Overton: Medicaid, tax credit combat poverty


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No one likes uncomfortable truths, whether they’re that the hot dog you’re eating is a slurry of leftover hog meat or that you and everyone you know will eventually die.

Another extremely uncomfortable truth is the national child poverty rate is more than 20 percent, and although only 16 percent of Iowa’s children live in poverty, our growth rate dwarfs the national average, according data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The data also indicated child poverty from 2000 to 2010 rose by 33.3 percent nationwide, 50.5 percent in Iowa, and 38.9 percent in Johnson County.

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, said at a legislative forum in North Liberty on Jan. 26 that child poverty’s rapid growth threatens Iowa’s economy.

As the state senator proposed, the state should increase funds for the state’s Medicaid program and the earned income tax credit, which would reduce how much individuals with lower incomes pay in taxes.

A report from the Center for American Progress found children in chronic poverty have family incomes so low that it costs the economy $170 billion per year. It also calculated that poverty leads to an increase in crime and worse health, annually costing about $170 billion and $149 billion, respectively. The total economic losses, the center concluded, negatively affect the national gross domestic product by 3.8 percent.

We can either ignore or confront uncomfortable truths. If we have any decency, any compassion, any humanity, we must protect the most vulnerable members of our society from the emerging child-poverty crisis.

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