What proportion of the American population would be in poverty today if we continued to use the measure of poverty that was established when the War on Poverty was started? Our poverty standards are very much like our air quality standards. Take lead for example. Emissions of lead into the atmosphere today are right at about the national standard for lead safety. But over the last 30 years, lead emissions are down by over 90 percent. As emissions have fallen, so too has the EPA’s evaluation for what an acceptable level of emissions are. Had the standard remained what it was in the 1980s, our current lead emissions would be far lower than the accepted standards required. Yet I’ve still seen people complaining that our lead levels “have still not fallen below that which is estimated to be safe.”
Of course, it depends on what you think safe is.