Eli and I have both written about yesterday's announcement that the number of Americans living in poverty remained the same last year, after three straight years of increases. Interesting numbers continue to come from this report, and I think this part is especially relevant to the presidential election:

Federal lifeline programs have helped keep millions out of poverty, U.S. Census data shows.

Social Security payments lifted 21.4 million people — including 14.5 million senior citizens — over the poverty line in 2011, while unemployment benefits prevented 2.3 million Americans from falling into poverty.

This stuff matters. If Paul Ryan had his way during the Bush Administration, Social Security would be invested in the stock market, and who knows if those 21 million Americans would have the same benefits they have now? Romney and Ryan both want to slash entitlement programs that save people from living in poverty. They don't understand that this is what government does. It's arguably the most important thing that government does; it saves people and gives them a second chance.

Most teabaggers claim that charity can replace these government programs, and that the money is somehow more meaningful if people choose to give it. That's bullshit. The charities that most people give to are bottom-line charities, the kind of programs that people use when they have no other path to get food, clothing, or shelter. Government saves people before they hit that point of desperation, so they can continue to be meaningful members of society. That's why they call it a safety net. We all helped build that safety net, and we all contribute to its care and maintenance. It's something that we as Americans should be very proud of.