The contrast between hardworking Americans and shiftless, lazy, poor people is a favorite of Republicans as they try to cut safety net programs like food stamps or housing assistance. But—even if you believe that people who don't work should starve—it's a contrast based on a lie.
, a majority of people living in poverty who can work, do work:
The top bar shows that 35.2 percent of the poor between the ages of 18 and 64 in 2013 were considered not currently eligible to work because they are retired, going to school, or disabled. The other 64.8 percent of working-age poor are currently eligible to work. The second bar shows us that among these currently-eligible workers, 62.6 percent are working and 44.3 percent are working full-time. Of the working-age poor eligible for employment, 37.4 percent are not working—a share that includes the 3.3 million unemployed poor people currently seeking a job.
It's not a convenient story for Republicans, but it's reality. And it's a reality reinforced by Republican refusal to raise the minimum wage and pass other laws that would make work pay.
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