If You’re Poor, Does It Even Matter Who Becomes President?

narvikk / Getty Images/iStockphoto
narvikk / Getty Images/iStockphoto

In January 1964, then-President Lyndon B. Johnson asked in a State of the Union address that Congress declare an “unconditional war on poverty.” He instructed Congress “not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it.” As a result of this request, over the next few years, a number of transformative legislations were enacted to help lift people out of poverty as well as to keep Americans from slipping into it. In July 1965, Congress launched Medicare and Medicaid. The Food Stamp Act was passed, housing subsidies were expanded, as were Social Security and welfare benefits.

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Johnson may not have cured poverty, but he made momentous strides to fight it and we have his administration to thank for some of the public assistance programs and benefits still helping keep millions above water. But all these years later, things are different. Social Security is scheduled to run out of funding to pay full and on time benefits by 2035. Medicare is also at risk of insolvency. The supplemental poverty measure (SM) rate in 2022 was 12.4%, an increase of 4.6 percentage points from 2021. Some states are in far worse shape than others. For example, in Louisiana, 13% of residents are living in extreme poverty, according to Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity.

Evidently, we have significant work to do to not only relieve poverty in the U.S. but also to cure it, as Johnson said more than 60 years ago. Now, in the final months leading up to the 2024 presidential election, we must ask, “What would Biden potentially do to cure poverty in America? And what would Trump do?” We may even ask, “If you’re poor, does it even matter who becomes president?”

GOBankingRates posed these questions to Michael Hills, CFS, CIS, financial advisor at Apex Wealth. Here’s what he had to say.

Hills said that when examining how U.S. presidents aim to serve people at or below the poverty line, it’s crucial to take into account the broader context of social and economic policies.

“Historically, presidents have pursued various approaches to address poverty, including implementing social welfare programs, advocating for economic reforms and promoting job creation initiatives,” Hills said. “These efforts often reflect differing ideologies and priorities, with some presidents emphasizing government intervention and support, while others prioritize free-market solutions and deregulation.”

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As Hills sees it, if Trump wins, his approach to alleviating poverty in the U.S. would most likely be by focusing on stirring economic growth. He would likely do this through tax cuts, deregulation and trade policies aimed at job creation and investment.

“While proponents argue that these measures have contributed to overall economic prosperity and low unemployment rates, critics contend that they have disproportionately benefited wealthier individuals and corporations, with limited impact on poverty reduction,” Hills said.

Trump could, however, seek to cut back on funding for some of the public assistance programs launched under Johnson’s leadership.

“Trump’s administration proposed cuts to social safety net programs like Medicaid and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), [raise] concerns about the potential negative effects on vulnerable populations,” Hills said.

Unsurprisingly given their extreme political differences, Biden would likely take a totally different path to handling poverty should he get a second term.

“President Biden has proposed a comprehensive agenda to address poverty and inequality, including measures such as increasing the federal minimum wage, expanding access to healthcare through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and investing in education and workforce development programs,” Hills said. “His administration’s American Rescue Plan Act aimed to provide immediate relief to individuals and families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with measures like direct stimulus payments, enhanced unemployment benefits and child tax credits.”

Like Trump, Biden has his fair share of advocates — and critics.

“Proponents argue that these initiatives will help alleviate poverty and promote economic stability for low-income households, while critics express concerns about potential long-term economic impacts and fiscal sustainability,” Hills said.

At the end of the day, presidents can only do so much. This isn’t to say that can’t do quite a lot, but there’s a great deal of other, broader factors at play.

“Ultimately, the effectiveness of presidential efforts to serve people at or below the poverty line depends on a combination of policy choices, implementation strategies and broader economic conditions,” Hills said. “While different presidents may prioritize different approaches based on their political ideologies and policy agendas, the ultimate goal remains to improve the well-being and economic security of all Americans, particularly those most vulnerable to poverty and inequality.

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: If You’re Poor, Does It Even Matter Who Becomes President?