. Leadership–discount card for prescription drugs, increase our housing supply, access to quality education

Tom Reed:

    1. Leadership–leaders who listen and care.
    2. Aggressively pursue an agenda of opportunity
    3. Government should be used as a tool to provide the stability and opportunity needed to attack poverty.
    4. The Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act (RAMI) (currently blocked by House Republicans)
    5. Tom promotes a trained and skilled workforce, competitive energy costs, a lower tax burden, and a community willing to invest in its future.
    6. Tom promotes tax reform–A simpler, fairer tax code would save a typical family in the 23rd District an average of $600 annually. (tax preparation fees)
    7. We must work together to strengthen resources like local food banks and pantries that families rely on during their time of need. That’s why I introduced The Fighting Hunger Incentive Act, which incentivizes (with a tax break) restaurants and groceries to contribute excess inventory to local organizations working to fight poverty.

These ideas are disappointing–none directly addresses poverty. Poverty is measured by the amount of family income; it is unaffected by the cost of drugs or taxes.

“The official measure (of poverty income) uses three times the cost of a minimum food diet in 1963 in today’s prices.”

Some of these ideas intended to create jobs might reduce unemployment (none do directly) which would affect the poverty rate. Cuts to Social Security benefits would reduce senior’s income causing more to slip below the poverty line. Both candidates noted the high official rate of poverty in Tompkins County, but neither gave a plausible explanation. Census data shows that Tompkins County demographics are unusual for NY-23–the number of children under 18 and persons over 65 is unusually small. Thus the high official rate of poverty may reflect a large number of graduate students and starving artists in Tompkins county rather than any of the superficial, political explanations given by the candidates.

© William Hungerford – July 2014

About whungerford

* Contributor at where we discuss the politics, economics, and events of the New New York 23rd Congressional District (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, (Eastern) Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben,Tioga, Tompkins, and Yates Counties) Please visit and comment on whatever strikes your fancy.
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7 Responses to Reed and Robertson on Poverty

  1. solodm says:

    “Martha opposes tax policies that reward special interests, millionaires, and corporations that ship jobs overseas.” Seems like her policies, once in effect, would go a long way to ” to create jobs [and] might reduce unemployment ..”
    Reed stands idly by as businesses close their doors in NY 23rd (ConAgra’s decision to shutter plants in upstate New York). We need jobs to create income.

    “Outsourcing is a huge problem in the United States, and that’s due to government policies like so-called free trade agreements. New York congressman Tom Reed (R-NY) has been a proponent of these job-killing deals, and voted for new agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. Those agreements are expected to cost America at least 214,000 jobs.” Some of these jobs lost, would certainly be in NYS.


  2. whungerford says:

    The question, “Counties in District 23 have above-average poverty rates compared to other parts of New York. How would you address that issue?,” was a good one. Neither candidate made a serious effort to address it. Tom blamed Martha for poverty, at least in Tompkins County, while Martha blamed Tom and the tea party. Creating jobs, even full employment, isn’t an answer to poverty as even full time workers may earn poverty-level wages.


  3. Deb Meeker says:

    What are some potential answers to this broad question that was asked of the candidates?


  4. whungerford says:

    Increase the minimum wage
    Stop counting tips as wages
    Ban sub-minimum wage jobs
    Increase pay of civil service workers
    Enact a family allowance–a cash benefit paid to families with children.
    Relief from onerous student loan debt.
    Free college education for those who qualify as they once had in CA.


  5. whungerford says:

    Benefits for those near poverty (currently benefits are cut-off above poverty level)
    Adequately fund maternal and new-born care including Planned Parenthood
    Improve TANF
    Remove barriers to applying for benefits, provide for transportation and childcare for example.
    Provide nanny for mothers who work.
    Enact equal pay legislation.


  6. Maddie Lane says:

    I’m glad to see you propose your ideas. Thank you. I will tell you that small business can’t take a minimum wage increase. That decision shouldn’t be a federal one – should be state controlled. How can we blanket increase the minimum wage and account for TX, ND, NY etc, where small towns already struggle to keep main street alive?
    Who will pay for family allowance? Relief from student loan debt? All great ideas but no way to implement in a meaningful way without crippling local tax rates.


  7. whungerford says:

    Nonsense Maddie–other countries manage to do it; we can do it too if we seriously want to end poverty.


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