Wednesday, February 24, 1999
Poverty rates have declined in MichiganThe chief executive officer of the Michigan Jobs Commission today blasted a report released yesterday by the Michigan League for Human Services, calling it deceptive and arguing that its conclusions, like the work that went into it, were deeply flawed. "The Michigan League for Human Services neglects to point out is that before most of these people joined the working poor, they were simply poor, often on welfare and often not working and making less money than they do today. We've helped over 100,000 people find jobs and get more money for themselves and their families through Work First and the welfare caseload has been cut in half," said Doug Rothwell, CEO and department director of the Michigan Jobs Commission. "We've helped people go to work, which helps them both financially and emotionally. But another significant measure is the decline in the percentage of people living in poverty. By both measures, Michigan's reforms are a huge success." Rothwell pointed out that the percentage of people living in poverty in Michigan has declined every year since 1994, when Work First was introduced in Michigan. The 1997 rate of 10.3% represents a 33% decline in the poverty rate from the 15.4% Michigan had in 1993, the year before Work First began. "In the United States, we spent $5.4 trillion tax dollars from 1965 to 1994 on a failed war on poverty. After spending all that money, enough to buy every factory, every office building and every retail and wholesale store in the United States, the percentage of people living in poverty had declined only 2/10ths of one percent, from 14.7 percent to 14.5. Now, under welfare reform, people are actually leaving poverty, and the Michigan League for Human Services continually fights these efforts," Rothwell said. "In short, they are backing the return to a flawed, wasteful strategy that wasted people and their potential as quickly as it wasted tax dollars." "Welfare reform in Michigan is helping people. Every single welfare recipient who gets a job, for even one hour a week, has more family income. Most importantly, they have begun the path to self sufficiency and started to break the cycle of welfare dependency. Job training is available, child care is available, transitional Medicaid is available, despite what the League would lead people to believe," Rothwell said. "I was deeply disappointed with this report."