Clueless Rick Santorum: ‘Bush Policies Worked’ To Reduce Poverty To ‘The Lowest Rate Ever’

Posted on

"Clueless Rick Santorum: ‘Bush Policies Worked’ To Reduce Poverty To ‘The Lowest Rate Ever’"

Former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum appeared on Fox News yesterday to defend former House Speaker Newt Gignrich’s absurd war on food stamps, and threw in a factually-challenged defense of the Bush administration as well for good measure. Speaking of increased poverty rates during the recession, Santorum boldly stated that “Bush polices worked,” and resulted in the lowest poverty rates “ever in the history of this country” for African Americans and single women:

SANTORUM: Yeah, remember, under the Bush administration, welfare — I mean, excuse me, poverty among African Americans and among single unmarried women, poverty was at the lowest rate ever in the history of this country. So Obama’s policies are not working, Bush polices worked! For long a time as a matter of fact.

Watch it:

There’s one small problem with Santorum’s claim — it’s completely false. In fact, while the Bush years were disastrous for the economy as a whole, they were particularly devastating for the poorest Americans. Under Bush, the number of Americans living in poverty jumped an astonishing 26.1 percent. When President Clinton left office in 2000, there were about 31.6 million Americans living in poverty, according to the Census Bureau. When Bush left office in 2008, that number had jumped to 39.8 million — the largest number in absolute terms since 1960.

As for Santorum’s claims about Africans Americans, he is dead wrong. A Center for American Progress report found, “The percent of African Americans living in poverty increased from 2000 to 2006 by an average of 0.82 percent per year, after having declined by an average of 1.25 percent per year in the 1990s” — and that was before the recession. Poverty rates among African Americans climbed even higher in the last two years of the Bush administration, reaching an astonishing 24.7 percent in 2008.

And despite Santorum’s claims, the poverty rates for unmarried women also climbed under Bush. As a Center for American Progress report on single women found, single mothers were particularly hard hit, with nearly 30 percent living in poverty in 2008 — “a significant increase” over 2000 when fewer than than 26 percent were impoverished. And not only did the rate increase, but the gap between married and unmarried women grew: “The poverty rate of unmarried women was 13.4 percentage points higher than married women in 2000, but it was 14.6 percentage points higher in 2008,” the report found. Not surprisingly, that gap was even wider for women of color.

It’s unclear where Santorum came up with his bogus claim, as the data is easily accessible and irrefutable. Of all the issues on which to try to defend Bush’s record, poverty is among the most difficult. As the Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein noted last year parsing the Census Bureau’s annual report on poverty, “On every major measurement…the country lost ground during Bush’s two terms.”

« »

By clicking and submitting a comment I acknowledge the ThinkProgress Privacy Policy and agree to the ThinkProgress Terms of Use. I understand that my comments are also being governed by Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, or Hotmail’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policies as applicable, which can be found here.