POVERTY & THE DEMS -- AN UPDATE. A couple of weeks ago, during one of the rounds of the blogosphere debate on poverty, I cited Elizabeth Warren's article from The Democratic Strategist, where she said:

When I talk with families about politics, I often hear a variation on this theme: "Democrats care most about the poor. They tell me I'm better off than the poor, and that I should give up more of my money to help the poor. Well, I'm stretched to the breaking point, and I just can't do it any more." Whenever a Democrat stands up and says, "I'll help every child go to college," then cuts off benefits at $20,000 a year, the message just burns deeper.

Several bloggers questioned the existence of a program backed by Democrats that cuts off aid at this level, so I wrote her and asked for clarification. As it turns out, Warren was thinking of the federal Pell Grant system, which preferentially provides grants to those who come from families earning less than $20,000 per year, and which Democrats have fought tooth and nail to maintain in the face of Republican efforts to undermine it. Warren explains:

There is $20,000 "automatic zero" in the federal need analysis system in the Pell grant system. This means that if family income is less than $20,000, the family contribution is automatically zero. And, not surprisingly, the median family income of Pell Grant recipients is under $20,000. But above that level it can still be zero, if the recipient can show the need. In that case, family income may go as high as $45,000. So the benefits are concentrated below $20,000, and the automatic, easy access version is below $20,000, but there is some possibility of use above that number.

And there you have it.

--Garance Franke-Ruta